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How Individualism and Collectivism Mediate Societal Balance of Power

A world where groups and individuals are constantly grappling for power and influence epitomizes the natural human struggle between individualism and collectivism. For all of humanity’s time on Earth, there has been a consistent push and pull on society stemming from conflicting perspectives and strategies between the intellectual class, often acting on a more individual basis, and the mass population, often acting collectively without too much of a real intellectual basis. The struggle essentially boils down to another generational debate of quality vs. quantity. On the one hand, quantity offers a great directional push as it amasses the efforts of so many people acting on the same initiative, but rarely on one that is intellectually refined. On the other hand, quality offers intellectually refined movements but they take place in a more controlled, steady, and often slower standard.

In essence, the ideal compromise of these two combatting societal forces is a situation where the intellectual individual is able to initiate a qualitative movement, but is then able to manipulate the general social perspectives of the mass population to build an emotional and passionate attachment to the intellectually-originated initiative.

With this ideal scenario in mind, it can be understood how through history, dominance has shifted back and forth between the individual and mass population in each of the aspects of the established societal trifecta of the political, economic, and social spheres.

The social atmosphere, being the simplest and most rudimentary of the three, has been well established, refined, altered, and manipulated time and time again in the period of modern humanity. There is no doubt that with the original humans, instinctual development lagged well behind our natural complexities in the 21st century, and for this reason, the most primitive humans relied heavily on collectivism and a combined effort for social progress and growth. This direction of social evolution can be evidenced by the clear progression of collective primitive societies like those of early humans into increasingly individualist societies in more recent times like those of the medieval and early modern empires which were driven largely by personal interests.

The most up-to-date product of this increasingly individualistic social structure can be seen in today’s world of social division. As some humans have become more complex thinkers, the others lag behind in cognitive capabilities – threatening and undermining certain established societal foundations. The reality of such an individually directed world is that in societies founded on democracy and compromise, it is becoming increasingly strenuous to come to common ground on simple and fundamental platforms.

When we look at some of the factors influencing the evolution of social order, economic circumstances are the central driver to differing perspectives and motives. Historically, global economic systems and establishments have followed a general path from initially being collectively organized and mutually beneficial, to ones where individual efforts are more fruitfully rewarded whereas lesser individual efforts warrant no commendation or financial reward.

Looking through history, the developments of communism and capitalism can be used as effective measures to observe the balance between individualism and collectivism in economic terms. With the initial establishment of the collective lifestyle in communities, the group entity was always favoured and the idea was for everyone in the community to work for the sustainability of that community. Now, as communities have grown into established cities and countries, the principle of communal effort for communal gain has also grown into a national-scale ideology which can now be understood as communism.

Over the course of history, the general economic evolution has shown that societies progress from monarchical empires to optimistic communal strategies, often through a period of communism, and once the realization takes place that communism is not a feasible long-term option, capitalism and free market nature revitalizes the economic sphere.

With exceptions of newer nations like the United States and Canada, most nations have clearly followed this prevalent trend of economic progression. Taking Russia as an example, the historically dominant global force has a well established history as an expansive global power. As is well documented, Russia has taken a transitional path where its original communities grew into a monarchical society, which by way of a revolution triggered the creation of the Soviet Union, and then in the years up to now, following its dissolution, Russian society continues to democratize economically, socially, and politically. Despite misunderstandings with the developed western world and conventional democracies, Russia’s foundational structure is slowly but surely swaying away from authoritarianism to a more balanced form.

Similarly, these steps of decentralization can be seen all throughout the entire African continent, as those nations develop and begin to spring out of tribal and collective ways of life and into more democratic and free societies.

There has never been a notable case where an autonomous and democratic nation has descended from a desired capitalist system into a communist one – and this is simply because that is not the way that human tendencies develop over the generations. With the aforementioned examples, there is little doubt that natural economic evolution leads societies away from collective strategies and into increasingly individualistic ones.

Combining these economic and social theories of progression, it can be seen that the global political systems are in constant flux for a centrist-style government, and in turn, they are in constant flux between collectivist and individualist strategies. The psychology behind politics is that the people want freedom, and they want to be able to achieve great successes on their own merit and efforts – but in the case that they aren’t able to achieve this on their own, individuals want the government for support.

As much as some people like to make politics all about social issues, it really isn’t. The state of politics is always determined by economic pressures like government support systems, welfare supports, the degree of taxation, and corporate regulations. People vote en masse for their own individual incentives which rarely, if ever, prioritize the betterment of over in place of their own progress. Throughout the solidified democracies of the world, modern times have shown consistency in electoral patterns where government is led by both conservatives and liberals in a back-and-forth manner.

The political facet of North American democracy is what holds together the volatile societal foundation; it gives the people a sense of purpose with which they can have inner faith that they are indeed determining their own destiny – to whatever minute degree they really are. The constant maneuvering around the centre of the political spectrum is what fuels societies on a global scale with hope and consistent belief that there is always a better future than the present, and this is the true motivation that stimulates progress and growth in all industries and individuals.

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