Individualism Vs Collectivism Essay Writing

Individualism vs. Collectivism

When studying groups, there are two different ways you can study them.  You can study each individual in the group (individualism) or the group as a whole (collectivism).  Each way has its own pros and cons for the particular research you are doing.  In this essay, I will examine both individualism and collectivism in the block-style of essay-writing.

To start off, individualism is the study of each individual.  Every person is different in how they view and experience events.  By studying each individual you can get a good look at how the data ranges from one person to another.  Also, you can find out if there are certain factors that can influence one person’s choice like ethnicity, gender, amount of schooling, disabilities, etc.  However, when studying individuals in a group setting, the data can vary so much that it is almost impossible to tell what is important in your findings especially if there are multiple groups that have no distinct pattern to how they are set up.  Individualism may work better when identifying the smaller details of how decisions are made in a group.

The next style of study is collectivism.  This is studying each group as a whole rather than each individual’s part in the group.  By studying the group as a whole, you can figure out how the group reacts as a whole in the face of a problem.  This can be especially helpful when putting individuals with the same social or economical status in the same group and having a couple of mixed groups to see how the different ideas between the individuals can have an impact on the entire group.  For instance, in a study about the rise and fall of empires, you can choose to examine the different actions that led to the rise of that particular empire and the actions that led to the fall of those same empires and compare them to each other.

By using the block-style of writing, I only had to use two body paragraphs for describing both the individualism and collectivism separately rather than why each one is different or similar in a point-by-point analysis.  Both types of study are fairly similar even in their differences, and both kind of play off each other, so it may be even more interesting to incorporate both studies into your data to see how individuals affect a group decision as well as how each individual interacts with each other inside the group.

According to Hofstede, individualism is the types of society where we find have no or very little ties between individuals.  According to individualism, everyone is expected to take good care of herself or himself and his or her immediate family. It is the principle of being self-reliant and independent that instills on a person the feeling of self-centeredness and egoism or conduct. Here people look after themselves and only their immediate family members. It is a common cultural pattern observed in most western European and North America. Hofstede further describes what individualism means by saying that it is a priority that a person or a group is given to focus attention on inner experience and promote introspection. He proved through research that individualism is related with human rights, high income and equality when all are controlled. Examples of countries that are individualistic include Indonesia, Taiwan and Guatemala. People in individualistic countries emphasize on individual rights and personal achievements. (Kristin 2011)

They expect other people to fulfill their needs

To them, group work is of prime importance but each individual has the right to air his or her opinion and has the freedom to reflect them. They believe that every one irrespective of their status in the society can pull up their socks and alleviate themselves by escaping poverty. It means that people who are individualistic have their ties to others as so loose but they remain close to their immediate family only. Cultures that are individualistic value personal time and freedom. They are motivated by material rewards and challenge. Such families value the truth and honesty, maintenance of self respect and the use of guilt in order to achieve behavior that is desired. More emphasis is placed on individual socio economic goals and not on those of the group. The power of t he state is restricted as more emphasis is placed on the freedom of the press and political power of voters. (Peter 2008)

On the other hand, collectivism, according to Hofstede is where people in societies are integrated into cohesive in-groups that are strong, mostly made of extended uncles, grandparents and aunts from birth. This is meant to protect them so that they can be considered as loyal. According to Hofstede, collectivism in contrast stands for attitudes, cultural values and patterns of Asians, Africans, Latin Americans and people in the Middle East. It is used to describe societies in which the people since the day they are born are introduced into cohesive in-groups that are strong and are expected to remain in their groups throughout their lives. They are driven by the need to maintain harmony above individual and subgroup partisan interests. People who are collectivist value harmony more than the truth. They also value silence more than speaking and hence they strive to maintain face. They use shame to achieve the behavior that they desire. At place of work, collectivism, according to Hofstede value intrinsic rewards of mastery, skills and training. More emphasis is placed on the socio economic interest of the entire people than on individual interest. (Gert 2002)

Hofstede says that the extent of collectivism or individualism is one important dimension of culture

Where collectivism puts more emphasis in engaging in cooperative tasks, differentiating between in groups and out-groups, and focusing what people posses in common, individualism is shown by people engaging in tasks that are competitive, in public situations and emphasis on what identifies an individual as distinct. Generally, a society that has jobs as independent and agrees on social norms collectivism is dominant whereas in stratified complex societies, where independence, affluence and differences are stressed, individualism is dominant. Hofstede was able to note that individualistic societies value independence, self reliance, personal achievement, autonomy and defining self apart from personal and group goals. On the other hand, collectivism societies value family cooperation, cohesion, conformity and solidarity. Hence people in this culture refer more to others emphasizing group goals and following the regulations and expectations of the group.

Hofstede describes t he distinction between collectivist and individualist cultures which contributes to intercultural communication. However, due to globalization of the world, the model can no longer be applied to classify the cultures can be placed to which side in some instances. Several critics have up with very many questions to oppose Hofstede findings. One of the major underlying limitations of Hofstede findings is the assumption of homogeneity; it is untested. The assumption of homogeneity of professional cultures and corporate cultures is untested. For instance, the difference between managers from Taiwan and America are wholly attributed to the differences that exist between their national cultures. (Linda 2002) Hofstede does not therefore account for the possibility of local variations in corporate and professional cultures. The assumption of national homogeneity may be acting in line with nationalist ideologies which take the presumption that there is a national character. This may be a questionable assumption in some cases where there is a large variation in class and regional cultures. An example is china; the issue of how Chinese cultures are heterogeneous is not taken into consideration when a person decides to characterize Chinese culture, just like many authors do. This issue of nationalist bias is becoming problematic because nationalist sentiments can be seen in china and because of that there has been creation of a myth of national culture that is rooted on Confucian principles. (Katharine 2002)

Another limitation on Hofstede research is that his original research is about 40 years old

Assuming that the dimensions are still useful, national cultures may have undergone static characterizations which may lead to stereotyped images. For instance, this problem is still serious. This is because china is in a phase of great change and the assumptions of unstable changing Confucian base of its culture must be considered; it should not be taken for granted. In Hofstede original material, Hong Kong, Taiwan was equaled with china. It was later on that some material about china was added. His insight into china mainly resulted from Bonds work. This makes Hofstede application of his model into present day china, for instance to be problematic. His findings seem to explain everything in culture terms. According to him, institutions are consequences of culture. The independent influence of institutional arrangements and markets on culture and eventually human behavior is not accounted for. When this is applied to how organizations and businesses are managed, it may lead to undervaluing the influence of changes in institutions and their markets and their influence of shaping the business culture. (Taran 2007) This framework where focus is based on national cultures, the characterization of a country’s management in terms of the five or four dimensions may result in neglect of professional cultures and corporate industry. The differences , for example, that exist between Chinese and American organizations may be attributed wrongly to alleged national differences while not considering attention to more specific factors. It may also result in neglect of the ways in which organizations and companies trim their own cultures by selecting, training and making people acquire knowledge on a field.


Culture is mostly viewed as a source of conflict than synergy. Differences in culture are a nuisance and often, they are a disaster.  Despite the evidence that different groups are different from each other, people tend to believe that people are all the same. In fact, since we are not aware of other countries cultures, we have the tendency of minimizing cultural differences. This leads to misinterpretations and misunderstanding between people of different nationalities. Instead of the convergence that we expected from the availability of information technology as a global village, differences in culture are still significant. So in order for us to have cross cultural relations, we have to keep in mind these cultural differences.

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