The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
7 Points

Collectivism vs. Individualism

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 12/11/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 10 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,015 times Debate No: 82836
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (12)
Votes (1)




Full Resolution: On balance, Collectivism is preferable to Individualism


PRO team
-- Romanii
-- Uniferous

CON team
-- Famousdebater
-- Hayd

== Rules ==

1. First round for acceptance. No new arguments or rebuttals in the final round

2. By accepting the debate, Con agrees to the following definitions...

Collectivism: the philosophy that the interests of society as a whole should be considered ethically paramount.

Individualism: the philosophy that the interests of the individual should be considered ethically paramount.

3. Burden of Proof is shared. Pro must show that Collectivism is preferable to Individualism, and Con must show that Individualism is preferable to Collectivism.

4. No semantics, kritiks, trolling, etc.

Let the games begin!



Uniferous has now been replaced by Kasmic.
Debate Round No. 1


The thesis of our case is aptly summarized by Aristotle -- "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts". What individuals can accomplish by themselves is nothing compared to what can be accomplished as an entire society working together. In other words, a collectivist society is capable of generating far more personal liberty and general welfare for each of its citizens than an individualistic society ever could.

We will be using rationality as the main criterion for evaluating which philosophy is preferable, so the resolution can basically be re-stated as "belief in collectivism is more rational than belief in individualism". Our case revolves around 3 independently functioning reasons for why an affirmation of the resolution is more plausible than a negation of it.

I. Collectivism increases the chances of individual success

The logic underlying this is simple. A society, by definition, is a group of individuals. So when we "value the interests of society", we are really just valuing the interests of the largest possible number of individuals within that society -- we are valuing the interests of the majority. And since an individual is statistically more likely to part of the majority than the minority (duh), collectivism ensures that any given individual is more likely to have their interests protected than not. Thus, on a purely theoretical & statistical level, collectivism increases the probability of individual prosperity.

However, this is not only demonstrable in theory; we can also see empirical examples of this holding true in practice. Just take a look at nature. There is an enormous variety of species which instinctively tend to live in large, collectivist groups -- wolves, elephants, lions, chimpanzees, meerkats, bison, sheep, antelopes, ants, bees, ducks, small fish, and many more fall into this category. There is a reason why such a behavior has become so widely adapted: living in those 'societies', where the group as a whole is valued over each individual animal, has proven to be an evolutionary advantage to the individual animals themselves. It ensures them a much greater chance of survival than they would otherwise have on their own. Moreover, these collectivist species tend to be far, far more abundant and prosperous than solitary ones. Natural selection -- a completely selfishness-oriented mechanism -- clearly indicates that the collectivist lifestyle is beneficial to individuals.

For humans specifically, this is all the more true because we are fundamentally social animals. According to anthropologist Paula Grey: "Human beings are social animals. Our lives depend on other humans... We develop and learn about the world around us through the filter of other people. Our connections to others are key to not only our survival, but also to our happiness and the success of our careers... our social networks have [an enormous impact] on our lives. The bottom line is that we are influenced by, and we are able to influence, people up to three degrees removed from us." [1]. In other words, we derive happiness and personal fulfillment from other people, and our social structures require us to directly & indirectly interact with thousands of other people every day in order to prosper. As the socially complex and emotional beings that we are, we *need* to value the welfare of those around us -- the welfare of our society. From all this, we conclude that even under individualism we have to prefer collectivism, essentially making the resolution impossible to negate.

II. Individualism has negative social repercussions in practice

Whenever we observe an increase in society's individualistic values, we always see it accompanied with an increase in destructive societal tendencies. The first time we can see this happening in human history is right at its dawn, with the Neolithic Revolution. Prior to it, human societies were largely egalitarian -- the social bonds between family members held together large clans in which every individual was looked after; resources were distributed roughly equally, and internal strife was virtually non-existent [2]. But with the advent of the Neolithic Revolution and its associated innovations, this collectivist way of life was greatly diminished, and individualistic social phenomena such as private property ownership, social stratification, and wealth inequality became the centerpieces of human societies [3]. From that point onwards, human history has been notably more violent, with wars, slavery, tension between classes, and crime becoming the norm.

This trend has continued throughout history. Events motivated by the pursuit of individualistic values have always resulted in a society which is worse off than before. This is most clearly evident in the French Revolution, with the bourgeoisie and their desire for greater personal liberties coming at the grave expense of social stability. Even today in Western countries, we witness that trend manifest itself in the contrast between urban centers (the hubs of modern ideals such as individuality) and rural areas (where collectivist communities as described previously still exist to some extent). Unsurprisingly, signs of social decay are far more prevalent in urban centers, with violent crime rates and poverty levels being 3 to 4 times higher in cities than the countryside [4]. Individualism simply does not work out in practice -- it attempts to simultaneously promote everyone's conflicting self-interests, which inevitably leads to tension, violence, and the degeneration of the social fabric. In this way, Individualism (ironically) tends to hurt the average individual's chance of success -- it's self-refuting.

III. Collectivism is a more objective version of Individualism

Individualism posits that everyone should place paramount ethical value on their own interests. However, this only takes into account the subjective viewpoint of each individual. From an objective point of view, all humans beings are fundamentally the same, and no one person is inherently superior to another. Therefore, *every* individual's interests have equal value; intellectual honesty requires that if I value my own interests, then I also have to value everyone else's just as much -- and it is this concept which forms the basis for collectivism. In other words, Collectivism is essentially just an objective version of Individualism, effectively rendering it to be the more rational philosophy.

The resolution is affirmed. Over to our opponents.




We thank our opponent’s for instigating and suggesting such a controversial topic. In this round we will provide our opening arguments and will use the following round for rebuttals. We hope that all participants (Famousdebater, Hayd, Romanii and Kasmic) will learn more about this topic from the debate. Thank you Romanii and Kasmic for instigating, we will now present our case for individualism.


Our framework will be based on the political ideology, libertarianism. Libertarians feel very strongly in relation to individualism and a less restricting government on civilians - i.e. freedom of choice [1]. If we are to prefer society over the individual then the majority within society will receive the preferences. Assuming that the requests of the individual are reasonable and logical then we can easily provide both the majority within society and the minority what they want (as long as it coincides with rationality and reason), this produces a positive correlation between individualistic societies and overall happiness [2]. This happiness increase coincides with basic libertarian philosophy of keeping the individual prioritized. Our framework demonstrates that individualism equates to an increase of happiness within society [2].


Individualistic societies are built on equal opportunity. A quote that I would like to build this contention around is a quote that contrasts greatly from the stereotypes of both individualism and collectivism:

Let’s put this in the context of a hypothetical. We drop a bomb on city that is known to be a city in which a dangerous cult lives. If we think about this from an individualist perspective, we would individually assess the people in order to determine if each individual is innocent or not. A collectivist society would assess the people in general and therefore bomb them all to completely eliminate this entire group of people, regardless of whether some of them were innocent (forced to join, born into the cult, etc.)

As you can observe from the hypothetical, individualism demonstrates higher moral standards.

The individualist is compassionate in the sense that they care for the individual and their value as human beings. The collectivist, on the contrary, is immoral in the sense that they believe the elimination of these group of people is okay because they are a group - not just individuals [3].

Success Of Individualistic Societies

Here is a map of individualistic and collectivist societies within Europe (blue being individualist and red being collectivist):

At first this may seem like a case against individualism due to the evidently higher quantity of collectivist countries, but when we look at the map and the success rates (economically speaking) of the individualistic countries in comparison to the collectivist countries, there is a huge and evident economical difference-wherein the individualist ones are more successful[4] [5].

It is often used as a rebuttal to state that there are many factors that determine wealth however whilst this is true, there is very strong evidence suggesting that individualism is the root to wealth and economic benefits [6] [8]

“[Because] individualist culture gives social status rewards to people who stand out … give a special, culturally motivated, incentive for innovation that is separate from the standard monetary incentive...As a result, the higher innovation rate eventually leads to higher levels of productivity and output in the long run compared to a collectivist culture … the advantages of individualist culture affect dynamic efficiency and thus long run growth” [6]

The paper goes on to say,

“Using Hofstede’s measure of individualism, we regress the log of GDP per worker on individualism and find a strong and significant positive effect of individualism. We report in Gorodnichenko and Roland (2010) that a one standard deviation increase in individualism (say from the score of Venezuela to Greece, or from that of Brazil to Luxemburg) leads to a 60 to 87 percent increase in 7 the level of income, which is a quantitatively large effect. We also observe strong, positive correlations between individualism and measures of innovation. The results are similar when we use Schwartz’s measures of individualism. These are not simply correlations. In Gorodnichenko and Roland (2010, 2011), we provide evidence of a causal effect of individualism on innovation and measures of long run growth.” [6]

Because individualism awards social status to those who are being effective, this creates an incentive for innovation, putting individualist countries above collectivist countries. Individualism is preferable to collectivism if a country wants to be economically successful.


The indivisible beings we see are individual humans. These individuals may be organized in a group in order to achieve a purpose, for example a soccer team. But the team is still comprised of individual players, each with his own mind and body.

This concept is demonstrated beautifully by Frederick Douglass in his letter to his ex-master.

I am myself; you are yourself; we are two distinct persons, equal persons. What

you are, I am. You are a man, and so am I. God created both, and made us separate beings. I am not by nature bound to you, or you to me. Nature does not make your existence depend upon me, or mine to depend upon yours. I cannot walk upon your legs, or you upon mine. I cannot breathe for you, or you for me; I must breathe for myself, and you for yourself. We are distinct persons, and are each equally provided with faculties necessary to our individual existence. In leaving you, I took nothing but what belonged to me, and in no way lessened your means for obtaining an honest living. Your faculties remained yours, and mine became useful to their rightful owner.

Human beings are not in any way metaphysically bound to one another because each must drive their own bodies, must feel their own emotions, no one else can do this for them. Groups of people (families, communities, or societies) are not metaphysically real; they do not exist in and of themselves; they are not fundamental units of human life. Rather, they are some number of individuals [7].

Individualism correlates with the fundamentals of human life, whilst collectivism does not. Therefore, individualism is preferable to collectivism.


In conclusion, we have shown through strong and reliable evidence that individualism is the preferable ideology to collectivism. We thank our opponent's for their case and as mentioned earlier, we plan to address it in the following round. The resolution is negated!









Debate Round No. 2


Romanii forfeited this round.


If Romanii wishes to continue then he can post rebuttals in the next round and we can exclude counter rebuttals. For now, to keep the structure of the debate going, I will extend all my arguments and leave it at that.
Debate Round No. 3


Romanii forfeited this round.



In this round we will be breaking down our opponent’s arguments and showing how they are false.

The term “Pro” refers to the affirming side of the debate, Romanii and Kasmic.

In the beginning of our opponent’s response, they restate the resolution as, “belief in collectivism is more rational than belief in individualism”. This is not the resolution that both parties agreed to in the beginning of the debate.

These two resolutions are different in that something that is irrational can still be preferable to something rational, and vice versa. In order to change the original resolution, both parties must agree to it, and we do not.

Collectivism increases the chances of individual success

Pro starts off by explaining that in a collectivist society, the individual is more likely to have his/her interests protected than not, because a collectivist society values the majority over the minority, and the majority holds more individuals than the minority, so therefore more needs are met.

Are the needs of the minority not important? Are the needs of the minority not valid? Majority-rules reasoning leads to many problematic issues.

Pro suggests that societies should make decisions based on what the majority wants, whether or not it is right or not. This often leads to an oppressed minority. If we let majority rule voting, the popular opinion--whether true or false--will direct the society. Societies should run based on what's right, not what's popular.

Pro also states that collectivist species tend to be far more prosperous and abundant than [individualist] ones. They cite wolves, elephants, lions, chimpanzees, meerkats, bison, sheep, antelopes, ants, bees, ducks, small fish. What the judges need to realize, is that many of these species are endangered or vulnerable, definitely not prosperous nor abundant.

Wolves [2], elephants [3], lions [4], chimpanzees [5], meerkats [6], bison [7], antelopes [8], bees [9], several species of ducks, and small fish (marine life in general) [10] are all nearing extinction.

That leaves sheep and ants (although many species of ants are almost extinct). From this we can conclude that the majority of collectivist species are not prosperous, and not abundant, and because of the reasons that Pro stated, this must be a result of collectivism, and therefore the impact of this argument is moved to our side.

Individualism has negative social repercussions in practice

Unfortunately, our opponent’s whole case relies on assertion. Completely mitigating its impact upon the resolution. Our opponent’s CLAIM that society has become notably more violent after this period of time but show no evidence to support this claim. Nor do they prove that the reason for increasing violence is because of individualism. Even assuming that our opponent’s history is correct, there are many factors involved and this means that they need to do a lot more to prove that individualism is the direct cause of the violence increase. Other factors include: immigration, industrialisation and the value of products. We could easily say that it is the fault of the immigrants that violence is increasing (not that I believe this). We could say that it is the fault of the rapid and constant industrialisation that this is happening. We could say that the value of products is causing violence due to its constant increasing value [1].

Collectivism is a more objective version of individualism

Individualism (as defined in R1), does not mention that it prioritizes certain individuals above others [12]. It simply believes that the individual’s opinions is more important than societies as a whole [12]. An individualist will generally take on board the individual’s subjective opinion (as long as it be within reason), and attempt to achieve this. This doesn’t mean that some are valued more than others. It means that everyone gets what they NEED (not want), and therefore the minority will not be excluded from their needs. This may appear subjective to our opponents and some collectivists however when you think about this on a larger scale and in the long term this becomes an objective ideology. By being an individualist, you value everybody in society and as our arguments demonstrate, individualism is an economically successful ideology [13][14]. When analyzing something and showing that its advantage is in regards to the economy this is classified as objective - not subjective [15].


To conclude we have won this debate due to the split burden of proof and our opponent's inability to refute our contentions. Since they have not been responded to ours and we have responded to theirs, we win by default. Our contentions have an impact upon the resolution whilst our opponent’s do not. As well as this, they have forfeited twice which is a violation of the rules of this debate. Vote Con!











[10] White-headed, Laysan Teal, Australian Spotted Duck, Bali Duck, Aylesbury Duck, Blue Swedish Duck, Black East Indies Duck, Buenos Aryan Duck, Buff Orpington Duck, Gayuga Duck, Crested Duck, Mallard Duck, Magpie Duck, Muscovy Duck, Northern Pintail Duck, and a lot more.





Debate Round No. 4
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Hayd 10 months ago
Great debate so far. Good luck to both sides!
Posted by famousdebater 10 months ago
A picture got cut out of our case for some reason. It is the map in success and individualistic soceities contention.

Here is the link to the picture:

Sorry about this.
Posted by canis 10 months ago
collectivism can not exist wihtout collective thinking/feeling. individualism can not exist without being alive.
Posted by famousdebater 10 months ago
Just a note to both Hayd and Kasmic - you are allowed to use the cases provided by your partner's in this debate despite it being posted on their account since you both equally participated on the case.
Posted by kasmic 10 months ago
I was browsing and saw this... figure it is well worth my time.
Posted by famousdebater 10 months ago
I thought that Kasmic left ...
Posted by Romanii 10 months ago
When you do accept, please state that uniferous has been replaced with Kasmic.
Posted by Romanii 10 months ago
Romanii there a particular reason you're holding off on acceptance?
Posted by donald.keller 10 months ago
That formatting, though...
Posted by Balacafa 11 months ago
Why did you cancel it?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Balacafa 10 months ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Double forfeiture. Also, since Pro could not respond to Con's contentions and R1 stated that the BOP was shared, Con's arguments stand (no matter how weak they are), and Pro's do not since they were refuted and Pro forfeited the counter rebuttals round.