1.4.2 - Personal and Societal Obligations
|Personal and Societal
Obligations: Universalism & Particularism
As was suggested
by the preceding activity, people struggle with how to balance obligations to
family, friends, and colleagues on the one hand, and obligations to the wider
society on the other. In cases where these obligations conflict, the people
of different cultures are often on different sides of this dichotomy.
The two sides
of this dimension of human experience are known as universalism and particularism. No culture is
exclusively universalist or particularist, but cultures do tend to be more one than the other, and while the attitudes of individuals in a given culture
will vary, the focus here is on the culture as a whole.
Certain absolutes apply across the board, regardless of circumstances or the particular situation.
Wherever possible, you should try to apply the same rules to everyone
in like situations. To be fair is to treat everyone alike and not make
exceptions for family, friends, or members of your in-group. Where possible,
you should lay your personal feelings aside and look at the situation
objectively. While life isnít necessarily fair, we can make it more fair
by treating people the same way.
How you behave in a given
situation depends on the circumstances. You treat family, friends, and
your in-group the best you can, and you let the rest of the world take
care of itself. Their in-groups will protect them. There canít be absolutes
because everything depends on whom youíre dealing with. No one expects
life to be fair. Exceptions will always be made for certain.
- Universalism Exercise
While The Accident is a useful and informative single event,
the way a culture follows a Particularist model or a Universalist one has much
wider implications. If you would like to see how you personally score on this
scale, please take the following self-scoring quiz.
In the following exercise, check the statement that
does not belong in the group of four, either because it reflects a
universalist attitude and all the others are particularist, or vice
Click on Suggested answers