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Individualism/Collectivism in 10 minutes

Geert Hofstede
August 2014
Origin of the terms “individualism” and “collectivism”

• Both terms were used in the 19th century for political

ideologies, strongly value-laden
• In a 1920s publication they were presented as opposites
• In the 1960s “individualism” emerged also in personality
psychology, “collectivism” did not
• Hofstede chose “individualism versus collectivism” as a
dimension of differences between national societies,
already described under different names by sociologists
Individualism/Collectivism as a societal culture dimension

• Individualism: A society in which the ties between

individuals are loose: everyone is expected to
look after self and immediate family only
• Collectivism: A society in which individuals from
birth onwards are part of strong in-groups
Collectivist societies Individualist societies
• “We” identity • “I” identity
• Exclusionism: others • Universalism: others classified
classified as in- or outgroup as individuals
• Competition between • Competition between
“tribes” individuals
• Relations before task • Task before relations
• High-context communication • Low-context communication
(many things are obvious) (everything must be specified)
• In-group harmony must be • Confrontations can be healthy
Measuring the position of a society
on the Ind/Col dimension

• A society’s position between individualism and collectivism

can only be measured relative to other societies
• This position is expressed in an Individualism Index score (IDV)
• IDV values have been plotted on a scale from 0 to 100; scores
close to 0 stand for the most collectivist, scores close to 100
for the most individualist society
Some Individualism Index (IDV) scores, out of 76
High Low
91 USA 51 Spain
90 Australia 48 India
89 Britain 46 Japan
80 Netherlands 39 Russia
74 Denmark 38 Arab ctrs
71 France 30 Mexico
67 Germany 20 China
Some examples of what these IDV scores correlate with
Collectivist societies Individualist societies
• Lower per capita GNI (poorer) • Higher per capita GNI (richer)
• Less press freedom • More press freedom
• Human Rights less respected • Human Rights more respected
• Lower divorce rates • Higher divorce rates
• Older husbands, younger • Smaller age differences
wives between spouses
• Slower pace of life • Faster pace of life
• Use of the word “I” avoided • Frequent use of the word “I”
• Use of social media guided by • Active search in social media
Individualism versus Power Distance
• The Power Distance and Individualism/Collectivism scores are
negatively correlated: low PDI societies score more often
individualist, more high PDI societies score collectivist
• However, this is mainly an effect of national wealth or poverty:
IDV is positively, PDI negatively correlated with wealth
• If we compare rich with rich and poor with poor societies, the
negative correlation between IDV and PDI almost disappears
• So Hofstede treats these as two separate dimensions
• In the USA, some authors distinguish “horizontal” and
“vertical” individualism. This is a combination of IDV and PDI
Do IDV scores change over time ?
• Like power distance values, individualism versus collectivism
values are transferred from generation to generation
• Research by Sjoerd Beugelsdijk comparing answers to the
same questions by two successive generations 30 years apart
shows a modest worldwide shift towards individualism
• However, the position of countries relative to each other
remained the same; and this is what the scores are based on
• Like in the case of power distance, country differences
expressed in the IDV scores tend to be rooted in history
• So, these scores too can be assumed to be stable over time