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December 3, 2002

Individualism and Collectivism

Now I understand why I have failed to submit homeworks, study for exams, submit projects for the classes, even though I would have been able to do them if I wanted to. Basically, I have not followed people around. This may be a repeat from an earlier post, but, really, doing all this means you are following the people around you. You are not doing what you want - you are doing what other people do. And ironically, even they are exactly doing the same thing - they are following what people are doing around them.

Anyway, this is what society is - this is a demonstration of to what extent have humans learned to communicate thoughts, opinions and behavior to other people.

This tendency of the society, however, means that the society will change slowly - which may be good or bad depending on the particular situation.

Following other people in the society can be called as a collectivist tendency. Trying to think on your own by way of reason instead of blindly following the people around can be called as an individualist tendency. India is more collectivist than the US.

More knowledgeable opinion regarding individualistic and collectivistic behavior can be found below - I am pasting a mail sent by a friend Vijay Tippareddy, which is quite insightful.

Philosophically speaking, the people in this world can be broadly divided into two philosophical sects based on love i.e., individualism and collectivism. In the former individual is more powerful than the community or state he lives in and can influence it by his reason. In this he can raise above the constraints imposed by questioning them rationally and can affect them. Reason and thereby objectivity is his only aid in such contexts. Self-love is acknowledged and subject to objectivity thereby creating a dynamic feedback loop. Love of others is always lesser than the self-love preserving the uniqueness and personality of the individual. In collectivism individual belongs to a broader group or faction and is not an entity by himself. Here faith and emotion supplant the reason. Devotion or love towards a faith binding the persons in the group is stronger and more tenacious than the self-love. In fact self-love is never recognized and is seen as a vice. The collectivists always assert themselves by a positive feedback loop without ever questioning their faith and self-content as a group. This homeostasis leads to religious fanatism, national fanatism etc. It is a virulent malady and is the cause of many evils in the past and the current society.

The religious dogma driving india is collectivism to the core. The nationalism of Nazi's and et. al belongs to the same. These groups are driven by irrational passion and uncritical devotion to their faith.

Psychologically speaking, people with strong love lack a personal identity. These people have a group identity or sometimes vicarious identity (explain later). They dont consider themselves as people of strong character adhering to principles but as flexible agents to be casted in a bigger faith or personality. In group identity herd mentality is very common and the group moves haphazardly with indirection. In vicarious identity the person's identity is a parasite dwelling in some superhuman or superhero or some person. The higher cognitive functions are pushed aside or ignored with inordinate passion taking over. This leads to entropy without times arrow. Such groups or individuals are a threat to the society and themselves.

Biologically speaking, strong love can be justified as a way to preserve one's genes. When the individual takes to agression like the riots and wars he is trying to preserve the gene's of his family or the common (more or less ) genes prevalent in his culture. Since in countries like india the society isnt well protected by the respective institutions people are always on the edge to fend off the enemies by agression, avenge etc. Even the 2 nd world war can be seen as self-preservation by a race with paranoidal fears of threat or backstabbing. As there is no organization to ensure them the peace and security they opted to preemptive strike with the ulterior motive of self-preservation.


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