Collectivism is a value that is characterized by emphasis on cohesiveness among individuals and prioritization of the group over the self. Individuals or groups that subscribe to a collectivist worldview tend to find common values and goals as particularly salient and demonstrate greater orientation toward in-group than toward out-group. The term "in-group" is thought to be more diffusely defined for collectivist individuals to include societal units ranging from the nuclear family to a religious or racial/ethnic group.
The German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies described an early model of collectivism and individualism using the terms Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesellschaft (society). Gemeinschaft relationships, in which communalism is prioritized, were thought to be characteristic of small, rural village communities. An anthropologist, Redfield (1941) echoed this notion in work contrasting folk society with urban society.
Max Weber (1930) contrasted collectivism and individualism through the lens of religion, believing that Protestants were more individualistic and self-reliant compared to Catholics, who endorsed hierarchical, interdependent relationships among people. Geert Hofstede (1980) was highly influential in ushering in an era of cross-cultural research making comparisons along the dimension of collectivism versus individualism. Hofstede conceptualized collectivism and individualism as part of a single continuum, with each cultural construct representing an opposite pole. The author characterized individuals that endorsed a high degree of collectivism as being embedded in their social contexts and prioritizing communal goals over individual goals.
Hofstede insights describes collectivism as: "Collectivism, represents a preference for a tightly-knit framework in society in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular ingroup to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty."
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Collectivism was an important part of Marxist–Leninist ideology in the Soviet Union, where it played a key part in forming the New Soviet man, willingly sacrificing his or her life for the good of the collective. Terms such as "collective" and "the masses" were frequently used in the official language and praised in agitprop literature, for example by Vladimir Mayakovsky (Who needs a "1") and Bertolt Brecht (The Decision, Man Equals Man).
Anarcho-collectivism deals with collectivism in a decentralized anarchistic system, in which people are paid off their surplus labor. Collectivist anarchism is contrasted with anarcho-communism, where wages would be abolished and where individuals would take freely from a storehouse of goods "to each according to his need". It is most commonly associated with Mikhail Bakunin, the anti-authoritarian sections of the International Workingmen's Association and the early Spanish anarchist movement.
Corporatism is sometimes seen as an ideology which relies on collectivist co-operation as one of its central components. The term is derived from the Latin corpus, or "human body", which in this case means that society should function like unto a body, through the means of loyalty to an individual's in-group or corpus. Collective bargaining is one example of corporatist economic principles. Often, state-sanctioned bargaining is considered collectivist.
The construct of collectivism is represented in empirical literature under several different names. Most commonly, the term interdependent self-construal is used. Other phrases used to describe the concept of collectivism-individualism include allocentrism-idiocentrism, collective-private self, as well as subtypes of collectivism-individualism (meaning, vertical and horizontal subtypes). Inconsistent terminology is thought to account for some of the difficulty in effectively synthesizing the empirical literature on collectivism.