Collectivist Cultures

Lesson 2: Topic 6 of 19

This perspective is contrasted by people in many parts of the world, where an “individual” person will think of themselves first in the context of a family. A Collectivist mindset incorporates much more than the family, though – workgroups and religious affiliations have a great deal of influence. The nation is often involved, also. These influences are often far more impactful than most Americans would find acceptable.

Several years ago, we met a Chinese high school student in Texas who had moved to the US with his mother to pursue American education. His father remained at his job in China. This young man needed a ride to the same school our children attended at the time. As we got to know “Albert,” he acknowledged a goal of even higher priority. He was in fact a promising tennis player working to find a skilled tennis coach who could help raise his game to a higher competitive level. When asked about his biggest dreams, he responded, “We haven’t decided yet about pursuing the Olympics.” When pressed slightly about what he wanted, Albert contentedly responded that he would want whatever his parents decided. Albert considered his family connections as integral to decisions about his future — a future they would all engage together. Any personal feelings or preferences were far secondary.

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A Collectivist mindset doesn’t merely exist to help people make decisions. In higher level Collectivist cultures, primarily the family (or possibly a secondary group) is there to support and guide throughout all of life’s challenges. These benefits are not without compromise, however. While a Collectivist family will provide support and guidance throughout life, loyalty and sometimes absolute obedience are expected of family members.