Nurture vs Nature; Capitalism vs Communism; Pineapple on pizza vs Pineapple-less pizza. These are all key debates that have been argued back and forth, without any real resolution, but what of the debate of Individualism vs Collectivism. This, like the debate of Capitalism vs Communism, is extraordinarily influential on the way people live their lives; some would argue it is the same debate. If you were asked to conjure up an image of an individualistic society, it would be likely that the words ‘Capitalism’ and ‘Westernised’ would spring to mind. However, the key difference is that Capitalism is a political construct, whereas Individualism is a social mindset. In order to explore these two key concepts, we must first ask ourselves what they mean.
Firstly, we have individualism. To put it briefly, an individualist society does exactly what it says on the tin. An individualist society is a collection of individuals pursuing their own goals. To put it even more briefly, we are an individualist society, but you may have already figured that out. Depending on your political stance, you may see this sort of society as prosperous, with everyone working to better themselves, or you may see it as a society full of corporate giants consuming hard working people to further their own goals. At this point that is neither here nor there. The point that I’m trying to make is that to figure out what individualism means, all you have to do is look at the word. It affects most aspects of our lives. Moving out of our parents houses? That’s individualism. Personal targets at work? That’s individualism. Getting a promotion? Yes, you guessed it, that’s individualism. There are merits and disadvantages to this system, but then when is anything ever all good or all bad? However, this is not the only way of living. There is another, alternate system, which involves a little something we like to call collectivism.
Next up, collectivism, not to be confused with Communism (or to be easily confused with Communism – both statements have some truth to them.) If you hadn’t guessed, collectivism is the opposite of individualism, but was it really going to be anything else? Once again, we have something that does exactly what it says on the tin. Collectivism is a society where everyone works together to achieve goals as a collective (this is starting to get quite repetitive). Collective societies are probably associated with more Eastern, Communist cultures. These cultures place more emphasis on the collective than the individual. They believe it is crucial to help and support one another to work toward the betterment of society. Again, your political stance may influence your opinion on this, but it is irrelevant. An example of how the idea of collectivism influences everyday life would be to take a look a societies where families live together, grandparents, parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins all under one roof, not out of necessity, but due to their belief in a collectivist society.
So, to conclude, Capitalism and Collectivism are entirely different, but they both work together in a surprising way, as they make up two sides of a debate, providing an alternative for anyone dissatisfied with their own system. It allows us to have balance. Most importantly, key debates like this serve as a reminder that whatever your political stance or personal view, there is nearly always an alternative.
Written by Jess Stoff