What are Collectivistic Cultures? (7 Examples + Definition)

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There are different kinds of cultures around the world. In some societies, the melody of the community resonates stronger than the solo of the individual, crafting a symphony of shared values and collective goals.

Collectivistic cultures are societies that prioritize the group over the individual, fostering a sense of belonging and shared responsibility.

These cultures value interdependence, cooperation, and social harmony, guiding how people think, feel, and interact with each other. In this world, family, community, and society pave the path of life's journey, with each step taken for the greater good.

What are Collectivist Cultures?

family celebrating diwali

When you think about your day-to-day choices, do you often consider your family and friends before making a decision? If your answer is "yes," you might be more familiar with the concept of collectivistic cultures than you realize.

In a collectivistic society, the group's needs are like the pieces of a puzzle that come together to create a complete picture. It's not just about you; it's about how you fit and contribute to the larger image of your community.

Collectivist cultures tend to emphasize the needs of the group, whether that's your family, your local community, or even your country, over the individual.

This approach is woven into every part of life, from the way businesses run to how people celebrate holidays. It's about working together, supporting each other, and moving forward as one.

In these societies, your identity is like a star in a constellation. It's defined by the relationships and roles you have within your group. You shine not just by yourself, but as part of a larger whole.

Being part of a collectivistic culture means you're never alone; you're a vital part of a network that values harmony, respect for elders, and putting common goals above personal ambitions.

As we move through this topic, you'll learn how this cultural orientation isn't just a way of living but a guiding force that shapes the values, behaviors, and mindsets of those who live within it.

From the festivals celebrated to the businesses created, the spirit of collectivism is a powerful current that runs through the rivers of society, carving out a landscape of community and shared purpose.

Historical Roots of Collectivism

Long before skyscrapers and smartphones, our ancestors relied on each other to survive. In the early days of human history, people worked together to hunt, gather food, and protect their tribe. This was not just a choice but a necessity.

The roots of collectivism are buried deep in these ancient practices where living together and sharing resources meant the difference between life and death.

As societies grew, these collective practices didn't fade away; they evolved. In many parts of the world, especially in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, these practices became a cultural cornerstone.

For example, in feudal Japan, the idea of wa — harmony in society — was essential. Everyone, from the samurai to the farmer, had a specific role, and working together smoothly was more important than any one person's goals.

Fast forward to the 20th century, and we see how these roots have shaped entire nations. In China, the philosophy of Confucianism places a heavy emphasis on the importance of family and social harmony.

Collectivism in this context is about maintaining balance and ensuring that each person contributes to the well-being of the whole.

Venturing further into the past reveals how the collective mindset echoes through various political and philosophical realms. Consider socialism, a political and economic theory that sprang to life in the 19th century.

The roots of socialism stretch back to thinkers like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who, in 1848, composed the "Communist Manifesto." They envisioned a society where the community owned property and each person worked and was rewarded not just for their own benefit but for the good of the whole.

This idea of putting the group before the individual has been supported by many thinkers over the years. Take, for example, the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose concept of the "general will" in the 18th century suggested that a community's shared interests must come before private interests.

Or look at the teachings of the Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi in the early 20th century, who emphasized collective action and responsibility as a path to social change.

These thinkers were not all talking about the same kind of collectivism. They ranged from advocating for communal living to encouraging a society organized for the welfare of all its members. What they share, though, is the core idea that emphasizes the group's needs over the individual's wants.

Yet, collectivism as a concept differs from socialism in practice. While both value the group, socialism is a specific way of organizing society and its economy. Collectivism, however, can be seen in various aspects of culture and social behavior, influencing how people interact with one another on a daily basis.

In the political landscape, leaders like Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong took Marx and Engels' ideas and adapted them to create their own versions of a collectivist state.

Lenin, leading the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, sought to create a society where workers united for the common good. Later, Mao's Cultural Revolution in China, starting in 1966, pushed for a radical form of collectivism, dramatically reshaping Chinese society and governance.

Each of these figures and moments in history highlights a different face of collectivism, showing us a spectrum that ranges from philosophical thought to political movements.

By recognizing the diversity of ideas and practices that have grown from the seed of collectivism, you can better appreciate its depth and influence across time and place.

Core Values and Beliefs in Collectivistic Societies

cherry blossom festival

In collectivistic cultures, some values shine through like the sun in a clear sky. These societies cherish harmony, loyalty, and respect, values that act like glue, holding people together.

Firstly, think about harmony, like in a choir where each voice blends to create a single piece of beautiful music. In collectivistic societies, harmony means working together so the community thrives. When you make a choice, you think about how it will affect your family and friends, not just yourself.

Loyalty is another strong value, like an unbreakable promise between friends. It's about being there for your group, no matter what. You stick with your family or community, even when times get tough, and you put their needs above your own.

Respect, especially for elders and those in authority, is like a deeply rooted tree in collectivistic cultures. It's about listening to and honoring those who have more experience and wisdom. This respect keeps the social order and ensures that traditions and knowledge pass from one generation to the next.

These values are like the colors that paint the daily life of people in collectivistic cultures. From celebrating festivals together to making decisions that benefit the group, these values are ever-present, guiding how people live and connect with each other.

Examples of Collectivistic Cultures

Japan: The Spirit of Wa

In Japan, wa isn't just a concept, it's a way of life that emphasizes group harmony and social cohesion.

This is evident in the tradition of hanami, the communal cherry blossom viewing where people gather under blooming trees, sharing food and company, reflecting a collective appreciation of beauty and nature's fleeting moments.

In the workplace, nemawashi is the practice of informal consensus-building, ensuring decisions are made harmoniously. Such practices highlight how the Japanese value the group’s tranquility over individual opinion.

South Korea: The Bond of Jeong

South Korea offers a heartwarming example of collectivism with jeong, the invisible tie that binds people together.

This is visible in the tradition of doljanchi, a first birthday celebration where family and friends gather to bless a child’s future, investing collectively in the next generation's well-being.

In day-to-day life, jeong makes itself known through acts like sharing a home-cooked meal with neighbors or co-workers, reinforcing a network of care and community support.

Africa: Ubuntu’s Shared Existence

Across Africa, Ubuntu beautifully encapsulates the essence of collectivist philosophy.

The Harambee tradition in Kenya, meaning "all pull together," involves community members contributing money or labor towards community projects, demonstrating Ubuntu in tangible action.

In Nigeria, the age-grade system found in many communities has members of the same age group working together to support communal activities, from festivals like the New Yam Festival to community development projects.

Latin America: Familial and Community Ties

dia de los muertos

The fabric of Latin American society is woven with strong threads of familial and communal connections.

In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is a profound expression of these ties, where families come together to honor and remember their ancestors, reflecting a sense of continuity and collective memory.

Similarly, in Brazil, the communal spirit comes alive during Carnaval, where people from different backgrounds unite in celebration, setting aside individual and cultural differences, for a collective expression of culture and joy.

India: The Fabric of Collectivism in Festivals

India's diverse tapestry is rich with collectivism, especially during festivals.

Diwali, the festival of lights, sees entire communities coming together, celebrating the triumph of good over evil. Families and friends share sweets and light up their homes, creating a unified glow across neighborhoods.

The tradition of rakhi during the festival of Raksha Bandhan, where sisters tie a protective thread around their brothers' wrists, signifies a deep communal bond protected over time.

China: Confucian Harmony and Filial Piety

Collectivism in China is deeply rooted in Confucian principles, emphasizing social harmony and the importance of family.

The concept of filial piety, which is a strong devotion of respect and duty towards one's parents and ancestors, is seen in the widespread observance of the Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day.

Here, families gather to clean the tombs of their ancestors, showing respect and collective remembrance. In everyday life, this collectivist value manifests in the prioritization of family goals over personal ambitions.

Indonesia: Gotong Royong and Communal Unity

In Indonesia, the principle of gotong royong, or mutual cooperation, is a foundational aspect of society. This is seen in the subak system of Bali, a cooperative social system that manages water for rice farming.

The subak reflects a shared responsibility towards the community's resources and well-being. During times of celebration or mourning, it's common for the entire community to come together to provide support, reflecting a powerful sense of unity and shared purpose.

Collectivistic vs Individualistic Cultures

child with a gift under a christmas tree

Imagine you're at a crossroads: one path is wide and well-traveled by groups, the other is narrower, with footprints going different ways. These paths represent collectivism and individualism, two distinct ways societies can be structured.

Collectivistic societies are like a team sport. Everyone plays a role, supports each other, and the group's goal is the top priority. Your personal win is the team's win, and vice versa.

In contrast, individualist cultures tend to be more like a solo race, where personal goals, freedom, and self-expression lead the way.

In individualistic cultures, it's common to celebrate personal achievements and to encourage standing out from the crowd. It's like having your name in lights for your solo performance. Here, speaking your mind directly, even if it disrupts harmony, is often seen as a sign of honesty and strength.

But it's not just about 'me' versus 'us.' Both approaches offer benefits and challenges.

Collectivism fosters strong community bonds and support systems but can sometimes limit personal success or choice. Individualism can fuel innovation and personal freedom but might lead to a weaker social safety net.

Think of these two as different recipes for society. Both can create thriving communities; it just depends on what ingredients you value more. The sweetness of shared success, or the zest of individual achievement? Each culture finds its own balance between the two.

And the world is increasingly sharing values across borders, so most places have a mixture. While there may be strong cultural differences, it's definitely possible to have find common ground with someone from a different cultural background.

Collectivism and the Self

In collectivistic cultures, who you are is deeply woven into the fabric of your community. Your identity isn't just a solo portrait; it's more like a group photo, where each individual is an integral part of a larger picture.

Here, personal identity is often shaped by social roles and family ties. For example, you might be known primarily as a daughter, a brother, or a community leader. This doesn't mean personal dreams don't matter, but they are often seen through the lens of the group's needs.

Growing up in such societies, you learn to see yourself through your relationships and contributions to the group. This can create a strong sense of belonging and support, as your successes and challenges are shared by the community. Yet, it also means that personal achievements are often celebrated as collective victories.

In this interwoven social fabric, the community's expectations can guide your choices, from the job you pursue to the person you marry. The collective's well-being shines a guiding light on the path of life, sometimes illuminating the way, other times casting shadows on personal desires.

This collective mindset nurtures a powerful sense of connection and responsibility to others, reinforcing the belief that 'we are all in this together', and the choices one makes ripple through the community, for better or worse.

Collectivism in the Family and Education

Imagine a family as a garden, where each member is a plant growing together. In collectivistic cultures, families are close-knit gardens where everyone works together to nurture each other.

Here, elders are like the tall trees that offer shade and wisdom, while the young are like seedlings, cared for and guided as they grow.

In these families, children learn early that their actions affect everyone. Just as watering one plant helps the whole garden, helping family members is helping yourself.

This could mean older siblings tutoring younger ones, or children helping parents with chores. The focus is on the health of the family garden, not just the individual plants.

Education in collectivistic cultures often extends this family model. Teachers are respected as knowledge-givers, much like elders in the family.

Classrooms can feel like larger family units, where group activities and cooperation are key. Students learn to think about the group, whether it's working on a class project or helping classmates understand a lesson.

This approach weaves a strong social fabric, where family and school are part of a shared journey of growth and learning. It's not just about individual grades or achievements; it's about growing together and contributing to the family and community's well-being.

Collectivism in the Workplace

Picture a beehive, buzzing with activity where every bee has a role for the good of the hive. That's a bit like a workplace in a collectivistic culture. Here, teamwork and the company's goals are very important, sometimes more important than individual goals.

In these work environments, harmony is key. People often work together to solve problems and make decisions. It's common to see group meetings where everyone's views are considered before choosing the best path for the team.

And just like bees communicate through dances, people in collectivistic workplaces rely on subtle cues and consensus to guide their actions.

Promotions and rewards in these settings often recognize team efforts. Instead of singling out one star performer, the whole group might be celebrated for their hard work. It's like when a sports team wins a trophy; it's a win for every player, coach, and support staff.

Working in such a place, you might find that your contributions to the team's success bring a deep sense of satisfaction and belonging. After all, in a garden, a hive, or a workplace, every individual’s effort helps the whole community thrive.

Collectivism and Mental Health

therapy session

Within the embrace of a collectivistic culture, mental health is a shared journey rather than a solitary one. The interconnectedness of the community offers both comfort and complexity to the individual’s psychological experience.

Research in cross cultural psychology has shown that collectivistic societies often emphasize social harmony and interdependence. This can lead to greater social support, which numerous studies, including those published in journals like "Social Science & Medicine," have found to be a buffer against mental illness.

The 2017 World Mental Health Survey, for instance, suggested that people in collectivist societies might have lower rates of disorders related to mood and anxiety compared to individualistic cultures.

But this social cushion doesn't make individuals immune to mental health challenges. A study from "Clinical Psychology Review" in 2022 highlighted that the stigma associated with mental health issues in collectivistic cultures might prevent individuals from seeking help, for fear of bringing shame to the group.

This pressure to conform and maintain group harmony can sometimes increase the risk of internalizing problems and can exacerbate feelings of isolation for those who do not feel understood within their community.

Therapeutic approaches in these societies often take a more holistic and collective view. Therapists might work not only with the individual but also engage with their family or community leaders, as seen in practices from countries like Japan and India.

Such collective involvement can aid recovery by resolving conflicts and realigning the individual’s sense of belonging within the group.

In summary, the collectivist approach to mental health recognizes the profound impact of social and familial networks on an individual's well-being. While it offers a robust support system, it also presents unique challenges in the form of social expectations and stigma.

Mental health professionals working within these cultures are increasingly acknowledging the need to balance respect for cultural values with individual mental health needs, promoting both group harmony and personal well-being.

Communication Styles

Therapy will be impacted by the way people communicate. People from collectivist cultures will have different communication styles than those from individualistic cultures, and so the therapy will need to be adjusted.

When you're in a collectivistic culture, the way you talk and listen to others is a dance where everyone knows the steps. It's not just about the words; it's about respecting the group and keeping harmony.

Indirect communication is common. You might hint at what you mean instead of saying it straight out. This helps avoid conflict and shows respect for the other person's feelings.

Non-verbal cues play a big role, too. A nod, a smile, or even silence can speak volumes. It's important to be aware of these signals to understand what's being said beyond words.

In these cultures, listening is as important as speaking. It's not just waiting for your turn to talk; it's truly hearing what others have to say and considering it carefully. By listening well, you show you value the speaker and the group's harmony.

This communication style fosters a sense of unity and discretion, ensuring that the collective's fabric remains intact, without the fraying that harsh words or confrontations might cause.

Collectivism in the Digital Age

In the digital world, collectivistic cultures have found new soil to plant their roots. The internet is like a global village where the values of sharing, community, and group identity flourish in fresh ways.

Social media platforms have become the new town squares for collectivistic societies. Here, families and friends share news, support each other's achievements, and stay connected across distances. It's like a continuous family reunion, where everyone's updates are the shared stories at the dinner table.

But the digital age also brings challenges. The spread of information is rapid and sometimes the community pressure can follow you into the online world. For young people, in particular, there's a balancing act between the expectations of the group and the desire for personal expression on platforms like Instagram or TikTok.

Yet, collectivistic values also shape online behavior positively. Crowdfunding and online volunteering are good examples. These digital tools have made it easier for communities to rally around a cause, pooling resources and efforts for the greater good, like neighbors coming together to help someone rebuild their house after a storm.

The digital age hasn't changed the essence of collectivism; it has expanded its reach. It continues to show that even in an online world, we can maintain strong communal ties and work together for common goals. The key is adapting the age-old principles of shared responsibility and mutual support to the clicks and scrolls of the digital landscape.

The Future of Collectivistic Cultures

star trek ship

As the world moves forward, collectivistic cultures are navigating new waters. The currents of globalization, technology, and changing social norms are mixing the old with the new, creating a future that respects tradition while embracing change.

Technology is a big part of this future. It connects people in ways that were once impossible. Imagine a family spread across different countries, staying close through video calls and instant messages. This digital closeness can keep collectivistic values strong, even over long distances.

The global economy is another factor shaping the future of these cultures. Companies from collectivistic societies are becoming international players. They bring with them a style of teamwork and corporate culture that can influence businesses worldwide.

But there are challenges, too. Younger generations, influenced by global media and individualistic cultures, may start to question traditional values. They might want a balance between personal goals and community responsibilities. This can lead to changes in how collectivism is lived and expressed.

In the end, collectivistic cultures will likely keep their core values but adapt them in creative ways to fit into the ever-changing modern world. They will continue to show the strength that comes from people supporting each other, whether face-to-face or through screens, today and into the future.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1) What exactly defines a collectivistic culture?

A collectivistic culture is one where people are encouraged to prioritize the needs and goals of the group over their own individual desires. Relationships and community responsibilities take center stage in social interactions.

2) Can you be individualistic in a collectivistic society?

Yes, individualism can exist within collectivistic societies. People in collectivist culture may hold personal ambitions and desires, but they often balance these with the expectations and norms of their community.

3) How do collectivistic values affect family life?

In collectivistic cultures, family life is often characterized by strong bonds, respect for elders, and an emphasis on group harmony. Decisions are frequently made with the extended family's well-being in mind.

4) Are there collectivistic cultures in Western countries?

While Western societies are often viewed as more individualistic, there are communities and subcultures within these societies that uphold collectivistic values.

5) How do collectivistic cultures handle conflict?

Conflict in collectivistic cultures is often handled with an aim toward harmony and consensus. Direct confrontation may be avoided in favor of indirect communication and mediation by respected group members.

6) Do collectivistic societies use social media differently than individualistic ones?

Social media use in collectivistic societies often emphasizes community engagement, sharing within groups, and maintaining social relationships, reflecting their community-centered values.

7) How are businesses in collectivistic cultures different from those in individualistic cultures?

Businesses in collectivistic cultures may focus more on team achievements and group goals, promoting a workplace environment that values harmony, cooperation, and collective success.

8) Can collectivistic values impact mental health?

Yes, the strong social support networks in collectivistic societies can be protective against mental health issues. However, concerns about stigma and maintaining social harmony can sometimes make it difficult for individuals to seek help.

9) How is globalization affecting collectivistic cultures?

Globalization is introducing individualistic values into collectivistic cultures, which can lead to a blending of values. Collectivistic societies may adopt new ideas and practices while maintaining their emphasis on community and interpersonal relationships.

10) What might the future hold for collectivistic cultures?

The future of collectivistic cultures will likely involve a fusion of tradition and innovation as they adapt to changes in technology, economy, and societal norms, preserving their core values in a modern context.


It’s clear that collectivist societies are not relics of the past but vibrant, living entities adapting to the ebb and flow of a globalizing world. The thread of collectivism continues to weave through the fabric of many societies, coloring the way individuals interact with one another, shape their identities, and view the world.

Collectivistic cultures remind us that community and togetherness have a power all their own. In times of joy and hardship, the group stands united, offering a tapestry of support that can be as comforting as it is complex.

Whether through festivals that light up the streets of Asia or through digital conversations that buzz through the internet, the spirit of collectivism endures.

The future looks to be a mosaic, with each piece representing the diverse ways collectivism might manifest as it intersects with technology, psychology, and evolving cultural narratives.

Collectivistic cultures are a testament to human interconnectedness, proving that even as the world changes, the fundamental need for social bonds and shared experiences remains.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2023, November). What are Collectivistic Cultures? (7 Examples + Definition). Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/what-are-collectivistic-cultures/.

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