September 29th, 2023

Individualism and collectivism

gray scale photo of man statue

Generally, different kinds of "isms" are of extreme alignment, and therefore not recommendable rules by which to live. Typically, there is also an opposing force for each "ism" out there. Individualism – praising the rights and freedoms of a single individual over restrictions and regulations enforced by the government or some other entity – is in the classic setting opposed by collectivism, a belief in which everything should be owned and regulated by the society collectively.

When taken to extremes, both worlds sound incredibly hostile at a quick glance. For an individualist, it's the rules of the jungle that apply: only the strong (and the ones that might voluntarily be taken care of by the strong) survive. For a collectivist, however, no one has any kind of rights to ownership or individual needs, but everything and everyone is regulated according to the needs of the society as a whole, no matter how weak or strong.

It is no surprise that only very few believe in either of those extremes, and for a good reason, too. Many of us, however, tend to prefer one side of the spectrum more than the other. I personally find this to be a decision made according to the values of the said individual. Typically, those finding the values of hard work, honesty, success, and high rewards important tend to lean towards the individual side of thinking. Those who favor equality, shared rewards and success, and centralized thinking over individual rights usually prefer collectivist ideas.

Considering that collectivist thinking is heavily reliant on other people doing work for individuals not capable or willing to work for themselves, a collectivist must therefore in some way also believe in fate guiding our lives instead of the choices made. In a collectivist world, just laying down and waiting for others to take care of you would provide a means of survival. In an individualist world, just laying down would equal a death sentence.

Which do you think has caused more civilizations to collapse, individualist or collectivist thinking?