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There is something confusing for me about individualism and collectivism as dipolar opposites.

Are they opposites or are they merely separate ideas with mutually exclusive features? Is there a middle ground?

Definitions sourced from the Oxford English Dictionary:

Collectivism n. The socialistic theory of the collective ownership or control of all the means of production, and especially of the land, by the whole community or State, i.e. the people collectively, for the benefit of the people as a whole.

Individualism n. (1) Self-centred feeling or conduct as a principle; a mode of life in which the individual pursues his own ends or follows out his own ideas; free and independent individual action or thought; egoism. (2) The social theory which advocates the free and independent action of the individual, as opposed to communistic methods of organization and state interference. (3) Metaph. The doctrine that the individual is a self-determined whole, and that any larger whole is merely an aggregate of individuals, which, if they act upon each other at all do so only externally.


…another thing to add…

  • Is one of either collectivism or individualism the universal set minus the other set? That is, one is peculiar and particular, and the other wide and expansive? One the rule or the norm and the other the exception or oddball?

asked Oct 07 '12 at 16:04

Adeikov's gravatar image


edited Oct 07 '12 at 17:15

I would say they are mutually exclusive. If you add anarchism to this list then I would submit that it is fundamentally exhaustive.

Mathematicically this is a bit like the 0, 1 and many trichotemy of significant numbers.

answered Oct 07 '12 at 21:58

la_phil's gravatar image

la_phil ♦

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Asked: Oct 07 '12 at 16:04

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Last updated: Oct 07 '12 at 21:58