The German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies described an early model of collectivism and individualism using the terms Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesellschaft (society). Gemeinschaft relationships, in which communalism is prioritized, were thought to be characteristic of small, rural village communities. An anthropologist, Redfield (1941) echoed this notion in work contrasting folk society with urban society.
Max Weber (1930) contrasted collectivism and individualism through the lens of religion, believing that Protestants were more individualistic and self-reliant compared to Catholics, who endorsed hierarchical, interdependent relationships among people. Hofstede (1980) was highly influential in ushering in an era of cross-cultural research making comparisons along the dimension of collectivism versus individualism. Hofstede conceptualized collectivism and individualism as part of a single continuum, with each cultural construct representing an opposite pole. The author characterized individuals that endorsed a high degree of collectivism as being embedded in their social contexts and prioritizing communal goals over individual goals.
- F. Tönnies (1957). Community and association. Harper Torchbooks.
- Redfield, Robert (1941). The folk culture of Yucatán. University of Chicago Press.
- M. Weber (1930). The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. New York: Routledge.
- Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture's consequences. Beverly Hills: Sage.