Interdependence describes relationships in which members of the group are mutually dependent on the others. This concept differs from a dependence relationship, where some members are dependent and some are not.
In an interdependent relationship, participants may be emotionally, economically, ecologically and/or morally reliant on and responsible to each other. An interdependent relationship can arise between two or more cooperative autonomous participants (e.g. - co-op). Some people advocate freedom or independence as the ultimate good; others do the same with devotion to one's family, community, or society. Interdependence can be a common ground between these aspirations.
Authors and leaders have written and spoken about interdependence throughout history, including Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Stephen Covey. Karl Marx first used the term interdependence in the Communist Manifesto (1848) in describing the universal interdependence of nations in comparison to the old local and national seclusion of independence and self-sufficiency.
The various classical civilizations over the ages established vast trading networks with one another. The exchange of goods and ideas occurred from the time of the early Indian Empire on the Indus River, all the way up to the Roman Empire on the Mediterranean. In some cases, this exchange was very one sided, but remain mutually beneficial despite this.
Today, international interdependence is often said to be strong and to have increased. International trade is taken to be an indicator of interdependence, and its high and, with some interruptions, rapidly growing values are accepted as evidence of the increasing interdependence of nations. Between 1820 and 1992, world population increased 5-fold, income per head 8-fold, world income 40-fold, and world trade 540-fold. Sometimes international financial flows are taken as the measure of interdependence.
Measuring international interdependence
International disintegration is entirely consistent with a high degree of international interdependence. For interdependence exists when one country by unilateral action can inflict harm on (or provide benefits to) other countries. Competitive protectionism, devaluation, deflation, or pollution of the air and sea beyond national boundaries are instances.
Interdependence is measured by the costs of severing the relationship (or the benefits of developing it). The higher the costs to one country, the greater is the degree of dependence of that country. If a small country benefits more from the international division of labor than a large country, its dependence is greater. If both partners to a transaction were to incur high costs from severing economic links, there would be interdependence.
Role of interdependence in feminist philosophy
In the Ethics of care approach to morality, Nel Noddings emphasises the interdependence of people. She saw it as a hidden fact which is often unseen or not discussed in a male dominated, justice and judgment based approach to ethics. Carol Gilligan was an early proponent of the view that interdependence rather than rules underlay the basis of morality
Business and commerce
There is a view that computer technology has allowed greater communication, interaction and interdependence. It is thought that this has massively helped the introduction and start up of new ideas and enterprises. This is supported by the work of Stephen Covey. Covey maintains that we function best as innovators when we recognise, and work towards, the role of interdependence.
- Types of interdependence in organizational structure
In business people and departments must rely on one another to share information, financial resources, equipment and more, making interpersonal communication highly valuable to a company and oneself in order for a successful outcome.
Pooled interdependence is the lowest form of interdependence resulting in the least amount of conflict. Departments do not directly depend or interact with one another, however they do draw resources from a shared source. Every separate department contributes to an overall goal, the outputs of each department are then pooled at an organizational level. Although the success and failure of each department do not directly affect one another, it does affect the overall success of the company therefore indirectly affecting one another. Pooled interdependence requires standardization in rules and operating procedures. An example of pooled interdependence is the clothing retail store The Gap. Each store acts as its own separate department with its own resources (operating budget, staff, etc.) While each store rarely interacts with one another, the success or failure of each store affects the company overall, which then affects each individual store.
Sequential interdependence is an asymmetrical chain of one way interactions. The output of one unit become the input for another unit. There is an increase in communication increasing the potential for conflict. People in the early part of the chain would remain more independent but the people in the latter part of the chain would be highly dependent on the first part. A major concern would be performance variability in the first part of the chain because it has a direct effect on the productivity of the later parts. Managing an environment with sequential interdependence would require adaptive planning and scheduling. An example of sequential interdependence would be Nissan. The engine and other separate parts of the car are assembled in separate plants and then are shipped to one site to build the final product. If the engine plant is running behind and not shipped in time, it affects the final product being completed.
Reciprocal interdependence has the highest potential for conflict because it requires the most amount of communication having the output and input of activities flow both ways between units. This network of two way relationships requires departmental dependency to create a successful outcome. The direct interaction between co-workers can cause a tight interconnection causing high level of productivity or can cause a high level of conflict. Managing a reciprocal interdependent work environment would require thorough constant information sharing. An example would be the Marriott hotel. The front desk is dependent on housekeeping to provide clean rooms to guests when they arrive and housekeeping is dependent on the front desk to share the information on what rooms need to be cleaned. .
Comprehensive interdependence is an even tighter network of reciprocal interdependence. The potential for conflicts is very high due to the complexity of the interdependence. With an increase in frequent and intense communication, and a greater duration of time spent with one another, a difference in opinions or goals is very likely. The loss or addition of a team member can greatly affect the performance of the group. An example would be a brand management firm that depends on the all the departments for information. The market research department would need to work with product design as well as the sales department and vice versa to achieve effective and efficient productivity.
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- The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.
William James, Great Men, Great Thoughts, and the Environment, Atlantic Monthly, October, 1880
- Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being. Without interrelation with society he cannot realize his oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism. His social interdependence enables him to test his faith and to prove himself on the touchstone of reality.
- The basic thought that guides these specific means of national recovery is not narrowly nationalistic. It is the insistence, as a first consideration, upon the interdependence of the various elements in all parts of the United States – a recognition of the old and permanently important manifestation of the American spirit of the pioneer.
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, 1932
- When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra, Houghton Mifflin, 1911, Chapter 7
- ... for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
- Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
- Independent thinking alone is not suited to interdependent reality. Independent people who do not have the maturity to think and act interdependently may be good individual producers, but they won't be good leaders or team players. They're not coming from the paradigm of interdependence necessary to succeed in marriage, family, or organizational reality.
- Hence, international co-operation and solidarity and the relentless search for consensus become an absolute imperative. They are the only possible alternative for all nations, whose interdependence is being made increasingly manifest by the rapid development of production technology, of transport and communications, as well as by the overhanging threat of deterioration of the environment and exhaustion of natural resources. And what is one to say of the frightful accumulation of means of destruction in a world facing the no less frightful problems of hunger, disease and ignorance?
Federico Mayor, Address to the "Symposium 80" on International Cultural Relations: Bridges Across Frontiers, Bonn, 27 May 1980
- ... so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
- Declaration of Interdependence
- Involution (esoterism)
- Integral thought - Both science and spirituality are necessary
- Joint decision traps - Overcoming social and political barriers
- Pratitya-samutpada - Interdependence in Buddhist thought
- Social cohesion
- Madison. 1995
- *Streeten, Paul. Integration, Interdependence, and Globalization. <http://www.imf.org/external/pub/ft/fadd/2001/06/street.en.htm>
- *Noddings, Nel, ed. Educating Citizens for the olympics. New York: Teacher's College Press. 2005.
- *Gilligan, Carol. In A Different Voice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1982.
- Jagger, Alison. “Caring as a Feminist Practice of Moral Reason.” in Virginia Held (Editor), Carol W. Oberbrunner (Editor) Justice and Care: Essential Readings in Feminist Ethics.
- Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey (1989)
- Griffin, Ricky W., and Moorehead, Gregory. Organizational Behavior: Managing People and Organization. Cenage Learning. 2011.
- Wagner, John, and Lollenback, John. Organizational Behavior: Searing competitive advantage. Taylor and Francis. 2009.
- Murray, Lotoya. Three Types of Interdependence in an Organizational Structure. Houston. Hearst Communications. 4 December 2012.<http://smallbusiness.chron.com>