Individualism and collectivism are two different ways of organizing society. Individualism holds that individual people are the main building blocks of society and that the individual is the most important thing. Collectivism holds that the group is more important. It holds that society is and should be made up of groups and that people as individuals are less important than groups as a whole. Let us look at three advantages of each of these. It is not necessary to list disadvantages here because the disadvantages of one are the same as the advantages of the other. In other words, if we say that individualism is good because it respects individual rights, we can also say that collectivism is bad because it fails to respect individual rights.
Three advantages of individualism:
- It respects individual rights and allows people to truly be themselves. In an individualistic society, we do not require people to give up their true personalities in order to fit in. For example, an individualistic society might be more likely to allow a person to be openly gay where a collectivist society might force them to deny their sexuality so as not to make the rest of the group uncomfortable.
- It allows for more progress. If people are free to experiment with who they are and with how they want to do things, change can happen and society can improve.
- It allows for a more diverse and interesting society. If people are free to be themselves, a society can have differences. Otherwise, everyone will be the same and society is likely to be duller.
Three advantages of collectivism:
- It is less likely to leave some people behind. In a collectivist society, each member of the group is important and must be cared for. It is less possible for some members of the group to get rich while ignoring the needs of other members of the group. Thus, a collectivist society is more likely to have low inequality.
- It reduces selfishness. In a collectivist society, it is less possible for a person to act in a way that helps them but hurts the group. For example, a person who wanted to pollute a river for his own good would likely be stopped by group members who would be harmed.
- It recognizes that “no man is an island.” It recognizes that we are all connected to other members of our communities and that we all need one another.