A huge intellectual and artistic history has portrayed a broad difference between the East and the West. In the ‘Western World’, goes the argument, people are more individualistic, whereas, in the East, people are more collectivistic. What could possibly explain this difference? 

The following article from the BBC looks closely at this distinction from a multidisciplinary perspective, and introduces us to a new and surprising way to think about it. The difference between East and West, argues Thomas Talheim at the University of Chicago, could be a question of looking at the difference between growing rice and wheat.

For those looking to apply for HSPS, Archeology and Anthropology, Human Sciences, Geography, Psychology, and PBS, this is an interesting read. Which theory do you agree with? For further investigation of the link between geography, technology and culture, I suggest you have a gander at Jared Diamond’s book, ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’. For those wanting to read a classic anthropological text that looks at the individualism/collectivism distinction from an economic perspective (relevant also for Economics and History applicants), I strongly recommend ‘The Gift’ by Marcel Mauss and Marilyn Strathern’s (much later, and very challenging) ‘The Gender of the Gift’. 

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