6.2.3 Collectivism

Collectivists believe in prioritising communal needs rather than individual freedom, to maximise everyone’s well-being

In contrast to individualism (6.2.2), which prioritises freedom of the individual, collectivists believe that individuals should surrender some liberty in order to support the wellbeing of the community: ‘the common good’.  In the Britannica definition, this means “that which benefits society as a whole, in contrast to the private good of individuals and sections of society.  ..the possibility that certain goods, such as security and justice, can be achieved only through citizenship, collective action, and active participation in the public realm of politics and public service.”

Collectivists believe that everybody should be provided with basic socio-economic rights ( and adequate public services.  They believe in co-operation, as in the trade union motto ‘united we stand, divided we fall’, which is an attitude that can be extended to support for international institutions.

Collectivism 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’ ( 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’ ( 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 ( 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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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/623a.htm.