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Collectivism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that emphasizes the group and its interests. Collectivism is the opposite of individualism. Collectivists focus on communal, societal, or national interests in various types of political, economic and educational systems.
Collectivism has been characterized as "horizontal collectivism", wherein equality is emphasized and people engage in sharing and cooperation, or "vertical collectivism", wherein hierarchy is emphasized and people submit to specific authorities. Horizontal collectivism is based on the assumption that each individual is more or less equal, while vertical collectivism assumes that individuals are fundamentally different from each other.Social anarchist Alexander Berkman, who was a horizontal collectivist, argued that equality does not imply a lack of unique individuality, but an equal amount of freedom and equal opportunity to develop one's own skills and talents.
Horizontal collectivists tend to favor democratic decision-making, while vertical collectivists believe in a more strict chain of command. Horizontal collectivism stresses common goals, interdependence and sociability. Vertical collectivism stresses the integrity of the in-group (e.g. the family or the nation, for example), expects individuals to sacrifice themselves for the in-group if necessary, and promotes competition between different in-groups.
Collectivism is often portrayed as the polar opposite of individualism, the economic, political, social or cultural autonomy of the individual within society; but given the different interpretations of individualism, from egocentric perspectives to more integrative ones, this apparent opposition is not necessarily true. For example, worker cooperatives operate on a collective basis but require the direct input of each individual member. While the ideas of holism posit that a sum is greater than its parts, this does not necessarily imply that a collectivity is greater or more powerful than the individuals that make it up, but instead that the collective energies of all individuals involved produce something that goes beyond each person (whereas, in authoritarian collectivities, power accrues to a person or group who is supposed to embody the collective). Theoretically, collectivism goes beyond considering the individual as the prime mover of society, but instead considers the numerous associations individuals voluntarily form as society's basis. In doing so it recognizes society as a collection of individuals and so remains with the understanding that any collective organization is fundamentally composed of individuals.
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