Sunday, September 1, 2013

Collectivism vs Individualism - What is your default position?

There is a long running battle in the arena of ideas between the advocates of collectivism and advocates of individualism. One trap that some individualists fall into from time to time is in accepting the premise that an individual never acts in the interest of a collective. Belonging to or acting in the interest of a collective does not make one a collectivist nor any less an individualist.

Most human beings oscillate between individual and member of a collective all day, every day. Sometimes you act purely in your own individual self-interest. Sometimes you act as a family member, a citizen, a parishioner or club member. When you act as a member of a group, association or collective, you put the interest of the organization or association as a whole first. This may or may not conflict with your individual self-interest at any given time.

How is this different from collectivism? Well, an individualist decides on their own if, when, why and for how long to take on the role of group member. One may make a decision favoring the group one moment and favor ones self the next. The oscillation is entirely up to the individual. Of course an association may choose to disallow one's membership based on one's actions, which is fine, so long as they do not disallow one's departure. An individualist chooses to join and maintain good standing as a member of a group because doing so suits their own self interest, as defined by that individual.

A collectivist always puts the group first. Acting in one's own self interest is considered a weakness; a transgression; something one should feel bad about. The group's interest are determined by leaders, elders, some group of elites who are more in tune with the greater good than the individual members. A collectivist serves the group out of a sense of duty. It is not for them to ask why, but simply to conform and to serve. Understanding may be helpful, but is not necessary. One does what the group wants because the group wants it. There are no other considerations.

To summarize, an individual is a member of a collective when and if it suits them. A true collectivist is never an individual, except in moments of weakness. The Progressive movement is an attempt to shift human behavior away from individualism and toward collectivism. I wont presume to tell you which you ought to be, but I think it's important to recognize the distinction.