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Thread: Map of Individualism (vs Collectivism)

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    Arrow Map of Individualism (vs Collectivism)



    I believe that individualism is an innate (hence genetic/hereditary) trait of character. It's opposite is collectivism. Please check the thread How individualistic are you ? for a preface. I believe that the individualism-collectivism dichotomy is responsible for many fundamental cultural differences between European countries.

    Strongly individualistic people leave the parental home at a younger age, would rather choose to live alone than with a flat mate, have a higher divorce rates, are more flexible about moving to another city or country, and prefer travelling by themselves than with a group or organised tour.

    Individualists are motivated by self-improvement (their own ego) rather than by the approval or respect from others. In sports, individualists care more about beating their own records than by beating others. For example, a collectivist-minded sprinter will care about winning the race, while an individualistic-minded sprinter might be disappointed to win if he didn't do a good time.

    Individualistic societies do not put a lot of importance on the group and are therefore more open to outsiders (outsiders are taken for who they are as individuals not what group they used to belong to). Consequently they tend to be more socially liberal (giving more freedom to individual expression). This is because the USA, Canada or Australia were all individualistic societies to start with that they could become the cosmopolitan immigration countries that they are now. Strongly collectivist countries like Japan, China, or most Mediterranean countries have much more trouble accepting outsiders to their group, even from similar neighbouring countries.

    Individualistic people can also be more entrepreneurial and economically liberal, but only if their uncertainty avoidance is low at the same time.

    Collectivist people care more about personal ties, belonging to a group, feeling accepted and respected within the group, but tend to be more clannish too and to distrust people outside their group. Collectivists are first and foremost approval seekers, who care about their image and what others think of them.

    It is vital to understand that collectivism is a totally different concepts from egalitarianism, socialism or communism.

    - collectivism : caring about what others in your group think of you, caring about the image of your group from the outside. It's essentially about image, respect, interpersonal relationships and emotional dependence on the group.

    - egalitarianism : feeling/opinion that other people in society deserve the same fundamental rights (which nowadays has come to include social security and education, in addition to freedom). Egalitarian societies also prone lower income inequalities and equal salaries between men and women. Nordic countries, which are individualistic, are usually regarded as the most egalitarian. This doesn't prevent some strongly collectivist countries to be egalitarian (e.g. Japan). Some English-speaking countries are quite egalitarian (Ireland, Canada, Australia), while others are among the least egalitarian in the world (USA), but all are resolutely individualistic. There is absolutely no correlation between egalitarianism and individualism.

    - socialism/communism : economic system in which the state owns a large part of the economy and plays a strong role as a regulator (using restrictive laws, taxes, subsidies, etc.). Historically socialism was never really implemented before the 20th century, but all developed countries now have at least some socialist policies. The only countries that still lack the socialist system of tax redistribution in public health care, education, pensions and other public services are all strongly collectivist countries (mostly in Africa). The most individualistic countries in Europe have some of the most generous socialist systems too (obviously Scandinavia, but also Britain which has one of the few completely free health care in the world). Therefore socialism is a really more an index of socio-economic development and is completely unrelated to the individualism level.

    None of these three concepts are related with one another other than by chance and circumstances.

    Collectivism is a character trait set in the genes.

    Egalitarianism is a variable opinion that depends a lot on the (genetic and cultural) homogeneity of society, but also on deep-rooted cultural values that evolve with time.

    Socialism is a political and economic system which popularity depends on the electorate, the socio-economic history of a region, the current economic climate, and many other factors.


    I have expanded more about individualism in this thread (not just the OP, but posts further down too) especially about its relation to entrepreneurialism and the establishment of population colonies.



    I have used Geert Hofstede's scale of individualism vs collectivism to make the map. There was a lot of data missing in Eastern Europe, which I had to infer from the score for neighbouring countries and based on the genetic and cultural similarities. Genetic traits don't fit neatly within a country's political border. In general I have found that the percentage of Y-DNA haplogroup R1b-L11 (Celto-Germanic) correlates fairly well (though not perfectly) with high scores for individualism. The strongest matches seem to be the S21/U106 and S28/U152 subclades.

    Italy has a strong north-south gradient. In Germany and Poland it is a weak east-west gradient. In France I followed the genetic curve separating the more Celto-Germanic north and east against the more Neolithic/Mediterranean centre and southwest.

    Bulgaria and Romania had a score of 30, but knowing that Romania had a substantial Hungarian (and German) community in the Northwest of the country, I increased the score for that region and lowered in for the rest of the country to keep the average. I gave Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and North Greece is lower score than Romania, Bulgaria and the Greek average because these societies are are some of the best examples of collectivism in Europe (e.g. the strong local communities isolated from each others for centuries, strong family ties, strong distrust of the government...).

    The Arab World got an average score of 38, but West Africa of 20, so I gave the Maghreb an intermediary score.


    EDIT : I have made a new map using different colours for individualism (blue), collectivism (red) and an intermediary purple. I also changed the scale.

    Last edited by Maciamo; 29-10-11 at 13:25.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Strongly individualistic countries tend to be more economically and socially liberal
    The corelation doesn't apply to France. French people tend to be liberal on moral values but not economically. Almost everybody is now atheist in France and more liberal on sex issues but economically the taxes are among the highest in Europe and we have a high rate of civil servant.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Another issue with using Hofstede is that, in addition to there being entire countries missing, the regional differences within countries is unrepresented. As I mentioned in the other thread, there is a significant regional variation within the United Kingdom, the most notable being the difference between England (more individualist) and Wales (more collectivist). The Welsh Assembly currently has 41/60 seats going to a "collectivist" party (Labour or Plaid Cymru). Compare to England, where only 36% of their seats in the UK parliament went to a "collectivist" party. I also think that the East/West distinction in Germany is more stark than you have it, and more along the lines of the old East Germany/West Germany boundary than you have it, due to historical reasons. And of course, if Reinaert was here, he'd be insisting that you make a distinction between Brabant and Holland.

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    I doubt if there is such a straightforward correlation between individualism/collectivism and genetics. I believe it's more about conditioning. All those European societies which are marked individualist on the map used to be very clan oriented in old times.

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    I like the new blue-to-red map better, it matches my expectations of internal differences within countries better.

    If we're looking for a correlation with Y-DNA (which, to be honest, I'm not convinced is an entirely useful exercise), it's looking even more like R1b-U106 is the most "individualist," with E1b the most "collectivist."

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Individualism also influenced the evolution of religion. All Protestant countries and regions are quite individualistic, and it makes sense since Protestantism (except Anglicanism) tore down the hierarchical organisation of the church (the group) to the profit of independent pastors and "liberated" individuals (who had to seek the faith by themselves instead of through the official teachings of the Church).

    Although most Protestant are strong individualists, not all individualists could become Protestant. Germany was a patchwork of small states in the 16th and 17th centuries, which allowed each ruler to choose their side. Politically unified countries like France, despite all its regional cultures and internal divergence between individualists and collectivists, had a Catholic majority and a Catholic governments that did all it could to suppress Protestantism. As a result, the Huguenots moved to North Germany or the Netherlands. North Italy was too close from Rome, both physically and politically, to envisage a split. In Britain, the strong state kept the reigns over its subjects through the Anglican Church, which caused millions of strongly individualistic Protestant Britons to migrate to North America.

    What is interesting is that it was always the Protestant migrating somewhere else, even if it meant away from the known civilisation in the wilderness of 17th-century North America. In regions that became Protestant, Catholics didn't move to Catholic countries or migrate to the Americas. They just blended with the rest of the group. This shows how fundamentally different the two ways of thinking are.

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    Collectivist people are much more concerned about the image of their group, and therefore also of their country, region or ethnic group. A good demonstration of this on the forum is that it is almost always members from collectivist countries/regions (the Iberians and Balkanic in particular it seems) that go to a tremendous amount of effort to defend their collective image. Individualists couldn't care less and are often vocal critics of their own countries (because they don't necessarily associate with the rest of the group).

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    nothern Italy did bring down the power of the Pope, which left the monarchy/republics running states without the high degree of church law

    see Paolo Sarpi

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    This century will be a very difficult time for the West in economic and demographic terms and survival will go to the collectivist groups.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vallicanus View Post
    This century will be a very difficult time for the West in economic and demographic terms and survival will go to the collectivist groups.
    Why is that ?

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    There will be massive population shifts from Africa and parts of Asia.
    Individualist societies will not be able to cope.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vallicanus View Post
    There will be massive population shifts from Africa and parts of Asia.
    Individualist societies will not be able to cope.
    That would be one more argument for my theory that collectivism/individualism is ill-defined
    and should be replaced by conservatism/liberalism or something like that.

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    Interesting.
    Could you expand on this?

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    0 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Vallicanus View Post
    Interesting.
    Could you expand on this?
    I consider a society primarily conservative, if it avoids intermingling with foreigners. Of course "collectivism" may include conservatism as subfeature, but not necessarily. It is a matter of definitions. There is another related thread about individualism/collectivism. Maciamo uses Hofstede's definition, but for me it is an unpopular definition. It boils down to conservatism/liberalism in my opinion.
    Last edited by ElHorsto; 27-10-11 at 18:03. Reason: line breaks

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    Quote Originally Posted by ElHorsto View Post
    That would be one more argument for my theory that collectivism/individualism is ill-defined
    and should be replaced by conservatism/liberalism or something like that.
    The conservatism-liberalism opposition is completely different from individualism-collectivism. Conservatism is almost a purely political term; it's not a personality trait. One can be a conservative in a country but reformist in another. It only depends how the society already fits one's ideals. If it befits you, you want to maintain it and therefore become a conservative. Otherwise you want to reform it, and once you have you inevitably become a conservative. It has also been proven by numerous studies that older people are generally more conservative than younger people, and this in every country. You cannot become an individualist or a collectivist. You are born either one (well somewhere on a scale between two theoretical extremes). It's not something that changes with time or with the situation either.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    So Maciamo, if I trust your map, it means that there is a direct correlation between individualism and economic success. At the risk of being politically incorrect I would even say that there is a link between individualism and hardworking.
    This is not difficult to understand. the more efficient and productive you are, the more individualistic you tend to be.

    In modern society the greatest industrial and technological achievements almost always start with a personal success.
    when you force collectivism on People (like in the Soviet Union) people lose their motivation and very little intiatives take place.

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    So populations of modern individualistic countries were always individualistic?

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    2 out of 2 members found this post helpful.
    Family ties are closer and stronger in southern Europe, it's a fact. However this doesn't imply collectivism, in the sense that outside the family -and personal spheres- people is quite competitive and use to refuse other solidarity ties. In northern Europe -where the familiy is less important- people behave more collectivist in a "civical sense". It's a double edged weapon.

    Political and socioeconomic stability is, in my opinion, what lead people to "refuse" the "natural ties", such as family. But when your life has been usually "pending in string", your culture will tend to emphasize clannish behavior.

    Collectivist people are much more concerned about the image of their group, and therefore also of their country, region or ethnic group. A good demonstration of this on the forum is that it is almost always members from collectivist countries/regions (the Iberians and Balkanic in particular it seems) that go to a tremendous amount of effort to defend their collective image. Individualists couldn't care less and are often vocal critics of their own countries (because they don't necessarily associate with the rest of the group).
    If we dedicated to open threads and post mesages denigrating other territories or cultures, we could meassure the truth about it. If brittons or germans were often trolled, I bet you'd find similar reactions. Visit fora whe the trolled ones are finns or swedish and you'll realize how much "individualism" you can find.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kardu View Post
    So populations of modern individualistic countries were always individualistic?
    Not always, because if you go back far enough we all descend from bacteria.

    If you go back a few hundred years, the picture was pretty much the same. The only nations where private individuals left of their own initiative to create population colonies were individualistic ones (English, Scottish, Dutch, Scandinavians, some Germans, a few North French).

    The only regions that adopted Protestantism, willingly breaking off with over a millennia of traditions and taking the risk to be at war with the rest of Catholic Europe, were also individualistic ones.

    As society, culture and lifestyle (and even languages) have changed tremendously since the Renaissance, I really don't think that individualism is simply acquired through culture or the local environment. It must be genetic, and therefore only changes as fast as the gene pool does. Alleles for individualism can increase or decrease in a population through natural selection, but this takes time (many centuries for a few percent of change... unless there is a cataclysmic event, like plague or a genocide).

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    0 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Segia2 View Post
    If we dedicated to open threads and post mesages denigrating other territories or cultures, we could meassure the truth about it. If brittons or germans were often trolled, I bet you'd find similar reactions. Visit fora whe the trolled ones are finns or swedish and you'll realize how much "individualism" you can find.
    I have been active on forums for over 10 years, and I can tell you from experience that Northwest Europeans usually don't care so much about what others say about their country, and often like to criticise it themselves. It's a well known fact that the Brits like to make fun of themselves. I am very individualistic and am the first to criticise my own country (I simply find no connection between myself and the mistakes or inefficiencies of others, be it within my family, in my country or in the rest of the world. I don't feel more responsible for the behaviour of a cousin than for a perfect stranger from another ethnic group).

    And by the way, Finns aren't so much more individualistic than Spaniards. The gap is bigger between Finns and Danes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bertrand View Post
    So Maciamo, if I trust your map, it means that there is a direct correlation between individualism and economic success. At the risk of being politically incorrect I would even say that there is a link between individualism and hardworking.
    This is not difficult to understand. the more efficient and productive you are, the more individualistic you tend to be.
    Not necessarily. East Asians are strongly collectivist (more than southern Europeans), but among the hardest working people in the world. You can see they are collectivist by how much they (the Chinese, Koreans and Japanese) care about their national image, and their governments are willing to (occasionally) distort statistics to make them look better in international comparisons. In Europe, the genes for hard-working tend to correlate with individualism (both are higher among Germanic people, probably due to a founder effect before the Bronze-age Germanic expansion), but that doesn't mean that they are the same genes !

    A hermit (or an Indian Sadhu) would be an example of a very individualistic person who choose a life of not working. Hippies also somewhat fit in that category.


    In modern society the greatest industrial and technological achievements almost always start with a personal success.
    when you force collectivism on People (like in the Soviet Union) people lose their motivation and very little intiatives take place.
    You cannot force collectivism (in the meaning of genetic trait of character used in this thread) on people. A collectivist-minded majority in a country's population can create a more social or communal society, the extreme of which being communism, but they are completely distinct things. Collectivism isn't about redistributing wealth; this is about egalitarianism (and the most egalitarian societies on Earth are the Scandinavian and the Japanese; the former being strongly individualistic, the latter strongly collectivist).

    It's absolutely vital to understand this thread that you clearly separate some concepts in your mind.

    - collectivism : caring about what others in your group think of you, caring about the image of your group from the outside. It's essentially about image, respect, interpersonal relationships and emotional dependence on the group.

    - egalitarianism : feeling/opinion that other people in society deserve the same fundamental rights (which nowadays has come to include social security and education, in addition to freedom).

    - socialism/communism : economic system in which the state owns a large part of the economy and plays a strong role as a regulator (using restrictive laws, taxes, subsidies, etc.).

    None of these are related with one another other than by chance and circumstances.

    Collectivism is a character trait set in the genes.

    Egalitarianism is a variable opinion that depends a lot on the (genetic and cultural) homogeneity of society, but also on basic cultural values that evolve with time.

    Socialism is a political and economic system which popularity depends on the electorate, the socio-economic history of a region, the current economic climate, and many other factors.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    The conservatism-liberalism opposition is completely different from individualism-collectivism. Conservatism is almost a purely political term; it's not a personality trait.
    Sorry for not being more specific. When I mentioned conservatism, I meant it literally: risk avoidance, uncertainty avoidance, thus in turn sticking to circumstances to which one was already accustomed. (Conservation, conserving, preserving, etc. ... you know.) Many people who still vote for communists in Russia are conservatives, because they want communism back to which they once got accustomed and they feel safe in environments they used to know.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkey View Post
    Another issue with using Hofstede is that, in addition to there being entire countries missing, the regional differences within countries is unrepresented.
    Indeed. I expect in particular a strong difference between urban/industrial and rural areas. England and Holland are highly industrialized and densely populated. The Balkans and Portugal are very sparsely populated and very rural.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Not always, because if you go back far enough we all descend from bacteria.

    If you go back a few hundred years, the picture was pretty much the same. The only nations where private individuals left of their own initiative to create population colonies were individualistic ones (English, Scottish, Dutch, Scandinavians, some Germans, a few North French).

    The only regions that adopted Protestantism, willingly breaking off with over a millennia of traditions and taking the risk to be at war with the rest of Catholic Europe, were also individualistic ones.

    As society, culture and lifestyle (and even languages) have changed tremendously since the Renaissance, I really don't think that individualism is simply acquired through culture or the local environment. It must be genetic, and therefore only changes as fast as the gene pool does. Alleles for individualism can increase or decrease in a population through natural selection, but this takes time (many centuries for a few percent of change... unless there is a cataclysmic event, like plague or a genocide).
    "Collectivism is a character trait set in the genes."

    Few hundred years are not not enough to consider individualism as a character trait set in the genes. Or do you suggest that some major genetic mutation occurred in early middle ages in some part of Europe?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post

    The only regions that adopted Protestantism, willingly breaking off with over a millennia of traditions and taking the risk to be at war with the rest of Catholic Europe, were also individualistic ones.



    There is also the explanation of Fernand Braudel that the Protestant/catholic boundaries almost matches the border of the Roman Empire with the exception of Ireland and Poland.

    Also, the nations that were at war with the Habsburg empire were not all protestant

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