Sunday, June 14, 2009


Before I embark on my journey on this topic, I shall give a little background on the key terms:

Collectivist: Someone who allows social behavior to be determined by beliefs, needs and goals of the group rather than self.
For instance, a student taking up a university course as his parents and friends encourage him to, and since he doesn't want to offend them, he chooses that path.

Individualist: Someone who determines social behavior by personal goals, attitudes and values of the collectivises.
For example, a student, despite parents' and friends' adamant objections, chooses to take up a particular degree course as he is extremely passionate about the subject.

My source: Internet article

After reading this article, I question myself several issues which can guide you through your reading. Are civilisations better off with having collectivists or individualists? Am I a collectivist or individualist, and which is more superior?

First off, I feel that an ideal society should consist of mostly collectivists and a few individualists. As per seen from the article, army training is important in cohesion, effectiveness and efficiency. Having a strong group of servicemen who share similar cultures can help to boost a country's sense of belonging and foster beliefs (whether good or bad ones) as others tend to be influenced.

However, having individualists can also be advantageous. These are the people who are not afraid to be different from the rest and consequently, they tend to voice out their opinions, whether displeased or concurring ones. This allows for us to utilise our critical thinking constantly and not blindly follow customs, traditions and cultures which might be misleading, unhealthy and even dangerous (groupthink).

Individualists are the bold people who tend to be creative. They are the ones who dare to risk, and thus, they do have adventures and they explore sides of societies that collectivists will never dare to believe in. Let's take for instance, the general population in Singapore believes that specialising in the Arts and Music genre is a foolish thing because the people who are heavily involved would not have enough opportunities and support to succeed. Hence, though our government is encouraging people to be more artsy, most still do not take the step. Individualists are the ones who set the trend and get the ball rolling. Without them, society may progress but at a much slower rate.

Nevertheless, if we have too many individualists around, it would be a challenge (and a headache) to allow for societal progression, as everyone seems to have his own goals and would not be united enough.

I am both an individualist and collectivist; I feel that it is healthier to have both sides to be flexible. Let's take for instance, when doing projects, the individualist's personal goal is to excel. the collectivist side of me wishes for harmony in my group and thus, I tend to be more careful with my words. This allows for mutual liking in the group to get things done. A mixture of individualism and collectivism comes in: I believe that one should be rewarded based on individual performance but there should be equality in reward distribution. Isn't this a mixture? What I mean is, all group members should be reward based on their individual inputs to the group but distribution should be fair.

As such, we can see that both the aspects are needed to get things in life done.

Lastly, I feel that being an individualist in Singapore, one has to be financially affluent. In order to stand out, gain freedom and believe in personal goals and not conform to laws and rules, one has to be prepared to pay a high price: fines. Also, in order to gain social recognition and gain rewards, a hedonistic individualist finds himself being an entrepreneur. All these leads to one thing: money. I strongly believe that when one has not enough money to contend with rules and go against conformity, he should stick to being a strong collectivist and go by conventional ways to succeed in his life in order for him not to be depressed by problems that he will definitely face by being an individualist.

So, are you a collectivist or individualist, and what are your opinions about the categories?

p.s. Food for thought: Feminists: Individualists or collectivists?