What Is the Difference Between Collectivism and Individualism?

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Individualism focuses on empowering people through individual rights, but collectivism focuses on empowering people through collective rights. Individualists argue that self-reliance should be emphasized. Collectivists argue that governments and other organizations should ensure people have access to basic rights.

Libertarians generally focus on individualism when discussing morality and governance. To them, individual liberties should take precedence in almost all aspects of morality and government. They often argue that collectivist structures are counterproductive and deprive people of their essential liberties.

Socialists and communists focus on building strong collectivist infrastructure. They often argue that the importance of society as a whole trumps the importance of individual liberties. However, not all of these countries operate like the Soviet Union. Nordic nations, for example, have strong socialist infrastructure but lack the authoritative power of former Soviet states.

Most citizens and most politicians believe that a balanced approach is most effective. Strong individualists and collectivists are defined by their ideological views of moral and governmental issues, but most politicians take a more pragmatic approach. In the United States, for example, Republicans tend to favor individualism but are not opposed to all social infrastructure. Similarly, Democrats often seek to create and strengthen social infrastructure but are still interested in protecting individual rights.