Western individualism versus the Eastern spirit of community

Saidbek Goziev
Doctor in Social Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences (Warsaw).


The guiding purpose of the present article is to discuss the concepts of individualism and collectivism in comparative perspective referring to the cultural examples. At the beginning these antagonistic concepts are to be examined separately, later in contraposition to each other. The both concepts bear the descriptive function, they explain the core of the socio-cultural development of the particular nation or even on large scale –particular civilization. So being a sort of the keywords to understand the differences between the East and West, the individualism and collectivism are not standardised cliché but the quintessence of the including the peculiarities of social way of life, practicing religions, political regimes, and cultural traditions.
In general perspective, individualism is a world view starting from the position of the interests and needs of the particular person, individual worthy to be distinguished from the multitude, and in some cases whose interests are to be dominated above the socially imposed ones. The personally-oriented demands and preferences regarding all spheres of social life are put on the top of the hierarchy of the values. In detailed perspective, for instance Steven Lukes distinguishes five pillars of individualism, simultaneously the five hallmarks of European civilization. In its turn the concept collectivism implies the priority of community’s interests above private ones. If briefly speaking, the pronoun I captures the essence of individualism, so the pronoun We speak for the essence of the collectivism. In line with comparative approach, I have added my observations of the Polish and Tajik culture. In order to widen the discussion on the concept of collectivism the referring to the term of conciliarity adopted from the Orthodox Christianity theology and in one of the aspects spirit of community — its comparison with case of spiritual unity shared by Muslims in different — scattered in present day world map — countries.
There are two main concepts of particular interest in this article: collectivism and individualism. In general terms primarily they relate to the two contrasting each other different ways of life, which underpin social life, and the corresponding institutions, cultural norms, types of mentality and value systems. They mark the various categories of thinking and world outlooks, they are geographically located apart: East and West, and reflect the inner essence in the traditions and customs. In more particular sense, in terms of social philosophy, individualism is characterized as a concept that must maintain such defaults as Individualism as autonomy of the individual, emotional independence, personal initiative, privacy, and the clear awareness of his “I”, and is coined with the notions of personal freedom, egoism, and that exalts the moral worth of individual. Every individual has precisely interests and just right for their implementation, life of individual is expressed by the assertion that each sitting is the best of his interests. In contrast to individualism the understanding of Asian collectivism is based on the replacing of the identity of the individual with the group identity. In Asian societies, there is no such value as human autonomy, which is reflected among others in this situation individual must submit to the opinion of the authority. It is expected to be in public with her ​​ideas were represented the group in some affair while he is denied the right to present own opinion. According to many authors in the West unit of the collectivist society, emotional dependence, group solidarity, and the tendency to comply with the decision of the group.
While in individualistic societies there are rivalries between people (even among members of the nearest relatives) and capitalism rules of economic behavior became a competition strive collectivist societies in relations with others to follow with the same sentiments which through relatives and all behavior in society subordinate to the principle of social harmony.
George C. Lodge and Ezra F. Vogel (who in my opinion thinking wrong that collectivism as an ideology, which was the basis for the existence of the communist state in the Soviet Union and as a specific trait collectivism culture) in their comparisons of model for societies of these two ideologies that characterize these differences here. Two basic models of ideological social organization are compared in culture: the individualistic and the collectivist.
In the first atom of an existing unit is independent of others in the whole society which is considered as the sum of its parts, and the interactions between individuals determines the existence of an institution of social life and binding its values. In collectivistic ideology, society understood as a being exists not only as the sum of its parts, having its own needs and priorities. Here, society is understood as being an self existing in relation to individuals living in it and this just is the only source of value. These two ideal types should be, in their opinion, regarded as some extremes, between which you can locate all kinds of ideologies, sometimes competing in the same country. In an individualistic ideology, as they indicate, the emphasis is on individual rights, particularly in the sphere of ownership, and ideal is the state limited authority acting as — liberals preached at that time — the night watchman. The present authors also underline, however, with individualistic systems you can find different forms of collectivistic activity.
Another issue is that very often they have actions and aspirations of anti systemic character: youth gangs and criminals, religious sects, supporters of local nationalisms, clubs, etc. Also, in systems based on the ideology of communism, there are rebellious individuals. So as we see in every society regardless of culture there are people who strive to extend own independence and liberation from the pressing society and its culture.
According to Lodge and Vogel culture and ideology are not only different and not so much the weight attached to the individual or a community, but rather a way of defining, experiencing and creating individual and team personality. On the one hand they identifies with the public relations unit, method and scale of its isolation, on the other hand — ironed forms of social life and related carry with them the ideology of individual forms of subjectivity. As Steven Sangren noted that ” many truths about the nature and the human race, what “we” Europeans or Westerners regard as eternal and universal, they are essentially just cultural constructs, categories, language and thought, having its own history of development and are the product of social processes”.
Various self-evident truths about the individual, his rights and dignity, basic needs and aspirations, as well as about the nature of human communities, taken from Western civilization, are usually only creations of our team culture, formed on the basis of the Christian heritage and Greco-Roman. While other civilizations may adopt different assumptions of the human condition and to form other types of subjectivity, both individual and collective.
Important feature of the collectivist conception of the world is the assumption that the group is being original, for which the individual is secondary, this group is self-existent, while an individual cannot exist outside the group, and it is integrally dependent on it. Group is responsible for the unit; it is the source of the criteria of good and evil. Individual is obliged to act on behalf of the group and for it dedication. Relationships with others are fundamentally different depending on whether they are members of your group, or are not part of the group. In the first case based on the principles of emotional bond, the second-on the basis of competition. The social harmony, solidarity, obligation and responsibility, a sense of shame, in which they apply to intra-group relations are the main concepts. The man recognizes himself as a confident member of the whole society -family, clan, nation, religious community, etc.- beings, which destiny is integrally linked with the fate of the whole and is subordinated to this totally.
Important feature of an individualistic conception of the world is being taken of social life, as a result of interaction between people forming their own beings. The individual itself is responsible for him, alone determines what it is good or bad, or, in another interpretation, recognizes the good and evil. Relationships with others based on the principles of exchange, cooperation or competition. The main values are autonomy, reliance, privacy, personal control, etc. The man recognizes himself as separate, autonomous being who speaks his own fate and determines his relationships with others.
This characteristic indicates that the collectivistic and individualistic principle of social life is completely opposite. This thesis has important implications when it comes to interpretations of processes of social change. Hofstede (1980) defined individualism as a focus on rights above duties, a concern for oneself and immediate family, an emphasis on personal autonomy and self-fulfillment, and the basing of one’s identity on one’s personal accomplishments.

For instance, Polish Author Reykowski in his work Indywidualizm jako kategorie opisu zmian społecznych i mentalności (Collectivism and individualism as the categories of social change and the mentality) defines collectivism as the category which applies to societies where people from birth to death are integrated into strong, cohesive groups throughout his life caring for them in exchange for unconditional loyalty. He came to the conclusion that individualism is dominated in Europe (western part), North America, Australia, and collectivism in Asia, Africa and South America. According to him for most people of the world collectivism is the natural form of life and interpersonal relationships.

Individualism occurs as a password in the social sciences, concepts, and encyclopedias. However, there is the extensive scientific literature research analyzing the concept and corresponding attitudes. It is admitted that only great work written on concept of individualism by the sociologist is Steven Lukes’ Individualism,( the book first published in 1973). It is worth to note that according to Lukes the notion of individualism arose in France and a conservative thinker Joseph de Maistre has been the first to introduce it. In one of his works published 1820 French word ‘Individualism’ was an important element of his critique of French Revolution. In de Maistre’s believing individualism meant anarchy in politics, Protestantism in religion, morality selfishness. Unlike France, the word took on positive meaning in other European cultures. Over time, attitudes have become individualistic in Western culture so universally, as it was confirmed by many researchers that individualism is the differentia specifica of this culture in relations to other cultures in the world.
Lukes inquires the variety of connotations the term individualism brings in relation to different spheres. In the context of present paper in my view it is relevant to get acquainted with the social aspect of the individualism. It was firstly used in its French form ‘individualisme’ by the conservative thinkers in order to underline the destructive power of the risen of individualistic moods in society. The French Revolution proved how uncivil and undermining the ideas of individualists were.
For Lukes the concept of individualism is complicated and multisided. The understanding of which requires the reference to the domain of religion, history, morality, philosophy and sociology. Lukes distinguishes five basic ideas as part of the component of individualism: the dignity of man, autonomy, privacy, self-development and abstract individual.
The first element of individualism is an idea of human dignity as a supreme moral principle. This idea is present in Western culture thanks to Christian religion. Christianity with tradition of Hellenic culture, took the view that the human species surpass other species of nature. The dignity as characteristic of man is proclaimed by God. The Old and New Testaments argue that God created man as the highest and the most perfect being. Its place in the hierarchy of beings owes that man has no material soul given to him by God, which puts him above the animals. For this reason man is supreme value in Judaism and Christianity. In Middle Ages the idea of ​​Christianity is not a distinct presence. Vision of the special dignity of man is accompanied by another vision: the species defiled by original sin and the consequences of sin cause the social inequality. It was a merit of Renaissance that the idea of dignity of man was reaffirmed with new force and significance. This idea was leitmotif of the humanist: for instance, Petrarch pictured man’s soul as something incomparable with anything else in the world and Gianozzo Manetti and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola valued man as a greatest with various possibilities and potentialities for on perfection. In modernity this idea of individualism has met objections and even total rejections. Utiritarians and holistic thinkers suggest individual has a little or nor value comparing with the whole society. It was one vision and quite opposite to it there is passion by Jan Jacque Rousseau for whom man is the real dignity that cannot be served as an instruments for others in society. The idea of the dignity of man was primarily enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948.
As it was declared in the article 1 of the UNDHR:
‘’All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood’’
Comparing with each other, the American Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights do not specify whether these two texts, concepts of human dignity are understood as species or individual. In his view, the contemporary idea of the dignity of the man comes from the Immanuel Kant who has been the first in European philosophy declares that man must be understood as a human individual should always be treated as an end never as a means only. This view of Kant has entered into a second formulation of the categorical imperative. Also the great number of modern thinkers have developed and have defended this Kantian views in different ways. For instance, the philosopher Mc. Taggart declared in his essay entitled Individualism of value that thesis that nothing has value because value is always an end but not a means that individual is always an end but society is always a means. Lukes concludes that ‘’the idea of dignity of the individual has the logical status of a moral (or religious) axiom, which is basic, ultimate, and overriding, offering a general justifying principle in moral argument’’.
In my view, the idea of dignity of man (understood as the idea of ​​the dignity of the person) is the basis for the idea of ​​democracy and democratic state institutions, for the idea of law and guarantees the right of access to reliable information. Since the presence of this idea in the ​​community is also dependent on the individual right to autonomy, precisely in social life. The second basic — idea is autonomy according to which man can independently establish goals for his life and also independently select, leading to their completion, measures. Acceptance of this idea expresses that the Western society generally accepts the assertion that every seat is the best in their business.
The author of this idea of ​​autonomy as Lukes believes is Saint Thomas Aquinas, a Medieval philosopher. In this view Thomas Aquinas found the belief that every person has individual conscience and should begin with the voice of conscience considering his deeds. These ideas disseminating the West caused Protestantism to appear. Luther believes that man does not need in religion Church’s as a mediator. Everyone can establish direct contact with God, meditating on the content of the Holy Bible. He was also against the confession because in his opinion, everyone is able to assess properly his own actions in the light of knowledge he has from God and if he truly regrets sins committed by him he must count on God’s forgiveness without the need for absolution from the confessor. In this way Protestantism strengthened the belief that every individual is unique, and is responsible for his actions. The idea of ​​autonomy is the basis for modern ideas of rights and freedoms of the individual in society and politics. According to Lukes for the development of these ideas contributed most: Spinoza and Kant. Spinoza in ethics in understands freedom of one hand as a function of knowledge, freedom is defined as the understanding of the necessity there. On the other hand, Spinoza in Ethics also understands freedom in literal sense: when man is not restraint to move anywhere and he plans his direction in his own way. In this regard the external circumstances: lack of opportunity to move, punishment in the form of prison and as the highest form — servitude are the causes of the absence of the freedom. In epistemological sense, the freedom implies the absence of the dependence of our mind by the affects. Likewise, the physical circumstances mentioned above the affects prevent man from the thinking in the free way and being aware of the causes of the things. “This is that human freedom, which all boast that they possess, and which consists solely in the fact, that men are conscious of their own desire, but are ignorant of the causes whereby that desire has been determined”. However, purely the release of affects allows man to get on the road to truth. Man is free in Spinoza’s belief not merely that he is not stopped in planning but his direction — and is more — that man is free when he is possessor of the truth, it reaches from the highest knowledge-the knowledge of God.
In my interpretation the best expression on idea of autonomy belongs to Sir Isaiah Berlin. In his work Two Concepts of Liberty, Berlin manifests the high rhetoric of the autonomous individual:
“I wish my life and decisions to depend on myself, not on external forces of whatever kind. I wish to be the instrument of my own, not other men’s, acts of will. I wish to be a subject not an object; to be moved by reasons, by conscious purposes, which are my own, not by causes which affect me, as it were, from outside” .
The idea of autonomy becomes a central value for the liberalism. The nineteen-century philosopher John Stuart Mill was aware of the threats the industrial society cause to the autonomous individual. Later authors have expressed a growing feeling of concern because of alienation and manipulation from the side of the bureaucratic state institutions and corporations which deprive individual autonomy, depriving less meaningful transforming cog in the mechanism of society. This view was enriched and sustained by the twentieth century thinkers Erich Fromm and David Riesman. When for the former man in industrial and market society was “dehumanized”, adjusting their personality to the possibilities worrying about the possibility to be employed successfully in the market, for the later — who strengthens the Fromm’s concern — man’s freedom of choice was reduced to the dilemma whether to conform or not. Lukes several times in his book tries to learn the idea of ​​autonomy is central for the morality “of modern Western civilization, and — as highlights —  it is absent or under stressed in others (such as many tribal moralities or that of orthodox communism in Eastern Europe today )” .
It is a cornerstone element for the concept of individualism that holds the religious and socio-political aspects. However, in the contrast with the first unit-idea- the dignity of man — it is less general and overriding.
The third basic-idea is an idea of privacy. This idea implies the existence of the areas of personal life, which man has the duty and right to treat as exclusively their own and to which other people may have access only with man’s consent. Lukes after Hannah Arendt reminds that the idea of the value of the private life was completely alien for the ancient Greece. The individual in ancient Greece was only a fully man if he participated in the life of the Polis. As Lukes underlines a private man in Greece was called an idiot. Another issue with the possibility of participation in the life of Polis was only available to free people, while the life of the slaves, the foreigners, the women was predominantly centered within the affairs of the private life, i.e. the household. Moreover, the realm of political and public life was a realization of man’s freedom and the symbol of the class position and the privileges appropriate to it.
In later antiquity the problem of individual private life concerned the soul was described as the search for God. This aspect of idea of privacy constituted the subject of The Confessions by Saint Augustine. Augustine knew certainly works by Epicurus on happiness as the best aim of man’s life, i.e. private life, certainly also benefited from the design considerations of Mark Aurelius’ works, from the dilemmas haunted by Cesar-philosopher, who with difficulty reconciles his personal stoic-oriented views with the duties one must perform in public life. In turn, Augustine in frank and open manner describes the survival of the soul searching for God. In this respect, Augustine’ work is the first in Christianity tradition the description of life in the inner manner when man who is looking for true faith. According to Lukes, the idea of privacy present in Western culture is relatively not so old. As it was pointed out by the same author spreading widely this idea- belief that there is the specific sphere free from public interference- was tightly connected with the failures of liberalism. In liberalism ” the boundaries of this private sphere lie, according to what principles they are to be drawn, whence interference derives and how it is to be checked” . This is liberalism that mostly contributed to the spread of the beliefs that private life is something quite natural and right for it to be respected in society.
The forth basic idea termed by Lukes is the idea of self-development. This idea was created in Romanticism. The idea of ​​self-realization implies that every human has the only unit of its proper strength, ability and obligation to develop them. Precisely this view is contained in the concept of Bildung, used by the early German Romantics. The first thought that every individual is unique uttered Rousseau in Les Confessions, where he wrote “I am made unlike anyone I have ever met; I will even venture to say that I am like no one in the whole world. I may be no better but at least I am different”.
The idea of ​​Bildung is popularized in the works of Friedrich Schleiermacher. He declared that each entity represents all humanity in each other, if one develops his abilities and others do the same, so one contributes to the development of human species. When Wilhelm von Humboldt preached the similar ideas. In his opinion, the duty of every man is to allay their strength and ability in the most harmonious way. This is what he considered to be the highest ideal of a man. Karl Marx put the idea of self-development in political context. He claimed that in communism man will be free from the alienation and man will be endowed with the opportunity to develop his individual nature. Communism is a special kind of society where “Free individuality, based on the universal development of individuals and on their joint mastery over their communal, social productive powers and wealth”. So also in the views of Karl Marx the idea of self-development emphasizes the uniqueness of every individual. As John Stuart Mill highlights self- development is a strategy for perfection of individual’s nature, it is the duty of every man as an end- in-itself.
The fifth element of individualism Lukes labels an Abstract individual. This idea is characteristic feature of the Western thinking about man and society. Lukes traces out the tradition since Hobbes and later Kant, considering man abstractly as if being born with given
interest, needs, aims, etc. With such an approach is to treat society as a construct created by interaction of individuals. Antithesis to this tradition formed the views of Marx, who undermined faith in the natural origin of individual, by presenting it as a product of social and underlining the role of state in the process of its formation.
For Marx as Lukes writes the eighteen-century perception of man’s nature as independent from the society, obtaining natural rights is no longer valid and is false. Marx follows the development of human nature in history. In his opinion, it is formed in the process of social development and varies in different stages of the process: the first union of men is family, later clan, or enlarged family, appears, and as the highest form — a community, or an amalgamation of the clans. In all of these stages, man is co-operating with others this is because he depends on the goods produced by others. Moreover, for Marx man is not merely a social animal (in Aristotle’s terms a zoon politikon), man becomes an individual exclusively in and due to society. As Lukes stresses such grand nineteen-century thinkers as Hegel, Marx, Saint-Simon, Auguste Comte and the positivists tended to overcome the abstract vision of individual, and as result — what is explicitly visible in sociological thoughts — the concept of individual was linked with the social background. “The individual apart from the community is an abstraction”.
According to Stanislaw Zapasnik modern idea of “I” as a unique and autonomous consciousness center, subject of his own thoughts, feelings, and acts of will, is genetically derived from Christian ideas about the soul as the individual being. However, he argues that individualism is constituted by more ideas than those mentioned by Lukes. The quoted author differs from Lukes in the origin formed the idea of human dignity. It is true that Christianity shifted to European culture belief of the ancient Greeks in the special dignity of man in nature. The value of dignity entitled to man as a specie in its entirety and not the human body. This had no other value than social status and the corporation to which belonged this value and corresponding the rights. Only at the end of the eighteenth century in the development of ideas that make up notion of individualism in Western cultures, there was a change of the concept of human dignity. It began to be interpreted as an inalienable value assigned to each human individual on the grounds that it is representative of the human species. Well, there is no doubt that without the idea of dignity as source of the inalienable rights of the human being, would not exist democracy, there would be no human rights, social and political institutions created in order to ensure the presence of this value in the life of society. In the United States, at the end 70s XX century, the ideas constituted for individualism associated with the autonomy of individuals contributed to the transformation not only in the sphere of freedom in politics and economic, but also in the sphere of ethos. They led to the crisis Protestant ethic work, changing family models , the crisis of authority, etc.
In Europe, individualism is different depending on historical terms. It is possible to meet even now in Europe people for whom the idea of ​​individualism is still an alien idea. The ideas constitutive for individualism developed differently in different countries depending on historical conditions. But everywhere the idea of human dignity, individual autonomy are reflected in legislation, judicial procedures, and social institutions, which increasingly emphasize the primacy of individual interests over the interest group, the right to choose the entirely own way of life, lifestyle, etc. It is worth however to mention that the voices of Western intellectuals warn against the dangers of deep changes in society caused by the development of individualism. Understanding the anxiety of the powers enjoyed by the people of the West allows them putting own interests above the public interest.
Understanding the anxiety of the powers enjoyed by the people of the West allows them putting own interests above the public interest ideas of autonomy, dignity, privacy, individual self-fulfillment, all this is alien for Tajiks and other Asians. The representatives of Eastern culture otherwise rather would incline to such concept as dignity. The expectations of the respect from another is one of the most important aspects of Eastern man, but he demands respect in a society other than the European system of values. Dignity is understood as due to the respect, the age, and position held in society or in contact with the representatives of other ethnic groups with the conviction of the superiority precisely the group for whom who demonstrated affiliation to wear a head cover (tubeteika). However, human rights in Asia are interpreted as the right of groups rather than individuals.
Meanwhile, observing the upbringing of children in Western societies, in my view, it can easily be seen that the accent is placed on the rights of children in the family rather on their responsibilities towards the family. This also applies to the behavior of adults who are demanding rights from the state but rarely remember that they have obligations towards the state.
At this point I should begin to pay attention that Tajiks as well as other Asians treat children with great care and understanding. They do not scream and do not beat children. Children adapt to the behaviors of people received the attitude of other members of their family. They live in the neighborhood community where there is a control of their behavior. When children behave in not appropriate way other members of the community immediately notify the parents. This is because in Tajik culture is believed that parents are responsible for the behavior of the children.
Tajik’s behavior in which they always try to preserve respect for another person begins in the family. Everybody has their place in the family. Parents have the highest status on this condition children must respect them. Respect for older people is one of the basic characteristic of Tajik culture. There is no rivalry between children and parents as well as between all members of the family. Particularly, the responsibility of all family members especially their mother, sisters is emphasized in the education of children. At the age of primary school children help the family, taking part in the performance of household duties, including in cases of physical hard work. Interestingly, but the idea of vision of individual as a more or less product of society, in other terms socialization, i.e. connections and communications with others is prone to the basic elements of collectivism.
Therefore it is pertinent to begin the discussion of the concept of collectivism. It seems to be an alternative — or to say more a counter-concept — to individualism in origin. The described above attitudes of Tajiks towards family members are the consequence of the presence in the culture of the Tajik such categories of thought that prevent and makes difficult the penetration of the idea of individualism in society.
In the case study of Tajik culture collectivism symbolizes the approach to view individual as unseparated part of society, its existence as being in the ontological sense cannot be separated from society. It is also well as being a moral individual is subordinate to the public. His moral duties, therefore, depend entirely on location in which he lives: town, village, community or a particular quarter, or street. These obligations are regarded as the duties inherited from generations, the duty of disobedience is severely condemned, putting man out of the community, and such situations in the past with regard to conditions of life in society were equal to the death. Man has no right to manifest autonomy as I mentioned above there is no idea of ​​autonomy in culture. The Tajik thinks as being totally immersed in the place where he is living, and consequently conducts in the same way. As a Greek in Ancient Greece mentally and locally was enrooted in polis, in this respect, the bearer of collectivistic type of mentality does not separate his own interests of others where he is living among, in a way he has sacrificed his interests and ambitions. Such kind is not alone in his life. In daily life exactly the others, his fellows typically help him to realize his wishes and interests.
In Tajik society there is no place for private existence that Lukes defines as “an area within which the individual is or should left alone by others and able to do and think whatever he chooses — to pursue his own good in his own way, as Mill put it ” , while regardless the ideal of culture, individual interacts with others in the spirit of mutual help, spirit of solidarity and brotherhood. These ideals are also promoted by the religion of Islam. The first Muslim community- ummah — was based on spirit of unity and mutual help. In the early centuries of Islam in society, the principle of unifying people was a belonging to one religion not to one kin or clan. Neighbor who shared the similar belief was treated as brother. Today these religious ideals are still alive, idea of bond with other people, built on the feelings that will include members of the immediate family. Together with calling a friend or a neighbor a brother the family relations are transmitted to the relations with friends or neighbors.
I would like to enlarge the discussion on collectivism by turning to the discussion of the concept of conciliarity. Henceforth, I incline to use this concept, instead of the synonymic row as togetherness, camaraderie, communal spirit in order to emphasize the religious idea uniting people as whole in one spiritual impulse corresponding to the common prayer in the church. A.S. Khomiakov, 19th century Russian Orthodox theologian, is considered by Horuhzy as the first to accentuate the significance of the concept in the context of Orthodox theology, to underline its multi-sidedness and contextual capacity to embrace the cornerstone of Russian nation, yet manifested by the Slavyanofils (taking its beginning from Pushkin’s letter to Chaadaev). More concretely, Khomiakov used the adjective of the concept conciliarity, and bestowed it with the explanatory purpose that this word is enough to embrace the essence of faith. As one of the definitions of conciliarity explicitly figures out such essential component as freedom: conciliarity is an identity of unity and freedom, manifested in the law of spiritual love. It turns that conciliarity is a theological principle organizing and inspiring, saturating and invigorating with spiritual love.
So, recalling in mind above mentioned definition of collectivism where for the individual the group identity, spirit of community, feeling of the helping hand of countryman, hence, adding the religious aspect is closer to the concept of conciliarity. The moment of unity in a symbolic sense or in act of common action is an essential concept for monotheistic religion, for religion units people under its auspices and guides towards good-willed actions. For instance, the spirit of unity is a cornerstone of Islam, the Muslims are encouraged to pray congregational prayer every Friday in mosque, helping brother in faith in the situation of need.
In general terms, the image of Eastern culture is coined with the concept of collectivism. The individual has no identity other than group identities, basically identifying himself as a member of the family or community. Because of these conditions individual is dependent on families, neighborhoods and associations. Every individual trusts in his group decisions and the level of trust is very high within communities. It is usually assumed that “Asians tend to be more aware of the connections they have as members of their social groups, and therefore, they tend to be more conscious of the consequences of their actions on their members of their groups” .
Lack of such ideas as autonomy of the individual makes society very stable. Communities preserve tradition of the society, ethical and religious values. The most precious values are such values​​ as honesty, justice and trust. They are permanent components of the ethos of the society because the consistency of the group depends on them. People in collectivist communities, in contrary to individualism, work and think not about themselves but about other members of community.
According to Triandis, we can differentiate all cultures by the power of social strength, which gather individuals into social entities. Individualism puts the individual above the group, while collectivism emphasizes the value of “we” identity over “I” identity. Collectivistic individual thinks of themselves as a piece of community (family, community of neighbors, friends, traditional social institutions and etc.). Also his activities renounce the self-interest in favor of totally ordering behavior of his own people, duties and obligations of the community. Therefore, due to the fact that they have identity “we “the members may cooperate in achieving the common good of the community and complete the community duty’’.
For instance, Trice and Beyer describe collectivism as a feature of culture “belonging to a culture involves believing what others believe and doing as they do — at least part of time”. The people in collectives or in communities learn everything from their family, neighbors, friends and their society where they are living in. They are trying to be like them because they are one of them. They have followed their traditions, ethics, customs and religions. The mentioned above authors give as example from Asian immigrants in the United States. They have accepted American style of organizational culture, however, in their relations in their environment they preferred to retain the values of their own national culture.
Triandis accentuates that the ties connecting people in collectivist cultures are more sustainable rather than in individualistic cultures. The mainly vital connections in collectivist cultures are vertical (relation between parents — children), while in individualistic the most important are horizontal (spouse- spouse, friend-friend). In collectivist cultures there are more control of parents in relation to children and interdependence between them regulated by norms of community. Parents have to bring up and educate their children according to the society’s rule and they have to learn them traditions and moral obligations of the community. Otherwise they will not be respected among community members.
As I wrote above, in individualistic cultures in the process of education the pressure puts on responsibilities of parents and not the reverse. Parents try to introduce to the child the concept of freedom of individual in a way not underlining the limits of the concept of freedom that later to make him infantile in adulthood. This is one of the reasons why in many cases, people from mixed marriages of these two cultures face a number of difficulties. Especially, if man from collectivist culture marries woman from an individualistic. For a man with collectivist relationship of parents with son will be stronger than spouse-spouse bond however in case of individualistic it will be on the contrary. Definitedly, first of all it depends on personality of the spouses but in most cases such mixed couples have sufficient problems. We can observe the increasing number of divorces among them.
In collectivist cultures, we cannot meet as much as in individualistic cultures the development of the idea of privacy. Typically, the importance is assigned on people more than on mission and the overturn happens in individualistic cultures. In collectivist cultures it is a custom that once having met someone in a secluded place to stop and talk with him. In Muslim tradition, for example asking a stranger about unknown place to go, it is accepted to greet him and ask about his health and family. In individualistic cultures by the way of such contacts is more distance and independence. In individualistic cultures people frequently have greater skills than persons in collectivistic cultures, joining and exiting from new social groups. They can make friends easy, but relationships of friends are rarely intimate in true sense. They are friends until they are doing together their business and often easily they can forget each other after that. In collectivistic cultures people have fewer skills in finding new friends, but as an unwritten law it is that friend for them is real friend for life long relationship. For instance, in Muslim countries it is expected to call friends as brothers. In collectivistic cultures people perceive friends as a part of their family.
Eastern cultures usually stress the group harmony. The standard of collective life does not allow to the emergence of conflicts between members of the group. One person of community tries avoiding conflict with other members at all. Some forms of competition between people are extremely undesirable in collective societies. However, if the conflicts occur, they are solved by the head of the family or the head of the community who not independently but with old people of their community solves and decides everything about issues of community members. In collectivistic Central Asian type of community the sufficient opinion comes from Aksakal, this is because if person is old, he has more respect and authority in the society. Above it the appearance of conflicts undermines such important for the community values ​​as trust, family honor, protection of which is a highest importance.
It is necessary to note that in traditional communities such values as respect and trust for parents, family and for the community prevent procreation in individual belief that he has any interests distinct from the interest of group. Person is not thinking about himself and his profit. The motive for personal actions hence rotates around a good for family and a good for community. For example, the earnings of Tajik migrant workers in Russia are not shared equally among individuals, but dependent on the number of children in the family. Individual tries to do everything for his family and for his community. Every profit is common in such society. In individualistic cultures the situation is different. Person is independent and he represents always and everywhere exclusively himself. Respect for the autonomy does not allow condemning him if he works with selfish motivation — until harms in this way to others — he is still always guided by self-interest. Individual thinks about his career and future perspectives independently from group. As Nemeth notes in individualistic cultures, people try to be sovereign from the community and even the conditions in which there is reduced pressure from the ambient individuals they keep and maintain their vision in the face of opposition.
To sum up, as I tried to prove individualism and collectivism are mutually exclusive terms. Individualism is Western idea and, in my opinion, is a cultural phenomenon not existing outside Western world. Collectivism, in my interpretation, embraces so to say Eastern style of life. Through all his history Eastern people lived in communities. Community life is an essential part of their tradition and religion. It is important to note that in Tajikistan individualism is a new phenomenon and it is not accepted by Tajik society. From the beginning of history the Tajiks lived together in communities. Traditional institutions played and are still playing an important role in Tajik society. The Tajiks cannot imagine life without living together. It is their way of life.
According to Tajik tradition to be a human or to have status “humanity” (Odamiyat) person has to serve for his society. He has to prove that he is one of members of his community. He must follow religious rituals, common tradition and morality. The Tajiks have such saying from Tajik Persian classical literature:
Odami Odam nabinad, az kujo odam shawad ?
Sham’ agar otash nabinad, az kujo rawshan shawad?
(If man does not see a man, how he become a real man?)
(If candle does not see fire, how does it gives light?)
These lines show clearly and simple the significance of collectivistic life for individual. To be a man in Tajik society person must learn everything from another person of his community. He learns the moral duties and the important things for humanity in relation with them. The person has to respect all community laws. From childhood they teach them to intercourse with other members of the community and this and how much they depend on their life from the help of others. Thus, they were accustomed in such community and they
prefer such way of life. The Tajiks have big families and members of these families all living together. However, because of the relation linking them with neighbors, relatives and all other members of the community they are all like one family in community. Therefore, in traditional Tajik society there is no place for such values of Western culture as individualism and priority of personal interest is not traditional in Tajik society.
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