Cultural models of individualism and collectivism in a context of development : self-efficacy versus interdependency in rural senegal
Gleason, Mikell Ritchey
MetadataShow full item record
In this dissertation I discuss the concept of cultural models of individualism and collectivism as they apply to development. The work is anthropological in that it focuses on understanding the evolution of cultural models that influence actual behaviors. I first discuss what cultural models are and how they work, and then continue with a discussion of how cultural models may be gleaned from analyses of key words and themes used in talking about specific domains, such as development. I argue that lack of understanding about the different motivational forces imbued in different cultural models, such as individualism and collectivism, serves as a barrier to development programs as it is defined in the dominant modernization paradigm. Using various methodological tools, including interviewing and a photography exercise, in conjunction with intensive participant observation, I show that the collectivist world-view in rural Senegal is more socially interdependent than independent. Thus, it is also more likely to be motivated by opportunities to help and be helped by other people in their social networks. Most development activities, however, assume that all people are motivated by the desire to control their own destinies and to excel for internal reasons. The resulting development project failures often leave both developer and developee uncertain about what happened and blaming each other for the failure. I conclude with a discussion of the current most popular development activity, microfinance, a tool emphasizing self-efficacy and economic growth. In a collectivist context the tool is often used in ways unforeseen by the development planners. These unforeseen developments only reinforce the need for cultural model analyses to help bridge the information gaps between the planners and the people on the ground. However, I also conclude that a truly participatory approach to development will require a significant shift in the dominant development model to allow for the validation of other worldviews as equally rational.