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Collectivism is an outlook stressing the priority of group goals over individual goals and the importance of cohesion within social groups. Collectivism is a basic cultural element that exists as the opposite of individualism, which is any philosophic, political, religious, economic, or social outlook which emphasizes the interdependence of every human being. Collectivists usually focus on community, society, or nation. It is used and has been used as an element in many different and diverse types of government and political, economic and educational philosophies throughout history, ranging from communalism, democracy, monarchy, and socialism to totalitarian nationalism and exists in some organized religions. Collectivism is sometimes confused with socialism, but while socialism, as a political and economic theory, draws more from collectivism than it does from individualism, it is directly concerned with perceived economic justice or injustice such as the elimination of private property. Collectivism regards group action as more important than individual action somewhat independently of cultural context, and does not propose a system of government and civil life, as socialism does and has been used in such ideologically opposite systems as monarchy. Most societies contain elements of both collectivism and individualism.


Alphabetized by author
  • Until now, neither the distinction between “worthy, since durable” and “vain, since transient,” nor the unbridgeable abyss separating the two, has disappeared for a moment from reflections on human happiness. Nonentity, the demeaning and humiliating insignificance of the individual bodily presence in the world by comparison with the unperturbed eternity of the world itself, has haunted philosophers (and non-philosophers, during their brief spells of falling into and staying in a philosophical mood) for more than two millennia. In the Middle Ages it was raised to the rank of the highest purpose and supreme concern of mortals, and deployed to promote spiritual values over the pleasures of the flesh—as well as to explain (and, hopefully argue away) the pain and misery of the brief earthly existence as a necessary and therefore welcome prelude to the endless bliss of the afterlife. It returned with the advent of the modern era in a new garb: that of the futility of individual interests and concerns, shown to be abominably short-lived, fleeting and vagrant when juxtaposed with the interests of “the social whole”—the nation, the state, the cause.
  • A powerful case for that refurbished, secularized response to individual mortality was constructed and extensively argued by Émile Durkheim, one of the founders of modern sociology. He strove to insert and settle “society” in the place vacated by God and by Nature viewed as God’s creation or embodiment—and thereby to claim for the nascent nation-state that right to articulate, pronounce and enforce moral commandments and command the supreme loyalties of its subjects; the right previously reserved for the Lord of the Universe and His anointed earthly lieutenants.
  • It cannot be said too often — at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough — that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamt of.
  • The historical experience of socialist countries has sadly demonstrated that collectivism does not do away with alienation but rather increases it, adding to it a lack of basic necessities and economic inefficiency.
  • The collectivization of labor during recent centuries has now been duplicated by the collectivization of thought. Industrialization collectivized labor by forcing workers to gather in large units and to specialize and simplify the functions of each worker. Similarly, the rise of the intellectual factory, the modern university, which has been indentured to the service of industry and even more so to that of technology, forces a concentration and a specialization of thought. The search for human truth has become the search for productively useful knowledge. ... Thinker is servant to thought, thought is servant to product, product is servant to consumer, and the consumer is enslaved by beliefs and thoughts that are either traditional or are produced mechanically by the demands of an abstract system purged of all human will.
    • R. E. Puhek, “The Collectivization of Thought”
  • Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike: as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called "diversity" actually perpetuate racism. Their obsession with racial group identity is inherently racist.
  • Totalitarianism is collectivism. Collectivism means the subjugation of the individual to a group — whether to a race, class or state does not matter. Collectivism holds that man must be chained to collective action and collective thought for the sake of what is called "the common good." Throughout history, no tyrant ever rose to power except on the claim of representing "the common good." Napoleon "served the common good" of France. Hitler is "serving the common good" of Germany. Horrors which no man would dare consider for his own selfish sake are perpetrated with a clear conscience by "altruists" who justify themselves by — the common good.
    • Ayn Rand, in "The Only Path to Tommorow" in Readers Digest (January 1944), pp. 88-90
  • Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man's genetic lineage — the notion that a man's intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors. Racism claims that the content of a man's mind (not his cognitive apparatus, but its content) is inherited; that a man's convictions, values and character are determined before he is born, by physical forces beyond his control. This is the caveman's version of the doctrine of innate ideas—or of inherited knowledge—which has been thoroughly refuted by philosophy and science. Racism is a doctrine of, by and for brutes. It is a barnyard or stock-farm version of collectivism, appropriate to a mentality that differentiates between various breeds of animals, but not between animals and men.
    • Ayn Rand, in "Racism" in The Obectivist (1962), also in The Ayn Rand Lexicon : Objectivism from A to Z (1988)
  • The hard evidence of totalitarian rule has caused in mankind an uprising of the intellect and will. Whether it is the growth of the new schools of economics in America or England or the appearance of the so-called new philosophers in France, there is one unifying thread running through the intellectual work of these groups — rejection of the arbitrary power of the state, the refusal to subordinate the rights of the individual to the superstate, the realization that collectivism stifles all the best human impulses.
  • Individualism is the self-affirmation of the individual self as individual self without regard to its participation in its world. As such it is the opposite of collectivism, the self affirmation of the self as part of a larger whole without regard to its character as an individual self.

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