Monday, June 2, 2008

Collectivism and Individualism

From The Fly Bottle:

Ironically, a distaste for civic cooperation and the rule of law tends to travel with collectivism, data from the World Values Survey show. Collectivistic societies stress interdependence between people and the pursuit of group goals. But not just any people or group’s goals count, explains Gächter: “In these societies you cooperate with people inside your network, which is organized along family and friendship lines. In our experiments, everyone is an outsider to everyone else. You might not accept punishment from outside your network.”

Conversely, individualistic societies view each person as independent and value the pursuit of individual goals. These mores are more prevalent in wealthier democracies, notes Herbert Gintis, an economist at the Santa Fe Institute, in an accompanying article. “In modern, market-based societies, group boundaries aren’t very important,” explains Gächter. “You have to be able to cooperate with unrelated strangers.” And so rather than being hotbeds of cut-throat competition, capitalist democracies are actually kinder and gentler than more traditional economies—at least for strangers.

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