Interdependence – Concept, economic, social, positive and negative

We explain what interdependence is and why it can be positive or negative. Also, economic and social interdependence.

Interdependence implies a need between all the elements involved.

What is interdependence?

By the word interdependence we understand, in numerous and diverse contexts, any form of reciprocal dependence, that is, the relationship in which two or more individuals or entities require each other, they need each other.

This meaning is easy to deduce if we observe that the word is made up of the prefix “inter” that denotes correspondence, reciprocity, or simply something that is in the middle; the verb “depend” and the suffix “-cia” that expresses condition.

Interdependence is discussed and reflected from many points of view, considering biological, personal, social, economic, institutional relationships, and a long etcetera.

In all cases, however, the sense of reciprocal necessity remains: in every interdependent relationship, if one of the terms fails or is omitted, the other will suffer the consequences; If one of them can continue unchanged in the absence of the other, it cannot be said of interdependence.

The Indian philosopher Mahatma Ghandi (1869-1948) was one of the great defenders of this concept as the ideal method for forming societies and for relations between nations, affirming that recognizing how much we humans need each other is the beginning for peace, fairness and the suppression of selfishness.

Positive and negative interdependence

According to the traditional approach, interdependence in any field can be classified into two types: positive and negative.

  • Positive interdependence. It is one that promotes mutual benefit through the relationship of established need, to the extent that the two individuals benefit from their bond. For example, two nations whose foreign trade is interdependent, that is, that need to maintain their commercial link in the same and crucial measure, will promote the exchange of goods and knowledge in a much more narrow and simple way than two nations whose trade relations are distant or between which there is no trade.
  • Negative interdependence. It is that, on the contrary, that weakens dependent individuals, which generally has the effect of enlarging mutual dependence to levels where neither of them can satisfy the needs that the bond initially posed. This type of negative interdependence relationship usually occurs, to insist on the same example, between nations whose trade relations are so mutually necessary that they are willing to forgive or turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed by their partner, coming to justify wars and crimes against humanity in order to maintain the bond of mutual dependence.

Economic interdependence

economic interdependence
Profits from what we produce allow us to buy what others produce.

Interdependence is a basic and key concept in the economy, which starts from an observable reality: nobody produces absolutely everything they need to live, and to that extent society exists so that some of us produce what others need and vice versa.

Contemporary economy works based on the need to produce in a specialized way and trade with other producers, so that what we are unable to produce we can buy with the money received from the sale of what we do produce.

The same is true between nations, for example. Exports and imports constitute a trade balance that allows offering what is produced and obtaining what is demanded, although this process does not always take place precisely in friendly terms and of mutual dependence, since other non-economic factors intervene in it.

Social interdependence

In a similar way to the previous case, social interdependence means that, as a society, human beings require each other reciprocally, since we are gregarious animals (we always tend towards the herd).

This aspect of our species has been extensively studied by sociology, social psychology and even the educational sciences, since it is shown that human beings reach their greatest potential when they have meaningful relationships with others: precisely, interdependent, associative relationships, in which it is given and received.