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Under collectivism a system is values and standards understood in the welfare of the collective occupies the highest priority. The interests of the individual are subordinated to those of the collectively organized social group . The opposite is individualism .

The collective can be a class , a people , an enterprise or any other type of community . Collectivist systems of norms require solidarity , “ comradeship ”, “ national community ”, a sense of community or friendship and love ; the latter especially in religious and family collectives.

With statements such as common good takes precedence over self-interest or property (cf. Art. 14 GG ), the interest of the community is put before that of the individual, whereby it must be taken into account that the community in turn also consists of individuals in the sense of utilitarianism . Even if individual freedom is subject to the restrictions of the community (especially within the family), this does not mean that the individual is devalued. Collectivism as a value system continues to be characterized by a high degree of loyalty, responsibility and helpfulness, but also by self-control. Like individualism, collectivism is not a rigid construct; H. Just because there are predominantly collectivist values ​​in a society does not mean that individualistic values ​​do not also exist in it.

Most political systems and ideologies do not take one-sided side of collectivism or individualism, but take different, moderate positions.

The political ideologies of collectivism are particularly communism , socialism , nationalism and national socialism , but their understanding of collectivity differs significantly from one another. Religiously, it is mainly monastic communities . If the commitment of the individual for the collective is based on a decision of the will, one speaks of altruism . Collectivism also claims this for itself.

In the analysis of cultural characteristics, the comparison of individualism and collectivism in their manifestations in countries, companies, social groups, but also individuals is one of several assessable, conscious and sometimes also visible dimensions.

Philosophy of science

As Methodological collectivism a sociological study approach is called, which starts from the assumption that individual behavior can be attributed to the influence of society. According to this, the behavior of social groups cannot (completely) be explained by the behavior of individuals. Methodological collectivism contrasts with methodological individualism as an investigative approach .

Comparison of cultures in psychological research

There are studies in the field of cross- cultural psychology that refer to individualistic or collectivistic cultures. As a rule, the behavior of test subjects from more individualistic and more collectivistic cultures is compared. Important research contributions come from Nisbett , Kitayama and Markus , among others . Some of their investigations as an example:

  • Test subjects are shown a picture on which an underwater scene is shown. You can see two larger and several small fish, as well as seaweed etc. The test subjects are asked to describe the representation. People from more collectivist cultures mainly describe the background, the general scene with all fish - so they proceed more holistically . In contrast, people from Western cultures often describe one of the very large fish that dominate the picture.
  • Test subjects are presented with several pens. All but one pens look exactly the same, but one pen has a noticeably different color. Around 65% of Asians choose one of the pens of the same color. Americans choose the individual different colored pen to a significantly higher proportion.
  • A small recorded square is presented to the test subjects. In this square there is a drawn line that is exactly one third of the length of the side of the square. A second, smaller square without content is presented to the people and they are asked to draw a line in this as well. You are either instructed to draw a line that is the same length as the other, or you should draw a line with the same proportions as the other line to the surrounding square. Asians draw the line more accurately if they are supposed to orientate themselves by the proportions. Americans draw the line more accurately when asked to orientate themselves from the length of the line itself.

It should be noted, however, that individualism and collectivism are not opposites of a single dimension in a cultural comparison, but two completely independent dimensions; in fact , individualism and collectivism correlate exactly zero in a cultural comparison.


Critics of collectivism describe it as a restriction of individual freedom and as a preliminary stage to totalitarianism .

See also

Individual evidence

  1. T. Masua, RE Nisbett: "Attending holistically versus analytically: comparing the context sensitivity of Japanese and Americans." In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2001 Nov; 81 (5): 922-934
  2. D. Oyserman, HM Coon, M. Kemmelmeier: Rethinking individualism and collectivism: Evaluation of theoretical assumptions and meta-analyzes. In: Psychological Bulletin. 128, 2002. pp. 3-72.