6.2.3 Collectivism

Collectivists believe that individuals should surrender some liberty in order to support the well-being of the community.  They believe that everybody should be provided with basic socio-economic rights (4.2.4.3) and adequate public services.

Collectivism is diametrically opposed to individualism (6.2.2), which prioritises freedom of the individual.  It is compatible with two overlapping political philosophies:

  • Communitarianism’, as defined in Amitai Etzioni’s article, “emphasizes the importance of society in articulating the good”. It argues that the needs of society must be met before individuals can thrive.
  • Utilitarianism’, as described in John Stuart Mill’s essay, can be loosely defined as aiming for ‘the greatest good of the greatest number’.

As described in the following sub-sections, there are three broad categories of collectivism:

  • ‘Social democracy’ (6.2.3.1) is the predominant Western form of it. It is a political system in which governments fund public services by collecting taxes, to harness some of the wealth created by capitalism.
  • ‘Socialism’ (6.2.3.2) is characterised by State ownership of major industries, thereby limiting the role of private enterprise.  In some forms, such as communism, it suppresses all individual freedom and is authoritarian.
  • ‘Green’ movements (6.2.3.3) advocate protection of the planet and its wildlife, regarding it as a communal good that should take precedence over economic considerations.

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