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Individualism and Collectivism for 2015-16
Transcript of Individualism and Collectivism for 2015-16
Kin-groups and Collectivism:
Collectivism is usually built around kin-groups.
That means means people to whom you are related either through blood, or through marriage, or through both.
A Chinese aside (from 'Trust', by Francis Fukuyama, Penguin 1995, p.93-4):
Nonetheless, it is very premature to talk about the death, or even the eroding, of the jia. Growing evidence indicates that changes in family patterns have been less dramatic in China than was once thought. In modern, urban environments family relationships have actually reconstituted themselves. In its contest with the traditional family, communism has clearly lost. The Australian Sinologist W. Jenner has remarked that out of the wreckage of twentieth-century Chinese history, the one institution that has emerged stronger than all the others is the patrilineal Chinese family. The latter has always been a refuge against the capriciousness of political life, and Chinese peasants have understood that in the end, the only people they could really trust were members of their own immediate family. The political history of this century has reinforced that feeling: two revolutions, warlordism, foreign occupation, collectivization, the insanity of the Cultural Revolution, and then decollectivization after the death of Mao have all taught the Chinese peasant that nothing is certain in the political environment. Those in power today may be the underdogs of tomorrow. By contrast, the family provides at least a modicum of certainty: in providing for one's old age, it is far better to put one's faith in one's sons that in the law or changeable political authorities.[...] Jenner points out that many Chinese Communist party officials, despite their Marxist ideology, have spent the past decade establishing foreign bank accounts and educating their children in the West, in preparation for the day that they may be out of power. For them no less than for the most humble peasant, the family will remain the only safe refuge.
The family firm
Very important everywhere
What is the relationship of Hofstede's dimension of individualism/collectivism, to the importance of family firms?
Collectives beyond kinship groups, where people have trust in one another, and show loyalty to one another.
The Nuer and the Dinka
Two African tribes, living mostly in Southern Sudan.
The subject of two very famous and excellent ethnographic monographs.
One, 'The Nuer', by Sir Edward Evans Pritchard (1940, Oxford, Clarendon Press).
This is perhaps the most well-known piece of ethnographic writing, vying perhaps for that title with 'Argonauts of the Western Pacific', by the Austrian-Polish naturalised British anthropologist called Bronislaw Malinowski (1922, London, Routledge). Malinowski is usually credited with having invented modern field research methods.
The second book, about the Dinka, is called 'Divinity and Experience', by Godfrey Lienhardt (1961, Oxford, Clarendon Press).
Between 1983 and 2005 a bitter and destructive civil war was fought in Sudan, broadly between the Muslim north (and the government in Khartoum) and the Christian and/or Animist south.
Millions died. It was complicated and nasty. The Nuer and the Dinka were two of the tribes fighting, in the south of Sudan, for independence from Khartoum.
The Nuer and the Dinka were for the most part pastoral nomads, keeping cattle, and moving seasonally to where the best pastures were.
They did not wear many clothes, if any, at least until the second half of the 20th century, which has been an important marker of ethnic and religious difference in Africa for as long as we have records.
Young Nuer and Dinka men were expected to go through various rituals relating to growing up, often involving cattle raiding. So the various subsets of the Nuer and the Dinka were in a more or less constant state of simmering conflict with one another. And if the Nuer ran out of excuses for having violent conflicts with other Nuer, they could always have a go at the Dinka, and vice versa.
Just as an aside, an interesting thing started to happen in Oxford in the mid-1970s. Southern Sudanese students, from comparatively wealthy and privileged backgrounds, came to study at the Institute of Social Anthropology. Some found that there were, in the library, books with black and white photographs of their parents or grandparents, not wearing any clothes. Times change.
On the 9th July 2011 South Sudan became the world's newest country, a United Nations member state.
And since then the Nuer and the Dinka have fallen out, and are engaged in further violence against one another.
There is oil in southern Sudan, and 'the curse of natural resources' seems to be playing itself out once again.
Why is this interesting?
Well, for one thing, Sub-Saharan Africa needs good things to happen. Foreign investors don't like civil wars.
But it also provides a context for thinking about what changes, and what does not.
In the early black and white pictures, the Nuer warriors are armed with wood and hide shields, and spears.
In the pictures from 2013-14, they are armed with Kalashnikovs, AK-47s, and rocket-propelled grenades.
Does this mean that everything has totally changed?
Or does it mean that essentially the same old stuff is happening?
Back to Individualism and Collectivism.
The Nuer and the Dinka are collectivist. They are fiercely loyal to their own.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Let's see what Hofstede has to say.