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Into Collectivism-Individualism

Updated on January 31, 2016

Definition of Collectivism

Collectivism is generally defined as "the idea that the individual’s life belongs not to him but to the group or society of which he is merely a part, that he has no rights, and that he must sacrifice his values and goals for the group’s 'greater good'." (Source: The Objective Standard)

While Individualism is defined as "the idea that the individual’s life belongs to him and that he has an inalienable right to live it as he sees fit, to act on his own judgment, to keep and use the product of his effort, and to pursue the values of his choosing". (Source: The Objective Standard)

Basically, people from collectivist culture are interdependent on one and others, while people from individualist culture are independent as one self. You read a lot about collectivism and individualism. Are you puzzled about how does collectivism culture work exactly? How do people in this culture think like? Are they really very dependent on others in every aspects in their life? How different are they from people in individualistic culture?

Myth 1: People in collectivistic culture are not independent and immature as they are staying with their family all their life.

A common comment that I have heard from individualistic people saying about collectivistic people is, how can they still stay with their parents after college age! Those were horrible parents.

NO. Wrong! When some others have a different method as yours, it doesn't mean that they are totally worst off.

So why do they stay with their parent even in their adulthood?

The fact is that the culture of a collectivistic society focuses on the importance of harmonious family relations. Even when living in with their family as an adult, most of them have their own way of life.

They doesn't rely on their parent, instead they take over the responsibility of taking care of the household when they started working.

They learned to be more considerate and accepting towards others as there will definitely be conflicts living together.

Although they might not leave home after high school, it doesn't mean the parent's parenting style is horrible. They choose the strong bonding of family over anything.

Of course, living with parents might also because of the high astronomical housing price now. But more likely will be the latter.

Myth 2: People from Collectivism Culture (Asia) Are All Academic Geniuses.

Seriously? That is totally make-believe. Yes, most of Asians are good in getting high academic scores, but everywhere else there are exceptions.

Some are good in academic while some are good at practical life skills (what we called street smart).

What you have heard in the news are all pretty fairytale and make-believe. Not all people are born with a genius brain. Most people just work the hell out of their life (I meant literally give their lives) just to get good scores.

In most part of Asia, especially those developed and developing countries, test score is everything. In their society, it is highly competitive. They just want to score as high as possible in order to get in to the so-called branded schools.

In some countries, it is not uncommon to see news about some elementary or high school student to commit suicide after getting Bs for their exam.

The so-called geniuses are sometimes created by the pressure of the society, where their childhood is nothing but non-stop studying, endless tuitions and mountains of examination pressure.

Let's take a look at the video below on what are other differences we have between collectivism and individualism.

Cultural Difference

Case Study: Singapore

Came upon this young and subtle nation called Singapore. This is a very unique nation. Being one of the smallest countries in the world, it is pretty well-known in a few ways.

  1. It is known to be a garden city, filled with parks and greenery. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find a plethora of flora and foliage lining our streets.

    One of its famous parks has now classified to be a UNESCO World Heritage site!
  2. It also has one of the world's lowest crime rates. This isn't hard to know why, though. The little city state is well known for its harsh punishments for crime, even for low-level offences.

    Even spitting of gum or littering will get you fine!
  3. It's multiracial and multicultural identity. "Singapore is where east meets west, a cosmopolitan melting pot with a unique identity" - Singapore Government.

    The culture is a unique and harmonious blend of different races (such as Chinese, Malay, Indian as well as Eurasian) and religions (such as Buddhism, Christianity, Catholic, Islam and Hinduism).

Since Singapore is part of Southeast Asia, it should be of collectivistic culture isn't it?

Yes. You can say so. So then what is so special about this country that we are looking at here?

However, due to globalism, it is getting to be more individualistic than ever.

Just like all developed countries, people are becoming more self-reliant and lesser on self-sacrificing, more self-conscious than compliance and more of me than the others. This has become more significant in the recent years.

So being a collectivist country, it has strong individualism embed in its modern culture.

One of the aspects that people might miss out of this country is that it does not exactly classified as one group. Since independence, Singapore is a master of combination.

Combining the good of different cultures, people to make things work, as well as combining the best of collectivism and individualism.

This might not be obvious. However, this can be seem more obviously in their education system.

Singapore’s education system has remained consistently at or near the top of most major world education ranking systems.

To outside world, Singapore's education system is exactly similar to their peer Asian countries, it is about non-stop of studying in ordering to get high test score.

However, the reason for its success is the result of combining eastern way (result-focused) and western way (process-focused) in their education policy.

Like all eastern countries, Singapore prepares their students by enforcing on being the top scorer, which means to get extremely good result in order to survive in the society later on.

This is particularly crucial during the early years when the country is still developing. After that tough period, it realised this need to be changed to more process-focused as well.

The point of revising and accepting changes are perhaps the main reasons for the successful education system that produced many intelligent people in Singapore.

Other than accepting changes, Singapore also stood on their own principals and knowing their goals. This allows this young nation to change from a rural fishing village to a first world country in a short time frame.

Let's watch a video below to see how life is in Singapore now.

So Which One is Better?

Of course, no one is better over another. We have much to learn to one and another.

Both have their own pros and cons. Both have their own weaknesses and strengths. But this is just how two societies work.

There is no right or wrong and no superior or lower way of doing things.

This might be the main reason that people having so many conflicts because they don't understand how the other works.

All of us have to learn on how things are happening over the other unfamiliar side as well as accepting to a certain degree that it might not what we have thought.

Sometimes it is about acceptance that this world needs to remove us of most of the conflicts happening and building real relationship.


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      Léa Rivé 2 years ago

      Dear followers and everyone who like my articles,

      I had moved to another site so that I can write without any limitations. You may find my new site @ Hope to see you there!


      Léa Rivé (aka thepinkbunny)