4.13: Definition of Individualism

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Individualism

Individualism shows the extend to which countries elevate the role of the individual over the group.

1. Definition

Individualism
This characteristic of cultures in which the bonds between individual members are relatively loose. People are independent and expect to take care of themselves, or at most, the nuclear family. Guilt and fear of loss of self-respect are central to social control. The ”I” predominates over the ”We”. Individual identity is key, and speaking one’s mind is a sign of honesty. Laws and rights are the same for everyone and political power is exercised by individual voters.

Collectivism
This is characteristic of cultures where individual interests are placed second to group interests. Groups protect their members in exchange for loyalty and obedience. Social control is based on the fear of losing face and the possibility of shame. Identity is therefore based on the social network to which a person belongs. Harmony, rather than speaking one’s mind, is a key value. Laws and rights differ from group to group and political power is held by interest groups.

2. Implications

Individualism
– Motivation tends towards achievement and power.
– Tasks are valued over relationships.
– Conflict is seen as inevitable.
– Management means the management of individuals.
– Hiring and promoting are based on skills and roles.
– Employer-employees relationship is based on mutual advance.

Collectivism
– Motivation tends towards belonging.
– Relationships are valued over tasks.
– Conflict is seen as a negative force.
– Management means the management of groups.
– Hiring and promotion tasks into account belonging to a group.
– Employer-employee relationship is like a family connection.

Universalistic versus Particularistic Cultures

1. Definition

Universalistic cultures
Stress the consistent application of rules, processes, procedures and laws. Reality can be reduced to generalizable laws and widely applicable formulas and decision-making.

Particularistic cultures
Emphasize differences, uniqueness and exception. The specific needs of relationships or special situational requirements are the primary drivers for actions.

2. Implications

Universalistic cultures
– Often rely on detailed contracts that are meant to be enforced regardless of how the situation develops.
– Tend toward the manufacture of universal products and services.
– The leader’s role is to implement universal principles.

Particularist cultures
– Tend to emphasize exceptions and specific conditions and build principles for engagement from the ground up rather than imposing them in an abstract, institutional form.
– Extended family and friendship obligations are likely to predominate over social rules.
– A contract is not set in stone but functions as a framework of commitment.

Activity
Where would you position your culture on these spectra? Do you know where to position other cultures? How could you find out where other cultures are positioned? (Keep in mind that these determinations are generalizations, there are significant variations within cultures based on subcultures, countercultures and divergent individual preferences.)

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Definition of Power
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Definition of Competitiveness