Individuals Acting Collectively
The Right gets this topic wrong frequently. So for those that seem to struggle on this concept, let’s briefly explore it.
There are three potential government focuses and political philosophies:
- Individuals acting collectively (communitarian / community-focus)
The definitions of these have been corrupted in the modern era. Reductionism has all but wiped out the third option. We seek to bring it back.
Individualism means the focus is on the individual. The individual matters more than the collective.
Collectivism is the opposite. It focuses on the needs of the collective. The collective matters more than the individual.
The community-approach, individuals acting collectively, is a middle ground. It is individuals voluntarily focusing on the collective. The collective has the focus, but that focus is not given through coercion or force, rather through people voluntarily recognizing and acting on that collective focus.
Consider the following from a theological perspective:
There are verses in the Bible that illustrate collectivism to a certain extent. Caiaphas’s inadvertent prophecy that “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11:50) is one case of collectivist thought. In the early church in Jerusalem, people pooled their resources and gave to those in need so that no one lacked anything (Acts 2:44–45; 4:32–35). In 2 Corinthians 8:12–14, Paul encourages the church in Corinth to give financially to the church in Jerusalem “that there might be equality” (verse 13). The key to note in these examples, however, is that the people who gave had a choice in the matter. Their giving was strictly voluntary (Acts 5:4). No one was forced to give his resources for the benefit of the group, but they willingly did so out of love for the Lord and for the church. As an individual gave to benefit the group, that individual was blessed, as well (2 Corinthians 9:6–8). This principle of the Kingdom contains some elements of collectivism but goes beyond it. Our motivation for serving the church is not just to benefit the church as a collective; our motivation is that it pleases God (Hebrews 13:16).
God values both the individual and the collective. The Bible doesn’t really argue for either individualism or collectivism as the correct ideology. Instead, it offers something else altogether, illustrated in the description of the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. Paul tells us that individual believers are like parts of a body, each playing an incredibly important and vital role to the success of the body to function as it should (1 Corinthians 12:14, 27). The various parts of a body function only when they are a part of the body as a whole. A thumb can do things no other part of the body can do, but only when it’s connected to the hand! (see 1 Corinthians 12:18–20). Likewise, the body as a whole is an amazing organism, but only when all the parts are taken care of individually (see 1 Corinthians 12:25–26).
What they are describing above is a communitarian focus. Individuals acting individually to form a cohesive singular entity that is functioning as a whole.
To translate that to a state, it is where each piece of the whole works together as one. Each community takes care of their own individually and then contributes to the whole. Both extremes (forced collectivism and selfish individualism) are rejected in favor of a moderate, middle-ground approach.
Individualism promotes narcissism, greed, selfishness, low trust, and a breakdown amongst the collective. It promotes degeneracy over morality or fortitude. It instills an “everything I want is good” attitude while promoting in-fighting if it is in the interest of the individual. It is not a sustainable nor desirable ideology.
Collectivism promotes state centralization with the boot firmly resting on those not contributing to the collective. It decimates individuals and their unique contributions and desires. The state forces the collective to act as one and expunges those who do not. It promotes submission to an improper authority, politburo centralization, forced compliance, and generally low liberty.
Individuals acting collectively (the communitarian option) are different from the above two options. It is a harmonization between the two. It rejects the nihilism and selfishness of individualism while also ignoring the forced compliance of collectivism. Individuals voluntarily join collectives and use freedom of association to work together, which gives them a strategic advantage over strict individualists, thereby making individualism a losing position without the forced compliance of collectivism. Communitarianism heavily incentives the formation of these communities, without forcing them nor granting similar benefits of individualists. This naturally results in a community-focus, rather than an individual or individual-stomping focus.
There are many other traits between the three options, but this provides a general overview. Our team should be heavily pushing for the communitarian approach, while rejecting both individualism and state collectivism.
If you want further breakdown of these three options from a government perspective, read this article next: All Governments Must Choose A Focus