What Is a Collectivist Culture Versus an Individualistic One?

Social scientists use various methods of defining people and cultures around the globe and throughout the course of history. Among those are the labels of collectivist and individualistic cultures. By understanding groups of people and how they view themselves and the world provides greater insight into their perspective, which can be of benefit in multiple ways.

Collectivist cultures are more concerned with the needs of the entire group whereas individualistic cultures emphasize self. There are many different cultures from around the world that social scientists classify as collectivist. However, the North American and European continents tend to hold more individualistic cultures than the rest of the globe.

Collectivism encourages familial and communal relationships. A great deal of emphasis is placed on loyalty to their family roles and duties. For instance, the aging citizens are cared for by their children rather than being housed in a nursing home. Rather than seeing it as a sacrifice it is their honor to fulfill the role of child honoring the parent who cared for them in the past.

Similarly, thinking about the community where they live occurs naturally. While folks in an individualist culture might not have a problem dumping garbage on another’s property, that would be considered improper behavior in a collectivist one. Additionally, if someone can do something that would better the world around them, they are expected and honored to do so.

The distinction between the two types of cultures can be seen in the working world as well. Whereas businesses set in individualistic groups might experience a lot of cut-throat behavior as everyone strives to be top dog, that would be out of line in a collectivist one. Instead, everyone is expected to work as a group so that the expected outcome can be achieved. When everyone works for a common cause and supports their co-workers, the entire operation runs more smoothly.

The roles regarding community extend as well to the rest of their country and even to the world as a whole. Businesses are expected to follow similar rules when it comes to the choices that are made. Often, other aspects of collectivist cultures include knowledge about energy in each living thing on earth and how the choices being made will eventually come full circle.

People who were raised in individualistic cultures identify themselves by their personality and characteristics. On the other hand, collectivist cultures have greater regard for their roles in family and society. Rather than wanting to stand out from the crowd, they want to be a positive part of the working collective that is bringing good to the world.

While it can be challenging to grasp viewpoints far different from the ones in which you were raised, doing so expands your understanding of the world and will help you to make more meaningful connections with the people that you meet. This is an important aspect of understanding the culture differences that exist between the two types of people and groups.