Collectivism in Sociology

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In collectivism, the individual is perceived as a lesser entity to a social collectivity, which can be a nation, a state, a social class or a race.

Collectivism emphasises control and ownership of production and distribution under the supervision of, usually, a government and by the people jointly and cooperatively, while Individualism means the rights and interests of the individual are emphasised. When collectivism exists, it is believed that the individual finds freedom and true self only when submitting to the general will of the community.


Collectivism perceives a group as having one singular identity. This group or collective can think and has ideas and goals and a purpose. The personality of the group or collective is referred to as its culture. The people in the group are secondary to the collective, which is perceived as an entity that is more significant than the sum of its parts. Individuals are not acknowledged in a collective. They are the tools of the group.


A collective believes that value to the collective is the main objective. This collective could be your family, your country, your society, your nation, your sex or any group that you belong to. What benefits the entire group is the preferred goal.


There are benefits to the collective approach. An emphasis is placed on unification and a common purpose. Families are considered very important for personal growth.

An advantage to living in a collectivist society is that the group members are close-knit and care for and help one another, which is not always the case in an individualistic society.

Communication is very important in a collective group. No one is left out of the mix, and everyone is involved in making decisions. Asian and Latin cultures tend to be more collectivist. They generally put the focus on community, family and loyalty to one another. Family often comes first in these cultures.

The more technologically sophisticated and savvy a culture becomes, it tends to become more collectivist because interdependence between societies increases the complexity of the world. The preferred approach should be a desire for the common good for all and the creation of a good society, notes researchers at Santa Clara University.

In the United States, society has long held onto individualism and the idea that we should be left alone to pursue our goals independent of others. This way of thinking focuses on self-fulfillment and achievement of the individuals.

Altruism and Collectivism

Collectivism is not the same as altruism, which is a code of ethics mandating that the welfare of others is the standard of good and that self-sacrifice is the only moral action. Collectivism insists that the group is more important than the members and it mandates that the individuals sacrifice for the greater good. Altruism insists that you sacrifice for others where collectivism insists on sacrifice for the group.