Is individualism universal?

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
How do you think about this question?



In some cultures family and community plays a much larger role than it does in our (and in our I mean all countries that have net access and a general population able to buy macs). It is even said that in some cultures there isn´t a word for "I" (meaning that the people have a hard time even grasping the idea of the individual). But does that mean that it should be accepted that individual rights less importent there? Please make arguments for you position.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 47
    mimacmimac Posts: 871member
    My thoughts on the subject are that individualism is a great concept and as such most people like to think that they are as "individual" as they can be but sociologically most are cogs in the machine.

    To elaborate.. a person generally wants to, and in some ways has a need to, feel part of the society they live in and so conform and fit in.

    Take for example a persons style of clothing or the music that they listen to.

    Their clothing is influenced in most part by what may be in fashion or what others in their group wear and in turn the style of music they listen to may influence the type of clothing they wear and the type of people they hang with. Therefore individualism does not really exist.



    The other big picture is government and the way it views society.

    I believe governments view their citizens as a whole and not as individuals so maybe individualism is not to be encouraged incase anarchy ensues (individuals who may not want to conform to society and therefore not pay taxes etc.) This is not to say that all governments think like this though communism as we know does not see individualism as a good thing.



    soeey...i'm rambling...

    I'm also drunk
  • Reply 2 of 47
    andersanders Posts: 6,523member
    Its good to be drunk. And since you are irish I guess you prove your own pint nicely



    But I was not aiming at a sociological answer, I am trained in that area. I was looking for principle/ideological answers to the question
  • Reply 3 of 47
    Perhaps the reason why such cultures don't have great communications networks and modern developments is that they lack the very keystone of contemporary ethics: that being the value of the individual.



    Without emphasis on "I," humans revert to a tribal society, or a feudal society if they are lucky. Without the drive to succeed as an individual, and without the motivation to disagree with existing tennets, there is only stagnation.
  • Reply 4 of 47
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    I don't really understand the question, coming from a sociologist. My understanding is that it's well-accepted that cultures vary along a collectivism-individualism dimension. This predicts things like the types of conflicts that occur, the types of social perceptions that occur, and the basis of the self-esteem of the people in the culture. So I'd have to say I think individualism is NOT universal. Cultures vary in individualism.



    But somehow I feel this whole thread is some kind of trick question.



    I do think there is both good and bad in both individualism and collectivism. IMO, there's more conflict in collectivistic cultures - more tribalism and wars based on that tribalism. On the other hand, there's probably more alienation "I'll take what I can get and screw everyone else" in individualistic cultures.



    I wonder - do individualistic cultures have suicide bombers?
  • Reply 5 of 47
    andersanders Posts: 6,523member
    It need not be ineffective. Some immigrants here have much more success than others because of their family network that can help for free if your buisness is going badly. It adds a dynamic to the buisness that no (what will I get out of this) dane could add.



    But thats besides the point. with regards to colletivistic cultures I hear a lot of arguments go along the lines of:



    -Its not a individual culture so colletive rights are more important than individual rights (something I hear a lot of people use about China)



    -Noone asked (the individuals in the presumaly collective culture) if they wanted to have more individual freedom (implying that it would not be high on their list of priories).



    What about arguemtns like that
  • Reply 6 of 47
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Anders

    How do you think about this question?



    In some cultures family and community plays a much larger role than it does in our (and in our I mean all countries that have net access and a general population able to buy macs). It is even said that in some cultures there isn´t a word for "I" (meaning that the people have a hard time even grasping the idea of the individual). But does that mean that it should be accepted that individual rights less importent there? Please make arguments for you position.




    This is a question that I love. A professor once told me that much of what we think about the self is bound up in a mistranslation of a Greek word (no idea how to spell it, but it's pronounced "hoop-uh-kamen-on") that means, basically, your innards and guts, into the Roman word for "Subject" (something thrown before).



    My understanding is that the Greeks didn't really have the notion of "interiority" that we do. If you look at the Greek classics, people seem to be defined by what they do rather than through some kind of interior self.



    I've argued for a while now that something significant happens in the 18th century (at least in English thinking on all of this). All at once, we have Hume and Locke working on the question of the self and memory and identity. We have the emergence of the novel as a new form of literature in English. We have the birth of the modern prison system. The Sensibility movement and Gothic literature emerge, and both are deeply concerned with understanding how people feel and react to strange situations.



    We begin to see ourselves as a kind of narrative, as a story that's in the process of unfolding. As a novel. It's no coincidence, in the end, that the prison shifts from a punitive model to a reformative one (mostly through Quaker influence). If the self is a story, then the prison is where that narrative can be modified. It's no coincidence that as the psychology of the mind gets explored, people like Freud start to attend to the way that our individual "story" makes us what we are at any moment.
  • Reply 7 of 47
    andersanders Posts: 6,523member
    AHHHHH SO ANSWER THE DAMN QUESTION ALREADY. Shess...



    Okay let me be a bit more open.



    If you believe that the rights of the individual is above that of the collective in our culture wont it have apply to people in other cultures as well?



    When the chinese government argues that collective rights has priority over individual ones (as an example: in regards to the former one child policy) due to the culture won´t we who subscribe to individualism for ourselves have to say that there can´t be another set of rights for other individuals just because they live in another culture? Its okay for them to sacrifice their individuality but only if they have been their choice to make?



    If individualism is only cultural then culture always have priority and our individual rights are only secured because our culture allows us to? As acultural liberal thats not satisfying for me. If I fight for the rights of homosexuals, immigrants etc. It´s impossible for me to lean back and say "Well those right are good for us but in China they have another culture and there the rights of the individual must respect the collective" because if I say so I also have to admit that my individual rights have to retreat if the mebers of my cultura wants them to.



    I´m probably not making my arguments particularly clear tonight...\
  • Reply 8 of 47
    giaguaragiaguara Posts: 2,724member
    i would take the perspective of the past 6000 years of humanity to this subject.



    then again, i can't be sure even that i exist any more in the individual sense. argh.
  • Reply 9 of 47
    andersanders Posts: 6,523member
    Regard this not as a historic, philosophical or sociological question but an ideological one. If you believe that individual rights is above that of collective rights, does that also apply to individuals in cultures where collective rights is more dominant than individual ones?
  • Reply 10 of 47
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Anders

    Regard this not as a historic, philosophical or sociological question but an ideological one. If you believe that individual rights is above that of collective rights, does that also apply to individuals in cultures where collective rights is more dominant than individual ones?



    That's a political question, at heart, and it's one that all cultures have to deal with. "What is the proper relationship between the individual and the state?"



    I'm honestly not quite sure what you're asking. Are you asking, for instance, if I, personally, value individual rights over the collective, does my valuation still apply when I observe a culture that doesn't believe as I do? If that's the question, then the answer is "yes," since my position on all of this is a political one in the broad sense of politics as a view of the way the world ought to be.
  • Reply 11 of 47
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    I think there's a difference between a voluntary collectivistic system and one that is imposed without the consent of the governed. Voluntary collectives happen all the time - I'd regard my family and friendships as collectivistic. But the government of China rules through terror and kills dissenters. I feel pretty comfortable judging that kind of "collectivism" as objectively wrong.
  • Reply 12 of 47
    andersanders Posts: 6,523member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by midwinter

    That's a political question, at heart, and it's one that all cultures have to deal with. "What is the proper relationship between the individual and the state?"



    I'm honestly not quite sure what you're asking. Are you asking, for instance, if I, personally, value individual rights over the collective, does my valuation still apply when I observe a culture that doesn't believe as I do? If that's the question, then the answer is "yes," since my position on all of this is a political one in the broad sense of politics as a view of the way the world ought to be.




    Thats the question I ask.
  • Reply 13 of 47
    What about people who were brought up in a culture where individualism is stressed? Is the choice to be a 'lone' collectivist in such a place, any more real than wanting to be an individual within an imposed collective?
  • Reply 14 of 47
    Human beings need the illusion of individualism to satisfy their ego. Society requires that individuals make compromises to live together. There is no black and white answer.
  • Reply 15 of 47
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by talksense101

    Human beings need the illusion of individualism to satisfy their ego. Society requires that individuals make compromises to live together. There is no black and white answer.



    "Ego," it seems to me, assumes that individualism is some kind of natural thing rather than a cultural construction.
  • Reply 16 of 47
    It was inevitable this topic would swerve away from the original question into a debate against the reality or legitimacy of individualism.



    I, me, mine. Yup, it's real!



    Ayn Rand has written beautifully on the subject of the Individual verses the Collective. For those not inclined to read... listen to Rush...









    uh, the band. (either, really.)
  • Reply 17 of 47
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by elppa cam

    Ayn Rand has written beautifully on the subject of the Individual verses the Collective.



    Well, let's just say that she's written about it.
  • Reply 18 of 47
    Quote:

    Originally posted by midwinter

    Well, let's just say that she's written about it.



    "I" say she's written beautifully. Whom is "Let's"?



  • Reply 19 of 47
    Quote:

    Originally posted by elppa cam

    "I" say she's written beautifully. Whom is "Let's"?







    A picture is not a novel. Ayn Rand was a terrible novelist. I tore Atlas Shrugged in half so I wouldn't have to carry around twice as much bullshit as I needed to.
  • Reply 20 of 47
    Speaking of individualism...
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