You need to enable JavaScript to run this app.
Opinion: Become a Collectivist!
Irvin Li '20 Contributing Writer
February 28, 2018

People ask me all the time whether I am communist, and I always say that I am not. To understand why, we need to take a closer look at communism.

Communism is the political theory developed by Karl Marx that basically turns everything private to public. Just to be clear before you continue reading, I do not think this is a good idea by itself whatsoever. Communism as a way of managing a country’s economy never worked and will never be able to work because it directly contradicts the very human instinct of greed and self prominence over others. This is why there has been no successful country that was truly communist. (Also, don’t even get me started on socialism, which is basically the weaker and less mature cousin of communism.) If you really want an answer for what I think the best economic system is, I say it would be state capitalism, though that is not something which I can debate about due to my lack of credentials and expertise on political economics.

Therefore, what I do want to advocate for here is not communism in the sense of running a country, but the communist spirit and how we can derive something from it to apply to our everyday life. The communist spirit is a lot of things, such as gloriously defending your country from a foreign invasion, or diligently working your job and contributing to the GDP, or taking care of your family members and ensuring their health and safety, or even merely obeying the established rules and laws and paying your taxes. The communist spirit is the spirit of having a positive influence on society. In other words, though the core of communism is economic egalitarianism, the underlying spirit of it that should be admired is really the idea of collectivism.

Collectivism is the idea of considering yourself as part of a larger entity and doing what is best for the greater good. It is by no doubt a virtue that should be desired. Even in more individualist societies, the spirit of selfless actions for the greater good is never something that is frowned upon, just not as much as an expectation in more collectivist societies. Some may worry that collectivism may impede one’s own progress, but, in fact, when the benefits of collectivism are distributed back to every individual, one might often find them greater than those produced by individualism. In fact, there are many ways in which individuals can work for themselves while simultaneously forming an overall collectivist entity. For example, when every individual decides to work hard and lead a self-sufficient life, then the government will be able to spend less on welfare and lower the taxes for everyone so that we can all have more free money to spend. On the other hand, if everyone decides to slack off and rely on welfare, then any moral administration would have to be burdened with the responsibility of taking care of these people, meaning more taxes and less drive on economic development.

This brings out an interesting misconception that a lot of people have about collectivism. People tend to think collectivism means more government and less personal freedom. However, in many cases, it is the opposite. Collectivism often provides us with more freedom as collective cooperation yields conditions with more fruitful outcomes that enables each of us to be free.

So how do we break this concept of collectivism down and apply it to our daily lives? We should start by identifying which entities and sub-entities we belong to. Ranging from small to large, we can be considered from individuals to families, from factions to nations, from species to components of the universe. No matter which level of entity you pledge most allegiance to, it is important to also consider all other levels as well. A true collectivist is not a nationalist, but someone who considers every level of collective entity from small to large, including giving a reasonable amount of consideration to the individual level. Collectivism is not blind sacrifice. It is having a rational and ethical balance between your own good and the common good.

Credit: Claire Zhang

If we implement this concept into our daily lives and ask ourselves to take a moment and think beyond our self-interest, not only would our community be a better place, we would also become more considerate and likeable people. Before we get ourselves into any arguments with someone, think if it will really result in anything good for either party. If it won’t, then no matter what noble cause it is for, it is not a beneficial action to be carried out. Before we start disobeying an expectation from our parents and teachers, think if this expectation is really a deterrent to your long term personal development. If it is not, then there is no point of disobeying something that is for your own good, regardless of how it might not be fun in the short term. Before we do something that is selfish by definition, we should think if our personal benefit really outweighs the cost to the community. If it is not, which is almost always the case, then it is a deed that should not be done.

What’s more, on a broader scale, beyond our school lives in the Academy, collectivism can have an even more significant impact. Before mobs take their discontent to the streets in forms of protests and riots, they should ask themselves if blocking traffic and leaving a mess behind will really improve conditions of the local community. If it will not, then find another way to exercise their freedom of expression. Before political parties and opinionated medias do whatever they usually do to make each other look bad, they should ask themselves if that is really what the people need. If it is not, they should then find a way to work together towards improving the country. Before superpowers start to interfere in regional proxy wars to establish their own diplomatic influence, they should ask themselves if gunfire and killing is really beneficial for the local population. If it is not, then they should cease waving their military tentacles all over the world and work on domestic projects or offer real aid that facilitates peace and stability for the common population.

Is collectivism not the summit of moral high ground? Is collectivism not the way of doing things with least resistance? Is collectivism not the only way for humanity to thrive? Is collectivism not the solution to all the problems we face today? So whatever scary rumors they spread about collectivism, I say that for the sake of my individual interest, I selfishly choose to go collectivist!