Individualism: A Peculiarity of the West

National character, or as we now say national culture, is vastly important, recognized in practice by almost everyone, but always elusive to ascertain.

Geert Hofstede developed one method, which began decades ago as a study of the national differences among IBM subsidiaries. Hofstede posited four (later five) independent dimensions of difference among national cultures. They are:

Power Distance
Individualism
Masculinity
Uncertainty Avoidance
Long-Term Orientation

Then there is also the thorny question of whether there are differences of character or culture between civilizations. Does it make sense to speak of a “civilizational culture” or a “civilzational character”?

When we look at Hofstede’s measures of individualism, we soon see a Western cluster (I have put in bold the countries of Europe, plus its offshoots). The outliers are Greece and Portugal – much less individualist than the other Western countries. So, I conclude from this that individualism is one distinctive feature of Western culture. (I have commented on the west here, here, here, and here.)

United States 91
Australia 90
United Kingdom 89
Netherlands 80
New Zealand 79
Italy 76
Belgium 75
Denmark 74
France 71
Sweden 71
Ireland 70
Norway 69
Switzerland 68
Germany 67
South Africa 65
Finland 63
Poland 60
Czech Republic 58
Austria 55
Hungary 55
Israel 54
Spain 51
India 48
Argentina 46
Japan 46
Iran 41
Jamaica 39
Brazil 38
Egypt 38
Iraq 38
Kuwait 38
Lebanon 38
Libya 38
Saudi Arabia 38
United Arab Emirates 38
Turkey 37
Uruguay 36
Greece 35
Philippines 32
Mexico 30
Ethiopia 27
Kenya 27
Portugal 27
Tanzania 27
Zambia 27
Malaysia 26
Hong Kong 25
Chile 23
China 20
Ghana 20
Nigeria 20
Sierra Leone 20
Singapore 20
Thailand 20
El Salvador 19
South Korea 18
Taiwan 17
Peru 16
Costa Rica 15
Indonesia 14
Pakistan 14
Colombia 13
Venezuela 12
Panama 11
Ecuador 8
Guatemala 6

 

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