Collectivist Culture: Definition & Examples

Collectivist Culture: Definition & Examples
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  • 0:01 What Is Collectivist Culture?
  • 1:38 Examples of…
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Cummins
This lesson goes over the definition of a collectivist culture, or a culture that values the group as a whole over individuals. Societies such as Korea and Japan are considered to have a more collectivist culture.

What Is Collectivist Culture?

What kind of culture do you live in? Have you ever thought much about how you might define your own culture? Culture refers to the shared values found among a group of people. There are many different kinds of cultural values that exist throughout the world. In this lesson we'll talk about a particular kind of culture: a collectivist culture.

A collectivist culture is one that's based on valuing the needs of a group or a community over the individual. Kinship, family, and community are extremely important. People tend to work together to create harmony and group cohesion is extremely valued. Individuals in a collectivist culture are likely to value what is good for the whole over what is good for one person.

Typically, those who are part of a collectivist culture don't believe that individuals are just separate units floating around in society. Instead, this type of culture prizes the notion that we are interdependent and part of a larger group. In collectivist cultures, one's orientation is outward, toward the group, rather than inwards to himself.

There are a number of traits that define collectivist cultures. For one, individuals are considered 'good' when they are generous and tend to the needs of others. They emphasize the well-being of the group over (or at least as much as) individual well-being.

In collectivist cultures, your group identity is very important: rather than thinking of yourself simply as an individual unit, you find that the group you're a part of is very important. In a collectivist culture, things like decision making often happen within a family, and younger members look to and respect the advice of elders.

Examples of Collectivist Cultures

There are a number of countries that are considered to have a collectivist culture. We'll talk about a few of them and provide some examples to illustrate why we might say this.

Korea is a good example of a collectivist culture. In Korean society, the extended family is extremely important, and loyalty is an important dimension of this. People are loyal to their families and fellow members and people feel a sense of obligation not just to their immediate family, but to Korean society at large.

Shame is also a part of collectivist culture in Korea. By this we mean that if a member of this society makes a mistake, he feels that he's let down the whole society rather than himself or a few close family members. In general, countries in Asia are largely collectivist in their orientations. Japan and China are additional examples of collectivist cultures.

Here's an example of a scenario we might find in a collectivist culture. If a young person in a collectivist culture found out that her family needed additional income, she would likely privilege that over attending school. She might put off her studies for a few years in the interest of contributing to her family. In more individualistic cultures, a student might privilege his own schooling over his family's needs.

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