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Individualism versus collectivism

Our first cultural value dimension is individualism versus collectivism. Individualism stresses individual goals and the rights of the individual person. Collectivism focuses on group goals, what is best for the collective group, and personal relationships.

An individualist is motivated by personal rewards and benefits. Individualist persons set personal goals and objectives based on self. Individualistic workers are very comfortable working with autonomy and not part of a team.

The collectivist is motivated by group goals. Long-term relationships are very important. Collectivistic persons easily sacrifice individual benefit or praise to recognize and honor the team’s success. In fact, being singled out and honored as an individual from the rest of the team may be embarrassing to the collectivistic person.

The generalized geographic clusters of individualism may be found in Anglo countries, Germanic Europe, and Nordic Europe. Geographic clusters for collectivism are often located in Arab countries, Latin America, Confucian Asia, Southern Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

An example of how individualism versus collectivism may play out at a university is related to academic integrity. At a university in the United States where individualism is considered the norm, each individual student is expected and generally required to do their own individual work. Sometimes this is confusing to international students from a collectivistic society who come to a university in the United States. The collectivistic expectation is that if another student with whom you have a personal relationship needs your help, then you provide that help. A collectivistic student has a mandatory social obligation to help the other student succeed. This higher collectivistic social obligation can be in direct violation of academic integrity in an individualistic academic setting.

Can you think of an example of individualism or collectivism in your life? Please share your example or story as a comment. Next, read the examples and stories of your fellow learners and join in a discussion. If you do not have a personal example or story, please take some time and do an internet search on individualism-collectivism. Locate a website, video, resource or image to share with fellow learners in the comments and then join the discussion.

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