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Solutions to the relationship between individuals and society in Vietnam

(LLCT) - At the moment, Vietnam is developing a socialist-oriented market economy and integrating into the world. The premise for building a socialist society looking toward the future is looking for a solution to the relationship between society and individuals. Retaining a socialistic orientation is a basic condition for creating a strong, harmonious relationship between society and individuals in a way that promotes the development of both. In other words, the relationship between society and individuals is resolved only through socialism.

To build and strengthen this relationship, attention should be paid to the following issues:

First, it is necessary to confirm that the country is in the midst of a transitional period to socialism. “This is a profound and thorough revolution, a struggle between the old and the new to create changes in the quality of different aspects of life. This requires a long transitional period with many steps in development and many interleaving economic and social forms”(1). We have not achieved pure socialism yet, and therefore we cannot find a solution to the relationship between society and individuals in the sense of complete socialism. Vietnam is currently going through many transitional economic and social reforms, so the solutions we create must be flexible and suitable with each of these reforms. However, this doesn’t mean that this process should be done carelessly. It should be based upon socialism, and the leadership and management of the Vietnamese Communist Party and State. The transitional period to socialism in Vietnam has been rather long, thus we can not afford to be subjective and impatient. However, we also cannot wait until socialism is fully built to reconcile this relationship. Right now we need to actively seek solutions within each policy, each step of development, and each specific field. Developing socialism will positively affect this process.

Second, it is vital to prevent and oppose the extreme absolutism of collectivism. Before Doi Moi (Renewal) in 1986, our subjectivism, impatience, voluntarism, and misunderstanding of socialism’s characteristics led us to believe that we had built socialism. We were not fully aware of the relationship between society and individuals - we seemed to forget individuals and prioritize community only. We sacrificed individuals for communities. This led to a serious consequences which destroyed the development of individuals and led people to mistake collectivism for socialism. For that reason, many believed that socialism overlooked individuals to honor collectivism. When collectivism is absolutized, “economic motives” or “economic benefits”- including practical economic benefits - are separated from other objectives. Consequently, individuals will lose their motivation, and both society and individuals will be negatively affected and weakly developed.

Collectivism is not inherently bad, but it is a mistake to make it an absolute and to forget the value of individuals. At the same time, it is necessary to oppose absolute individualism. Collectivism and individualism are two wrong extremes in finding a solution to the relationship between society and individuals. “Individualism is a basic form of egoism which pursues selfish benefits, hedonistic tendencies, greed, and fame”(2). People believing only in individualism sacrifice the benefits of collectives, communities, and societies for their own benefits. Individualism creates insensitive people who are indifferent to the suffering, difficulties, and bad luck of their fellow citizens. Individualism can lead to many social evils and must be opposed.    

Third, it is important to surmount centralized subsidized mechanisms and their negative effects. Centralized subsidized mechanisms are only suitable in war conditions, when we need to concentrate human and material resources in order to liberate the nation. These mechanisms helped develop the economy in the North and aided the struggle for independence in the South. However, this mechanism is not effective in peace and international integration. In reality, this mechanism destroyed individuals’ motivation and creativity and forced them to submit passively. Citizens gradually lost independent thinking, action, and creativity and became passive and dependent. A society with passive and dependent individuals becomes stagnant and cannot reform or develop on its own. This has a negative effect on the relationship between society and individuals. Collectivism may be exploited or corrupted to exterminate genuine individuals. Both individuals and society suffer in these situations. Therefore, it is difficult to neutralize the relationship between an individual and society. According to a researcher, “when centralized subsidized mechanisms prevent individuals from seeking income and using their own possessions for personal purposes, it negatively impacts their moral values, attitudes, lifestyles, and conducts, although these impacts are slow and nearly invisible”(3).     

The socialist-oriented market economy has been developed to repair the damage caused by centralized subsidized mechanisms. Alongside efforts to find solutions to the economy, it is necessary to take comprehensive measures related to regulations on communication, education, and persuasion. Moreover, in reality there still exist forces who want to maintain centralized subsidized mechanisms, which they disguise to take advantage of citizens. This creates an unfair relationship between individuals and society. Therefore, when finding a solution to preserving social orientation, it is important to have a strong determination to repair the damage of centralized subsidized mechanism and its consequences.

Fourth, creating wealthy people, a strong country, democracy, equality and civilization are the goals of finding a solution to the relationship between individuals and society. These are also the goals that we are building under socialism and Party leadership.

History has made it clear that under exploitative conditions such as slavery, feudalism or capitalism, the relationship between individuals and society is never settled in a harmonious or suitable way. When an individual develops somehow different from social standards they often face injustice and inequality. Therefore, the relationship between individuals and society in Vietnam must ensure the goals of socialism. Only through the development of socialism can individuals and society fully develop and repair and redeem unsuitable situations. Healthy individuals who live harmoniously can promote the positive, civilized development of society and individuals.    

Fifth, it is vital to prevent the negative and illegitimate self-benefit of some groups. During a socialist-oriented market economy in transitional period, it will inevitably face the existence of self-interest groups. Some of these groups are legitimate, others are inappropriate and improper. The goals of legitimate groups are suitable with the rest of society. Properly pursuing self-benefits helps prevent and repair shortcomings in the centralized subsidized mechanism and promotes development. Improper self benefits are those that are not suitable with the overall well-being of society. This kind of benefit is concealed within collective or societal benefits, making them very difficult to discover. Those who promote this are trying to seek their own benefits from state policies. Their self-serving benefits are concealed and legitimized by state policies. Therefore, when looking for a solution to the relationship between individuals and the society, it is necessary to oppose illegitimate self-benefit and create equality. One way to combat illegitimate self benefits is to fight against privilege, corruption, and other causes of societal inequality. Privilege and inequality prevent the formation of a relationship between individuals and society. Therefore, it is crucial to perfect the law system, democratize society, improve supervision of civil servants, raise awareness of party members’ moral values, and fairly punish those accused of corruption.    

Sixth, it is vital to carry out good Party distribution mechanisms: “Be fair in distributing production factors, and utilizing opportunities and conditions. The distribution of products is mainly based on working results, economic effectiveness, contribution of capital and other resources, and the social welfare system”(4). These conditions promote the social equality of each individual, which includes economic equality or equality in the distribution of production factors. This mechanism also helps abolish privilege and illegitimate self benefit, which in turn helps determine a satisfactory solution to the relationship between individuals and society. Additionally, equal distribution based on working results, economic effectiveness, and the contribution of capital and other resources also contributes to social equality. Ensuring general social equality gives each individual a chance to develop, and allows society to develop harmoniously alongside them.

Therefore, this distribution mechanism ensures a socialist economic foundation. However, this mechanism can only be carried out successfully when the State has a leading role in the economy and maintains public ownership of main production materials. If the state economic sector is not strong enough and production is privatized, it is difficult to overcome the shortcomings of previous regimes. 

Seventh, “educating well-rounded Vietnamese people must be a goal in the  development strategy. Summarize a standard cultural value system for Vietnamese people to follow throughout the industrialization, modernization, and cultural integration period. Create an environment that helps citizens develop their personality, moral values, knowledge, ability, physical strength, responsibility and sense of law abiding”(5). If that mission is completed, we can develop the personality of modern Vietnamese people in their satisfactory relationship with society. Then we can find a suitable solution to the relationship between individuals and society and meet our goal of creating wealthy people, a strong country, democracy, equality, and civilization.  

Full awareness and good implementation of the seven aforementioned issues in dealing with the relationship between individuals and the society contribute to preserving the country’s socialist orientation. A socialist orientation and a harmonious relationship between individuals and greater society gives all citizens opportunities to prosper.


(1), (4) CPV: Documents of the 11th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.70, 206.

(2) Vietnamese Encyclopedia, vol. 1, Vietnam Polytechnic Publisher, Hanoi, 1995, p.495.

(3) The preface by Dinh Minh Tuan for the Vietnamese version of the book “The road to serfdom” by F.A. Hayek, Tri Thuc Publisher, Hanoi, 2009, p.12.

 (5) CPV: Documents of the 12th National Congress, Office of the Party Central Committee, 2016, Hanoi, pp.126-127.

Prof.,  Dr. Tran Van Phong

Institute of Philosophy,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics 


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