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collectivism

collectivism A term with a general and a variety of specific applications. In the most common usage it refers to any political or socio-economic theory or practice which encourages communal or state ownership and control of the means of production and distribution. Particular applications vary greatly since there are numerous examples of collectivist organizations.

Farmers organized into collectives were, until recently, a significant social group in the former USSR. These farms controlled the labour inputs of members, fixed rates of remuneration, and determined the content of agricultural production. Many were the result of a violent forced collectivization of peasant and family-owned farms during the Stalinist period. Agricultural collectives in China have had a more varied history. One of the most popular schemes was a ‘responsibility system’ introduced in the 1980s, whereby individual peasant households signed a contract by which the land still belonged technically to the collective, but was assigned to individual households for their own use. These contracts specified obligations on either side, for example with respect to the provision of tools and equipment, payment of taxes, and meeting of production quotas. A particularly interesting form of collective—the workers' self-management of the economy—emerged in Tito's Yugoslavia. However, sociological research confirmed that the theoretically democratic distribution of influence within the enterprise was not matched by the real power of Workers' Councils, which tended in practice to be largely symbolic.

The collectivist critique of liberal and other theories of individualism argues that market relationships are competitive, tend also therefore to be divisive, and undermine those communal bonds which are necessary between individuals if they are to cope with misfortunes to which all are in principle vulnerable. For example, social welfare theorists argue that unrestrained free exchange causes welfare problems, as evidenced by the housing market which fails to provide shelter to those in demonstrable need. One of the most celebrated collectivist defences of the welfare state was made by Richard Titmuss (see The Gift Relationship, 1970
), who argued that welfare systems should be defended by reference to arguments about altruism. His argument was that people should receive welfare as a gift from strangers, an expression of social solidarity, rather than as an entitlement or right derived from a complex network of reciprocal relationships. Thus, in the case of blood donations, Titmuss maintained that if this ‘most sacred’ of commodities were to be commercialized then the moral bonds between individuals would become wholly contaminated by calculations of self-interest and market price. As he puts it, ‘In not asking for or expecting any payment of money those donors signified their belief in the willingness of men to act altruistically in the future, and to combine together to make a gift freely should they have need for it. By expressing confidence in the behaviour of future unknown strangers they were thus denying the Hobbesian thesis that men are devoid of any instinctive moral sense’. This communitarian view of welfare as an expression of the common values that bind otherwise disparate individuals together may be contrasted with the more individualistic conception of welfare derived from the theory of citizenship. The latter implies that claims to welfare resources are simply an extension of the legal and political rights that are characteristic of liberal democracies and, therefore, that collective welfare is quite consistent with the theory of liberal pluralism. Welfare states are simply adjuncts to markets; that is, rational deprivation-alleviating institutions and policies, resting on the individualistic principles of reciprocal obligations and exchange. Communitarianism, by contrast, embodies a vision of a social order that fosters intimate communal bonds.

During the early 1990s, the term ‘communitarianism’ was appropriated by a small group of mainly American social scientists, linked by a common hostility to the philosophies of liberalism and libertarianism. The sociologist Amitai Etzioni was one of the prominent founders of this movement (see his The New Golden Rule: Community and Morality in a Democratic Society, 1996
). Etzioni argues that the advanced industrial societies of the capitalist West suffer from ‘rampant moral confusion and social anarchy’ because individuals have been given too much freedom and not enough responsibilities. Etzioni and other communitarians are in favour of more obligations and fewer rights. They tend to shun economic explanations of social problems, preferring instead to blame everything from crime to excessive consumerism on the moral decline of the family, much of which can be traced to the increasing employment of women outside the home. Etzioni claims this has created a ‘parenting deficit’ which prevents ‘effective personality formation’ in infants, increasing reliance on child-care facilities that often amount to little more than ‘kennels for kids’, and in due course producing a generation of young people who lack the moral fibre to resist crime, drugs, and early sex.

Communitarians deny that they are advocating a return to the 1950s-style division of labour (formal employment for men, back into the home for women), and proffer instead a range of ‘pro-family practices and policies’, such as Etzioni's ideas for ‘peer marriage’ (a two-parent family, in which each partner has the same rights to extended ‘family leave’ after the birth of children, underwritten by a hardening of the laws against divorce). More broadly, communitarians favour a social order in which ‘the community’ identifies the common good, and persuades its members to act towards it. In this way arguments in favour of (say) safer driving will succeed because they have moral force.

Communitarians claim to have influenced the development of social policy in America (Etzioni has been a policy adviser to the Clinton administrations) and Britain (where communitarian ideas are said to have found favour with New Labour). Community policing, for example, is a policy consistent with communitarian ideals. Critics have suggested that communitarian arguments are both vague and naïve. Who will pay for extended parental leave-of-absence from employment? What if ‘the community’ endorses values such as homophobia or racialism? What happens to dissenters, who refuse to conform to the ideals of the two-parent family and marriage for life, and are not persuaded by mere exhortation alone? Communitarian social policies are also said to be authoritarian in effect if not intention. See also BROKEN WINDOWS THESIS; COMMUNE; GIFT RELATIONSHIP.

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Collectivization of Agriculture

COLLECTIVIZATION OF AGRICULTURE

The introduction of the collective farm (kolkhoz) into the Soviet countryside began in the late 1920s and was substantially completed by the mid-1930s. The collectivization of Soviet agriculture, along with the introduction of state ownership (nationalization) and national economic planning (replacing markets as a mechanism of resource allocation), formed the dominant framework of the Soviet economic system, a set of institutions and related policies that remained in place until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Lenin attempted to introduce change in the Soviet agricultural sector, and especially to exert state control, through methods such as the extraction of grain from the rural economy by force (the prodrazverstka ). This was the first attempt under Soviet rule to change both the institutional arrangements governing interaction between the agrarian and industrial sectors (the market) and the terms of trade between the state and the rural economy. The impact of these arrangements resulted in a significant decline in agricultural output during the period of war communism.

Following the collapse of war communism, the peasant economy predominated during the New Economic Policy (NEP). The relationship between the rural economy and the urban industrial economy was characterized by alliance (smytchka ), although the issue of the rural economy and its role in socialist industrialization remained controversial. Events such as the Scissors Crisis brought these issues to the fore. In addition, the potential contribution of agriculture to the process of economic development was a major issue in the great industrialization debate.

In 1929 Josef Stalin initiated the process of collectivization, arguing that a "grain crisis" (peasant withholding of grain) could effectively limit the pace of Soviet industrialization. Collectivization was intended to introduce socialist organizational arrangements into the countryside, and to change fundamentally the nature of the relationship between the rural and urban (industrial) sectors of the Soviet economy. Markets were to be eliminated, and state control was to prevail.

The organizational arrangements in the countryside were fundamentally changed, the relations between the state and the rural economy were altered, and the socialist ideology served as the framework for the decision to collectivize. The process and outcome of collectivization remain controversial to the present time.

Why has collectivization been so controversial? First, the process of collectivization was forcible and violent, resulting in substantial destruction of physical capital (e.g., animal herds) and the reduction of peasant morale, as peasants resisted the statedriven creation of collective farms. Second, the kolkhoz as an organization incorporated socialist elements into the rural economy. It was also viewed as a mechanism through which state and party power could be used to change the terms of trade in favor of the city, to eliminate markets, and, specifically, to extract grain from the countryside on terms favorable to the state. The collective farm was, in theory, a cooperative form of organization through which the state could extract grain, leaving a residual for peasant consumption. The mechanism of payment for labor, the labor day (trudoden ), facilitated this process. Third, peasant resistance to the creation of the collective farms was cast largely within an ideological framework. Thus resistance to collectivization, in whatever form, was blamed largely upon the wealthy peasants (kulaks). Fourth, the institutions and policies resulting from the collectivization process, even with significant modifications over time, have been blamed for the poor record of agricultural performance in the Soviet Union. In addition to the costs associated with the initial means of implementation, the collective farms lacked sufficient means of finance and were unable to provide appropriate incentives to stimulate the necessary growth of agricultural productivity.

Thus collectivization replaced markets with state controls and, in so doing, used a process and instituted a set of organizational arrangements ultimately deemed to be detrimental to the longterm growth of the agricultural economy in the Soviet Union.

See also: agriculture; collective farm; economic growth, soviet; peasant economy; sovkhoz

bibliography

Davies, R. W. (1980). The Socialist Offensive: The Collectivisation of Soviet Agriculture, 1929-1930. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Lewin, Moshe. (1968). Russian Peasants and Soviet Power: A Study of Collectivization. London: Allen & Unwin.

Robert C. Stuart

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Collectivism

Collectivism

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Collectivism is a term used to describe various social, political, and economic relations that stress the primacy of the collective, which may be a group of individuals, a society, a state, a nation, race, or social class, over that of the individual. Collectivists subscribe to the belief that the groups societal or communal will takes precedence over that of the individual, who must then sacrifice self-interest for the good of the whole. Thus the group is the fundamental unit of social, political, and economic concern.

From a social perspective, collectivism maintains that humans are interdependent and closely linked to one or more groups. This doctrine views group harmony and solidarity as more important than personal desires and goals. In this case, the group might take the form of a family, race, social class, or religious denomination. Thus, respectfulness, cooperation, and conformity to group norms are expected. Competition and conflict are devalued within the group but viewed as acceptable intergroup behaviors.

Politically, collectivism might be viewed as a doctrine that maintains that the will of the people supersedes that of the individual, who must subordinate personal interests to those of the majority. Thus society as a whole is the standard of moral value. An early example of this kind of collectivism has been associated with Jean-Jacques Rosseaus social contract. In this work, Rousseau posits that human society is organized along the lines of an implicit contract between members of society, with the terms of the contract, such governmental powers, citizens rights and responsibilities, defined by the general will. This notion of collectivism is often equated with democracy.

As an economic doctrine, collectivism holds that material resources should be owned by the group and used for the benefit of all rather than being owned by individuals. Although this view of collectivism advocates public over private ownership of property, the state is not necessarily the manager or overseer of collective property, as has been the case with most modern day manifestations of communism. It should also be noted that the principle of collective ownership of property might refer to the means of production or to all commodities that are valued.

While there are many examples of societies characterized as collectivist, few, if any, are entirely collectivist. Moreover, one can find characteristics of collectivism in most societies. Perhaps the best-known practical applications of collectivism are those associated with the agriculture sector of societies. Many of these attempts, however, have resulted in some well-documented failures. For example, the Soviet states experiment with agricultural collectivization in the 1920s and 1930s was abandoned owing to negative economic consequences. Similarly, Operation Dodoma, which refers to Julius Nyereres 1974 program of forced collectivization of farming in Tanzania, was largely unsuccessful as a means of increasing benefits perceived to accrue from collective farming. Chinas 1958 attempt at collectivization of agricultural production, though somewhat more successful than that of the Soviet Union and Tanzania, also failed to yield perceived economic benefits.

SEE ALSO Agricultural Industry; Communalism; Communism; Democracy; Rousseau, Jean-Jacques; Social Contract; Socialism; Socialism, African; Stalin, Joseph; Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ayittey, George B. 1991. Africa Betrayed. New York: St. Martins Press.

Gregory, Paul R., and Robert C. Stuart. 1981. Soviet Economic Structure and Performance. 2nd ed. New York: Harper and Row.

Inkeles, Alex. 1971. Social Change in Soviet Russia. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Spence, Jonathan. 1990. The Search for Modern China. New York: Norton.

Triandis, Harry C. 1995. Individualism and Collectivism. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Kathie Stromile Golden

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collectivism

col·lec·tiv·ism / kəˈlektəˌvizəm/ • n. the practice or principle of giving a group priority over each individual in it. ∎  the theory and practice of the ownership of land and the means of production by the people or the state. DERIVATIVES: col·lec·tiv·ist adj. & n. col·lec·tiv·is·tic / -ˌlektəˈvistik/ adj.

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collectivization

collectivization Agricultural policy enforced in the Soviet Union under Stalin in 1929, and adopted by China after the Communist takeover in 1949. With the object of modernizing agriculture and making it more efficient, peasant holdings were combined and agriculture brought under state control.

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collectivism

collectivism Political and economic theory, opposed to individualism. It emphasizes the need to replace competition with cooperation. Socialism and communism are both expressions of the collectivist idea.

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collectivist organizations

collectivist organizations See COLLECTIVISM.

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