Sheena Iyengar's book on the 'The art of choosing' was an interesting eye opener in a lot of senses. The fundamental point of the book is to bring out the essence of how vital our choices are and how directly proportionate that is to the quality of our lives. So she comes up with all this research to put forth how people are trained to choose, how we can choose well and hence uplift our way of lives.
One of the basic things she puts forth is how choice is hugely impacted by people's immediate society, upbringing, culture etc.
This fact she introduces with 2 concepts: Collectivistic versus Individualistic choices
For me personally both of these concepts were so easy to relate to given my life and the choices I have made.
I can substantiate this by the fact that my country of origin (India) being different than my country of residence (USA)
The formative part of my life in India was very collectivistic.
The culture in India is such that families take decisions as a whole. Grandads and Grandmoms stay with the grankids and raise (spoil:)) them like they raised their own. Men and women can go to work without worrying about day care because of 'elders' at home. There is no such thing as one person 'interfering' with another... older people advice, younger people follow and that's that. Key decisions like marriage, when it's time to buy a home, have kids (even how many some times) is a 'collective' decision
I see the concept of a joint family dwindling fast even in India, but the collectivism in the culture is still quite intact.
My entire adult life has been in the USA and this society is just the opposite, very individualistic. Infact kids are taught to be this way right from the start. Initially given the culture I was raised in this was a striking discrepancy on how I was trained to think. Here if a person does not choose their own life partner people talk about it like that's abnormal (It's so ironic how the reverse is true in India).
Kids are taught at dinner tables to think on their own, ask if there are questions about anything. Teenagers almost always leave their parents and start living on their own by the time they are 16. If not it is mocked (there is even a movie where parents hire a professional to get their son to fall for her so he leaves them!). There is a day for everything, mother's day, father's day, thanksgiving etc precisely because parents do not live with their kids or grandkids and cards are exchanged and visits happen only during these 'special days'
My take is that there is good and bad in both being all-collectivistic or all-individualistic. So when I was thinking about this... one such concept which I call "Collective individualism" made sense.
It goes something like this... one time an American friend told me 'I actually like this concept of an arranged marriage' and explained by saying 'I don't trust my intuition and would love for someone I trust and wishes well for me to pick my soul mate'. I was so intrigued by this because in some parts of the world people fight so hard to make their choices on their own and in some other parts people leave their choices solely to the society. Why can't we have both ways?
For instance during difficult situations at work, at school or at tough crossroads in life I would love to be equipped to think and act on my own (calculating the risks, weighing the consequences). One thing that I can vouch for is it took me a very long time to come out of my shell and ask any questions that came to my mind, unlike in the past when I always withdrew myself from opening up and asking any questions because questions were rarely asked.
At the same time when it comes to decisions where experience is key I would fall back on a collectivistic approach. Like in India when couples fight or decide to seperate, elders (who have been married forever) SHOULD intervene and tell them this is how life is and quitting, abandoning or searching for the 'right' person may not solve the problem. Or another example where collectivism is great is in financial investments an experienced advice is priceless.
So what say 'collective individualism' rocks!? :)