The East, West, Individualism, Collectivism, and COVID

individualism collectivism

Maybe the problems the US and Europe are having with COVID, compared to the East, can be reduced to individualism vs. collectivism.

Many people ask why the West is so innovative, i.e., why we seem to have done so much of the invention in the last couple of centuries.

Maybe that’s because innovation is a byproduct of greed, which is tightly coupled with individualism.

China, Japan, and South Korea are all handling COVID much better than the United States and Europe, and many have pointed out that this could be because it’s far more accepted there that society is more important than individuals. So when a curfew is released, people tend to listen.

So maybe the countries with the biggest stock markets will have the worst responses to pandemics.

This Individualism vs. Collectivism concept—framed as “we” vs. “I” is a central theme in Robert Putman’s new book, The Upswing, which I’m reading now.

Highly recommended if this contrast is interesting to you.


  1. China is the exception to this in many ways since they’re purposely trying to harness the advantages of both systems.

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