Today’s Major Civilizational Conflicts are between Individualism and Collectivism on one hand, and High and Low Context Cultures on the other – 10/23/2014

Today’s Major Civilizational Conflicts are between Individualism and Collectivism on one hand, and High and Low Context Cultures on the other……

“Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that emphasizes the moral worth of the individual. Individualists promote the exercise of one’s goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance and advocate that interests of the individual should achieve precedence over the state or a social group, while opposing external interference upon one’s own interests by society or institutions such as the government.

“Individualism makes the individual its focus and so starts “with the fundamental premise that the human individual is of primary importance in the struggle for liberation.” Liberalismexistentialism and anarchism are examples of movements that take the human individual as a central unit of analysis. Individualism thus involves “the right of the individual to freedom and self-realization”.”

“It has also been used as a term denoting “The quality of being an individual; individuality” related to possessing “An individual characteristic; a quirk.” Individualism is thus also associated with artistic and bohemian interests and lifestyles where there is a tendency towards self-creation and experimentation as opposed to tradition or popular mass opinions and behaviors as so also with humanist philosophical positions and ethics.

“Collectivism is any philosophic, political, religious, economic, or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human. Collectivism is a basic cultural element that exists as the reverse of individualism in human nature (in the same way high context cultureexists as the reverse of low context culture). Collectivist orientations stress the importance of cohesion within social groups (such as an “in-group”, in what specific context it is defined) and in some cases, the priority of group goals over individual goals. Collectivists often focus on community, society, nation or country. It has been used as an element in many different and diverse types of government and political, economic and educational philosophies throughout history and most human societies in practice contain elements of both individualism and collectivism. Some examples of collectivist cultures include Pakistan, India and Japan.”
“Collectivism can be divided into horizontal (or egalitarian) collectivism and vertical (or hierarchical) collectivism. Horizontal collectivism stresses collective decision-making among equal individuals, and is thus usually based on decentralization and egalitarianism. Vertical collectivism is based on hierarchical structures of power and on moral and cultural conformity, and is therefore based on centralization and hierarchy. A cooperative enterprise would be an example of horizontal collectivism, whereas a military hierarchy would be an example of vertical collectivism.”

“High-context culture and the contrasting low-context culture are terms presented by the anthropologist Edward T. Hall in his 1976 book Beyond Culture. It refers to a culture’s tendency to use high-context messages over low-context messages in routine communication. This choice of speaking styles translates into a culture that will cater to in-groups, an in-group being a group that has similar experiences and expectations, from which inferences are drawn. In a higher-context culture, many things are left unsaid, letting the culture explain. Words and word choice become very important in higher-context communication, since a few words can communicate a complex message very effectively to an in-group (but less effectively outside that group), while in a low-context culture, the communicator needs to be much more explicit and the value of a single word is less important.”

“A cultural context does not rank as “high” or “low” in an absolute sense because each message can be presented on a continuum from high to low. Likewise, a culture (French Canadian) may be of a higher context than one (English Canadian) but lower context than another (Spanish or French). Likewise, a stereotypical individual from Texas (a higher-context culture) may communicate more with a few words or use of a prolonged silence, than a stereotypical New Yorker who is being very explicit, although both being part of a culture which is lower context overall. Typically a high-context culture will be relational, collectivist, intuitive, and contemplative. They place a high value on interpersonal relationships and group members are a very close knit community.”

“While the milieu of individuals in a culture can be diverse, and not all individuals can be described by strict stereotypes, understanding the broad tendencies of predominant cultures can help inform and educate ourselves on how to better facilitate communication between individuals of differing cultures. The following spectrum of levels of context in various cultures was determined in 1986 by Copeland & L. Griggs:”

Lower-context culture
Higher-context culture


“Higher-context cultures tend to be more common in the Asiancultures than in European, and in countries with low racial diversity. Cultures where the group/community is valued over the individual promote the in-groups and group reliance/support that favour higher-context cultures. Coexisting subcultures are also conducive to higher context situations, where the small group relies on their common background to explain the situation, rather than words. A lower-context culture tends to explain things further, and it is thought that this may be related to the need to accommodate individuals with a wide variety of backgrounds.”

“Higher-context cultures tend to correlate with cultures that also have a strong sense of tradition and history, and change little over time. For example, Native Americans in the United States have higher-context cultures with a strong sense of tradition and history. The focus on tradition creates opportunities for higher context messages between individuals of each new generation. This is in contrast to lower-context cultures in which the shared experiences upon which communication is built can change drastically from one generation to the next, creating communication gaps between parents and children, as in the United States.”

“A high-context joke from a high-context culture will not translate well to someone of a different culture, even another high-context culture. Humor is very contextual, as a joke may not be considered very funny if it seems like it is over-explained using only low-context messages.”

“An individual moving to a higher or lower-context culture may need to adapt and/or be accommodated in ways different from moving within cultures of similar context.”

“An individual from a higher-context culture may need to adapt and/or be accommodated when shifting to a low-context culture. A lower-context culture expects many relationships, but fewer intimate ones. A high context individual is more likely to ask for assistance rather than attempt to work out a solution independently, and assistance is likely to be asked from the same few people. The high context person may be frustrated by people appearing to not want to develop a relationship or continue to help them on an ongoing basis. The term “hand-holding” might be used to describe high context individuals in an unintentionally derogatory sense.”

“An individual from a low-context culture needs to adapt and/or be accommodated when shifting to a higher-context culture. Higher-context cultures expect small, close-knit groups, and reliance on that group. Groups can actually be relied upon to support each other, and it may be difficult to get support outside of your group. Professional and personal lives often intertwine. A lower context individual may be more likely to try to work things out on their own and feel there is a lack of self-service support or information, rather than ask questions and take time to develop the relationships needed to accomplish the things that need to be done.”

“Though all human societies contain elements of both individualism and collectivism by definition (if not they would become unstable), some societies are on the whole more collectivist and some on the whole more individualist. In collectivist societies, the group is considered more important than any one individual and groups in such societies are expected to “take care” of their members and individuals are expected to “take care” of the group (usually called an “in-group”) that they are a member of. Harmony within these groups is considered paramount. For example, it may be considered “inappropriate” for a member of an in-group to openly criticize another in public (though they are often allowed to do so in private). Collectivism does have its advantages as compared to individualist societies as people in collectivist societies almost always have access to a “group” and as such are known to be considered “happier”, “less lonely”, and have lower rates of mental illness in studies done by psychologists and political scientists. People in individual societies are known to feel “lonely” at some times or another compared to their collectivist counterparts. Many people also find it easier, to live in a society where social harmony is stressed and groups by definition remain more cohesive than in individualist societies where groups are observed to be inherently less stable.”

“However, it depends on the preference of an individual if they wish to live in a collectivist society like Japan or an individualist one like the United States. One type could not be said to be better than another and both are known to come into existence naturally as a consequence of human nature.”

“The anarchist writer and bohemian Oscar Wilde wrote in his famous essay The Soul of Man under Socialism that “Art is individualism, and individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. There lies its immense value. For what it seeks is to disturb monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine.” For anarchist historian George Woodcock “Wilde’s aim in The Soul of Man under Socialism is to seek the society most favorable to the artist…for Wilde art is the supreme end, containing within itself enlightenment and regeneration, to which all else in society must be subordinated…Wilde represents the anarchist as aesthete.” “

“The word individualism in this way has been used to denote a personality with a strong tendency towards self-creation and experimentation as opposed to tradition or popular mass opinions and behaviors..”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individualism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collectivism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-_and_low-context_cultures

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