Interdependence refers to the connection between two or more individuals or entities where they depend on each other to attain a common objective.
If two or more individuals or entities rely on each other, the outcome of one will affect the outcome of the other.
For example, let’s take trade between two countries is often based on interdependence.
Country A may rely on Country B to supply raw materials. In contrast, Country B may rely on Country A to purchase its finished products from those raw materials.
Suppose one country stops or significantly reduces its trade with the other. In case of such a situation, both countries may suffer economically, politically, and socially.
Interdependence may also be observed in different contexts of human life, from connections within families and work environments to ecological ones.
Definition of Interdependence
Interdependence refers to the mutually reliant relationship between two or more parties – individuals, regions, countries, or corporations – that rely on one another to survive.
According to Kawanami (2020), interdependence is:
“…the condition of a group of people or things that all depend on each other” (p. 146).
This can involve anything from economic and political systems to relationships between organisms and ecosystems.
Interdependence involves multiple parties where one party has resources that the other party needs to meet its requirements, and this transfer of resources works mutually. Both parties help each other to meet their needs (Sharma, 2015).
For example, a business may need employees to complete tasks, while the employees require wages to meet their financial needs.
Interdependence is important because it allows for specialization in producing certain goods and services, which increases efficiency and leads to a stronger economy.
It also fosters collaboration and harmony among nations. A case in point is when two conflicting countries can iron out their differences and reach a trade agreement due to their economic interdependence.
- Family Systems: Every member of a family system relies on each other for emotional or physical support, household tasks, or for shared living expenses.
- Ecological Systems: Any ecological system heavily depends on the other ecosystem members to sustain life. For instance, if a bee is removed, the environment cannot sustain itself since it is integral to pollination.
- Business Partnerships: Companies or business ventures working together to share resources, expertise, and knowledge builds interdependence between the partners.
- Sports Teams: Each player on a sports team has a unique set of skills, as interdependence is created from the need to work together to achieve success as a team.
- Online Communities: Interdependence in online communities is demonstrated by users’ contributions to discussions, reviews, and information sharing, which encourages more people to interact and respond, linking value and feedback.
- Road Traffic Systems: Different modes of transportation, such as bikes, cars, buses, and trains, rely on the interaction between each other’s movements to navigate the road safely.
- Political Systems: Interdependence is evident in political systems when different political parties cooperate to work for a communal goal while respecting each other’s viewpoints and preferences
- Agriculture and Farming: Crops, farm animals, and other inputs require close interdependence between farmers and suppliers, where a disruption in the supply chain of one component may cause an interruption in the whole system.
- Technology and Industry: Technology innovation thrives on building on the existing product, services, and core technology. Therefore, its different segments depend on each other’s research and production to keep up with the demands of the ever-evolving markets.
- Healthcare System: All doctors and nurses rely on each other to provide a comprehensive service for patients. This interdependence is even more apparent in times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, as all providers were dependent on each other more than ever to provide the best care possible.
Application of Interdependence in Different Facets of Life
Interdependence can be observed in various aspects of life, from the four spheres to education.
Here are some of these spheres and their application of interdependence:
1. The Four Spheres
Interdependence on the Four Spheres of Life highlights the relationship between the spheres that make up our planet. These include the Lithosphere, Hydrosphere, Atmosphere, and Biosphere.
All four spheres are interdependent, and our world would be a mess without one another (Vodden et al., 2019).
For example, the atmosphere (layer of gases surrounding the earth) depends on the hydrosphere (all of the water on earth) for the water cycle to occur, providing rain to sustain plant and animal life in the biosphere.
2. Business World
Interdependence is found in interdependent teams and relationships in businesses.
For example, if one team member is not completing their assigned task, then that could cause a delay in the entire project (Sharma, 2015).
So, if every team member collaborates and finishes their tasks within the given time frame, it would lead to the timely completion of the project, resulting in the growth of the business.
Consequently, interdependence in the business world creates unity and helps businesses achieve their goals.
Human interdependence and globalization go hand in hand. The effects of globalization have caused different countries and cultures to depend on one another for their needs (Di Mauro et al., 2009).
For instance, the United States may import textiles from China due to cheaper manufacturing costs. In contrast, China may import technology and machinery from the US.
The interdependence between countries enables them to trade ideas, products, and services, resulting in the creation of global markets, such as thes
In education, social interdependence theory creates a setting where learning and growth depend on the collaboration and support of other individuals.
Students can achieve academic goals and develop critical social skills through collaborative learning and teaching (Sharma, 2015).
For instance, group projects encourage learners to apply their individual strengths to benefit the group while developing communication and collaboration skills. It promotes teamwork and an appreciation for diversity.
Interdependence of life in the ecosystem promotes diversity and balance. In essence, organisms depend on each other for survival (Sharma, 2015).
Pollinators such as bees and butterflies rely on flowers for food, while flowers depend on pollinators for reproduction. In general, a complex network of interdependence exists among different species for their survival.
Furthermore, humans rely on ecosystems to obtain vital resources like food, water, and fresh air. This type of interdependence in ecology promotes a sense of stewardship and conservation of natural resources.
So, interdependence is everywhere around us, promoting an attitude of togetherness, unity, and community.
Benefits of Interdependence
The concept of interdependence provides many economic and social benefits and furnishes a bridge toward a better world.
The benefits of interdependence include:
- Business and Economics – Contemporary economy operates on the interdependence between nations and specific businesses in any field. It may include trade, investment, and other economic activities. Such partnerships help optimize resources and decrease expenses, enhancing efficiency and profits.
- International Relations – Countries rely on each other for diplomacy, security, and trade agreements. For example, one country may benefit from trade with another, providing each with access to goods and services they cannot produce themselves.
- Social Psychology – Interdependence is often studied in social psychology, where it is used to promote positive social behavior and reduce conflict. Encouraging people to work together toward common goals can improve relationships and overall societal improvement.
- Ecology – In nature, interdependence plays a crucial role in maintaining ecosystems. Different species interact in complex ways, forming a balance of interdependence where each species relies on others for survival.
- Science and Technology – In research and development, collaboration and interdependence help to achieve scientific breakthroughs and technological advancements. By pooling resources and expertise, researchers can share knowledge and tools to develop new innovations.
Drawbacks of Interdependence
While interdependence has many benefits, it also has some potential drawbacks, from loss of independence to conflicts.
Here are some of the most common:
- Loss of Independence: Interdependence can often result in the loss of independence for individuals, as they become reliant on others to meet their needs or goals. This can create a sense of vulnerability or a lack of control over one’s life.
- Mitigated Responsibility: When multiple parties are involved in a situation or task, it can be difficult to determine who is ultimately responsible for the outcome. This can lead to the shirking of responsibilities or the diffusion of accountability, as individuals or entities may feel less invested in the success or failure of the group effort.
- Reduced Flexibility: Since interdependence requires a high degree of coordination and cooperation, it can limit the flexibility or adaptability of individuals or entities. In situations where changes need to be made rapidly in response to new circumstances or information, interdependence can potentially hinder the ability to be agile and responsive.
- Dependence on Performance: When individuals or entities/countries are mutually dependent, they rely on each other to perform adequately for the collective effort to succeed. When one party’s performance is lacking or inconsistent, it can negatively impact the entire group’s outcome.
- Conflict: Interdependence can also lead to conflicts between individuals or even countries with competing interests. Disagreements over goals or responsibilities can escalate into more serious disputes, creating tension and animosity.
Interdependence is a crucial concept of our interconnected world, providing numerous benefits in economics, international relations, social psychology, ecology, and technology.
This means that different aspects of human lives are interconnected. So, people need to collaborate and cooperate to achieve positive results for themselves, their communities, and the world.
Still, despite its benefits, interdependence can also cause some negative effects, including a loss of independence for some parties or leading to a conflict between them.
So, it is important to stay informed about these possible problems in order to handle them well and ensure that interdependence benefits everyone involved.
Di Mauro, F., Dees, S., & Mckibbin, W. J. (2009). Globalisation, regionalism and economic interdependence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kawanami, H. (2020). The culture of giving in Myanmar. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Sharma, K. (2015). Interdependence: Biology and beyond. New York: Fordham University Press.
Vodden, K., Douglas, D. J., Markey, S., Minnes, S., & Reimer, B. (2019). The theory, practice and potential of regional development. New York: Routledge.