A Post-Hofstedeian Notion of CultureProfessor Dr. Brendan McSweeneyChair in Management, Royal Holloway, University of London/Visiting Professor in Business Administration, School ofBusiness, Stockholm University
Why bother? Why is the cultural research of Geert Hofstede, and similar work, a desirable/useful object of review? Diversity/inter-culturality presents huge intellectual and practical challenges. Within the business school communities and management consultancy arenas Hofstede’s, and similar work, has an immense following. As of this morning, Hofstede’s work has been cited almost 61,000 times. Is his work a road-bridge or a road-block?
Hofstede’s Claims To have empirically identified “found” the national cultures (or differences between such cultures) of numerous countries. The cultures or differences between them are described on the basis of the six [bi-polar] “dimensions” of national culture viz. Power-distance – attitudes about power distribution Uncertainty Avoidance – high-low uncertainty tolerance Individualism vs Collectivism Masculinity vs Femininity ‘Confucian Dynamism’ – long vs short-term time orientation More recently (2010) Indulgence vs. Restraint And that these dimensions strongly influence national thinking, feeling, and acting, as well as organizations, institutions, etc. in “predictable ways”
• “The data obtained from within a single MNC does have the power to uncover the secrets of entire national cultures” (Hofstede,1980).• “[N]ational values” are “given facts, as hard as country’s geographic position or its weather” (Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005)• In ... masculine cultures ... there is a feeling that conflicts should be resolved by a good fight ... The industrial relations scene in these countries is marked by such fights ... In feminine cultures ... there is a preference for resolving conflicts by compromise and negotiations” (Hofstede, 2010; Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005: 143)(Hofstede, Hofstede & Minkov, 2010), and elsewhere.• Freud was an Austrian; and there are good reasons in the culture profile of Austria in the IBM data why his theory would be conceived in Austria rather than elsewhere” (Hofstede, 2001; 1980).• “The five main dimensions along which the dominant value systems in more than 50 countries can be ordered and that [they] affect human thinking, feeling, and acting, as well as organizations and institutions, in predictable ways” (Hofstede, 2001: xix
This particular notion of culture and itssupposed consequences is not unique toHofstede The claim that populations (civilizations, regions, countries, organizations, ethnic (and other sub-national groups) are distinguishable on the basis of distinct, shared, enduring, causal, and identifiable cultures (defined as subjective values) has considerable following both as an explanation and a guide to action.
According to David Hickson and Derek Pugh national culture “lie[s] beneath [a society’s] characteristic arts, clothes, food, ways of greeting and meeting, ways of working together, ways of communicating, and so on” (1995: 17). Nancy Adler, states that a national “cultural orientation describes the attitude of most people most of the time” (2002: 19). David Landes, states that: “culture makes almost all the difference” (2000: 2)
Many varieties of culture as enduring,identifiable, subjective valueconfigurations
A long-standing view In 1797 the French counter-revolutionary Joseph de Maistre declared “I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians. But for man, I declare I have never in my life met him.” W. B. Yeats claim that there was a national "Collective Unconscious or Anima Mundi of the race" (1922) W. W. M. Eiselen – the intellectual architect of apartheid - stated in 1929 that “culture not race was the true basis of difference, the sign of destiny” A. J. P. Taylor pronounced that: ‘The problem with Hitler was that he was German’ (in Davies, 1999)
Understanding and managingdiversity As academics or/and advisors/consultants we seek to, or are expected to, identify, teach, and otherwise communicate methods of management that create enduring success for uninational and multinational organizations – whether for- or not-for-profit. But there is a gap between the speculative generalisations/practical expected of us about complex worlds and what meets the standards of rigorous scholarship (March & Sutton, 1997) .
Conditions i. the world is not ‘flat’; ii. performance advantages are unstable; iii. the causes of success are complex; iv. atomistic explanations of action are not comprehensive; and v. causes are not always reducible to the exterior/materialistic.Because of these (and other) conditions, understanding and/or managing transnational business activities is immensely challenging.
Cultural values theories therefore address major intellectual and practical challenges, but how realistic and/or useful are these theories?
My view, in short ... As an academic, and also as someone engaged in managing across many country borders, in my opinion, partitioning populations (civilizations, regions, countries, organizations, ethnic (and other sub-national groups) on the basis that they are distinguishable from other populations on the basis distinct, shared, enduring, causal, and identifiable cultures (defined as configurations of subjective values) is an intellectual cul-de-sac; lacks scholarly rigour; and is not merely useless, but is misleading.
‘Good’ theory? Theory as surprise: defamiliarising – Hofstede et al. perhaps once useful against the global one best way view – but overfamiliar now. And best achieved through descriptions of real differences Theory as covering laws? Every good theory does not consist of covering laws, but the culture as values theories claim to have identified such generalisations and thus should be judged against that criterion. Theory as a predictor: temperate or imperious versions – some level important if it is to be useful as a guide to action – case-study of predictive failure of Hofstede’s claims. Theory as narrative: an explanation (story) that describes the process, or sequence of events, that suggests a relationship between factors/variables. Distinct from stories/cases presented as evidence of a covering law. Examine one of Hofstede’s alleged cases.
8 Tests of a Theory of Causality1. Well Specified or Too Vague: Is its definition/description precise/demarcated? Or is it underspecified or a composite?2. Internally Uniform or Heterogeneous: If causal, is it represented as a coherent (homogeneous) force or as incoherent (heterogeneous)?3. Identified by Valid Methods or a Product of Inappropriate Processes: Assuming it exits, is it identifiable and with sufficient degrees of accuracy and/or by justifiable means? Or are its descriptions imprecise and/or the product of unsound processes ?4. Causal at One Level or All levels: Assuming they are accurate, are the descriptions accurate about/useful enough at one societal level only or valid for all levels?5. Strong, Weak, or Nil Causality: If causal (i) how strong is that influence; and (ii) is that influence distinguishable from other causes? Or is action usually an outcome of multiple and complex factors?6. Enduring or Changing: If causal, are outcomes stable or variable?7. Uniformity or Diversity in a Domain: Is it uniform in content and consequences across its claimed domain (country, or whatever)? Or is there intra-domain diversity?8. Strong or Weak Predictive Power: Do the depictions provide good predictions? Or are many false predictions observed?
A broadly similar debate is taking place within the institutional, neo-institutional, community. For an overview see: special issue of Economy and Society 38, 4. 2009. See also the journal Socio-Economic Review and books by Colin Crouch, Wofgang Streeck.
Test 1: Well Specified or Too Vague?2. From a particular academic/management consultancy firm, is the definition/description of culture employed precise/demarcated enough? Or is it underspecified or a composite? and4. Generally, is there even a broad consensus about what the term culture means – or is there a multiplicity of meanings?
Which notion of culture?There is no consensual definition of ‘culture’. As early as the 1950s, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn estimated – in a survey of English language sources only - that there were already over 160 definitions of culture (“and its near-synonym civilization”) in use.And those multiple definitions are usually underspecified.
Which/What Culture? Widely used to indicate that societal context is influential. Johns (2006), for instance, describes ‘national culture’ as “a contextual imperative”. Of course, context matters – useful counter to pure notions of individuality - but that does not get us very far. What are its/their properties, degree, and type of influence?
Identity Also confused with the notion of ‘identity’.
It is used in an objective sense: rituals of daily life, ceremonies, art forms, fashion, customs, means of social differentiation, and so forth And in a subjective (psychological) sense. In the latter, views of the causal influence of culture ranges from that as a supremely independent variable, the superordinate power in society to, at the other extreme, a mere powerless epiphenomenon.
Subjective• A variety of implicit or explicit definitions of ‘culture’ are employed by management/business academics/consultants, but the dominant one is that of: (a) “mental programming” – subjective values.• A notion of culture long out-of-favour in most other disciplines, including anthropology.• And as (b) highly influential – even the exclusive cause – thus inappropriately neglecting other cultural and non-cultural influences.• And (c) reductive - the notion of ‘mind’ is unclear and complex, and not reducible merely to ‘values’ (of which, in any event, there is no consensual definition).• A notion of ‘mind’ needs also to consider: preferences, desires, goals, needs, norms, traits, aversions, tastes, assumptions, and
That is not to criticise studies which focus exclusively on just one of: values; preferences, desires, goals, needs, norms, traits, aversions, tastes, assumptions, attractions, or whatever. Focus, parsimony, strategic reduction – abstracting away enough of the world’s complexity to develop pointed explanations - are often necessary, BUT ... given the totalizing claims made for subjective culture and its alleged comprehensive “consequences”, a narrow focus of research which claims to explain so much is, to say the least, questionable.
“Software of the Mind”(Hofstede, 1980, 2010., etc.) Aside from the unobserveability of ‘Values’, they are not the equivalent of MS-DOS or Mac OS X
Test 1 (Adequately Specified?)Conclusion ‘Culture’ is an over-used and under-specified term. But in management it is often – unjustifiably - defined narrowly as endogenous, highly influential (even determinate) ‘values’.
Test 2(Coherent or Incoherent?) Internal Uniformity: Is the culture a stable uniformity (dammed up into a neat, separate, ‘pond’) or a dynamic cocktail (perhaps containing some patterns, but overall a loose assemblage)? Why does this matter? If the latter, uniform outcomes are not possible.
Uniform culture – Uniform action The assumption of cultural determinism alone does not exclude the possibility of inconsistent, varying, actions within, or outside of, organizations. What the culture as subjective values model also supposes is that for each specific arena or category of actors (civilization, country, ethnic group, or whatever) culture is coherent, that is: uniform, non- contradictory.
Coherent (unambiguous/non-contradictory) The notion of cultural coherence probably has its roots in romanticism “with all of the variations of the idea of the Geist (spirit) of an age or a people” (Appadural, 1988: 41). Anthropologists, Pitrim Sorokin, the early Ruth Benedict, and Gregory Bateson, all argued that each culture has a single ethos. Hofstede describes each culture a “whole” (2001: 17). In sum, as Carl Ratner (2005: 61) states “individuals … participate in a common, coherent culture that is structurally integrated at the societal level.”
In contrast: Edward Burnet Tyler characterized culture as a thing of “shreds and patches”. Bronislaw Malinowski states that “human cultural reality is not a consistent or logical scheme, but rather a seething mixture of conflicting principles”. A. L. Kroeber, described the notion of “total [cultural] integration” as an “ideal condition invented by a few anthropologists not well versed in history”. Richard Merelman describes culture in the US as a “loosely bounded fabric, ill-organized, permeable, inconsistent”. Amitai Etzioni describes the myth of cultural coherence as: “One of the most deep-seated fallacies in social science”.
• Endogenous change is inconceivable.• As Margaret Archer states: “The net effect of this insistence on cultural compactness [is to preclude] any theory of cultural development springing from internal dynamics ... internal dynamics are surrendered to external ones” (1988: 6).• Bizarrely, Hofstede claims that on the very few occasions when there is an externally caused change in a national culture, the change occurs not only across that country but also within all countries throughout the world. National cultures very rarely change, he states, but when they do, “they change in formation” across the globe, that is to say their “relative position or ranking” in his five national cultural indices are unaffected (2001: 36).
Studies1. Many studies have found incoherence (incompleteness, illogicality, gaps, cracks, hybridity, remixing, contradictions, ambiguity, slippages, conflicts, malleability) within cultures. (This is now the standard view in anthropology)(Kuper, 2003).3. Even if individual cultures are supposed to be coherent it does not follow that there will be no contradiction, gaps, frictions, ambiguities at cultural interfaces.5. Cultural coherence allows no room for individuals to exploit – it is a theory of cultural automatons. We are social but not entirely socialized (Wrong, 1961).
Hindu civilization? In addition to multiple varieties of Hinduism – the notion that it is a single religion is a colonial constructed myth. There are approximately 36,000 different Hindu gods and goddesses. The extent and ways in which religion influences social action varies enormously, and there are many other influences. In India, as well as Hindus and Muslims, there are also Sikhs, Buddhists, Anglo-Indians, Christians, Parsis, Jains, Jews, Atheists, and Agnostics. And many ways of being each of these.
Sinic/Confucian (Chinese) CivilizationConfucianism - it is not a holistic framework or a hegemonic influence. ‘Confucianism’ – a term invented by Jesuit missionaries – consists of a large body of work that is interpretable in multiple ways.• Explaining the values of the 4 billion Asians on the basis of one person’s writings is as absurd as claiming to explain the behaviour of three quarters of a billion Europeans from the bible.
We all live with, engage with,paradoxes, contradictionsLook before you leap He (or she) who hesitates is lostToo many cooks spoil the Many hands make light broth work
Test 2 (Internal Uniformity?)Conclusion Each notion of culturally cohesive communities greatly exaggerates the internal unity of cultures and therefore, even if the causality of culture is supposed, social uniformity and continuity cannot also be logically supposed to be the outcome. As the former president of the US Society of Psychological Anthropology, Philip K. Bock, unhesitatingly states: “We must conclude that the uniformity assumption is false” (1999).
Test 3:Empirically Identified by Valid Methods orDepicted Through Inappropriate Processes? Assuming ‘it’ exits, is it identifiable and with sufficient degrees of accuracy and/or by justifiable means? Or, alternatively, are its descriptions imprecise and/or the product of unsound processes?
Identifiability/Measurability ofNational Culture as Values• Discussed at length in McSweeney, B. Human Relations, 55.1 (2002)• See Hofstede’s reply and my response (both in 55.11).• Many other critiques
“Hofstede’s” Dimensions My criticism is not of the use of the depictions or “dimensions” – they can be usefully used. But with Hofstede’s claim to have used them to measure what he depicts as an enduring and causal (even deterministic) national force. Incidentally, the “dimensions” are not original to Hofstede and have long history in the social sciences.
Data Source: 117,000 questionnairesNot as many used as is implied Combined figure for two surveys 66 countries, but only 40 ‘yielded’ scoresUnrepresentative In 15 countries - less than 200 respondents First survey in Pakistan 37 employees and second 70 Only surveys in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore 88, 71, and 58 respectively All from one company: IBM.
IBM questionnaires Not designed to identify national culture. Not independently administered. Not confidential Respondents knew of possible consequences for them of their answers. ‘Blue collar’ workers’ not surveyed – marketing and sales staff only. Atypicality of IBM
Deriving Descriptions of ‘‘National Culture’ from Questionnaire Data: 5 Crucial Assumptions (each necessary – each, it is agued, is fatally flawed)1) Every micro-location is typical of the national;2) Every respondent had already been permanently programmed with three non-interactive cultural ‘programs’;3) National culture creates response differences;4) National culture can be identified through the response differences;5) National culture is nationally uniform – it’s acontextual.
Assumption 2. Every respondent had already been permanently programmed with three non-interactive cultures Only one and the same organizational culture in every IBM subsidiary So a cultural monopoly, no harmonious, dissenting, emergent, contradictory, organizational cultures in IBM One global occupational culture for each occupation No interaction between the three cultures No other cultural (or other influences) on the responses) (OrC + OcC + NC1) – (OrC + OcC + NC2) = NC1 - NC2
Many other critiques ofHofstede’s methodology There are many other critiques of Hofstede’s measurements – see Gerhart & Fang, 2005, for instance.
Test 3 (Identification)Conclusion“The methods Hofstede used violate every premise of opinion analysis I learned at the feet of Lazerfeld and Hyman” Immanuel Wallerstein (personal communication)
Test 4One Level or All levels?Assuming a description is accurate at one societal level, is it also accurate/useful enough at that level only or valid also at other or all levels?Hofstede captures the “values that shape the cognitive maps of individuals as a well as social systems and institutions” (Greckhamer, 2011:87)
At what level(s) is culturesupposed to be causal? Civilizations? Multi-country regions? Nations (or rather countries)? Within country immigrant, indigenous, and ‘minority’ ‘cultural’ groups (plural mono-culturalism) (ethnicity, gender, etc.)? Organizations? Individuals?One, some, or all?
If a causal theory is represented as applying only to one high level only (civilization, country, or whatever) there would – outside of the research community – be little interest as it as more micro-levels we act, negotiate, etc. If, for example, I meet a number of Japanese managers, I’m not meeting Japan, but a few people from Japan. Do Hofstede et al.’s descriptions apply to this group and not just to an abstract average (Japan)?
Ecological Fallacy Making direct translations of properties or relations at one level to another is unwarranted even it we suppose that the depiction of first level is accurate. Robinson (1950) originally described the attribution of views about the characteristics of one level to other levels also as the “ecological fallacy” (1950), Wagner (1964) called it the “displacement of scope”, and Galtung “the fallacy of the wrong level” (1967)(see also Hofstede, 2001: 16, 463). Drawing inferences about higher levels from individual level data is sometimes called the ‘atomistic fallacy’ (Tsui et al. 2007: 466).
The pattern of correlation found in national averages is not (contra Greckhamer, 2011 and a multitude of others) replicated at the individual level. Gerhart and Fang (2005: 977) estimate, based on Hofstede’s data, that only “somewhere between 2 and 4 percent” of the variance at the level of individuals answers is explained by national differences – a tiny portion. Hofstede’s own estimate of 4.2 per cent is only marginally higher (2001: 50).
Furthermore, two of the four (later five) dimensions employed by Hofstede to depict national cultures – “power distance” and “individualism and collectivism” were statistically identified by him only in nationally averaged data. At the level of individuals they had near-zero intercorrelations (Bond, 2002) for those dimensions and thus no* explanatory power at that level. * Oyserman et al.’s (2002) meta-analysis of 52 studies concludes that country explains 1.2% of the variation in individualism-collectivism scores.
Relationships identified at one level of analysis may be stronger or weaker at a different level of analysis, or may even reverse direction (Klein and Kozlowski 2000; Ostroff 1993). Disaggregation leads to misrepresentation whenever populations are not wholly homogeneous.
But the ecological error may also occur when a property at one level are attributed to a homogeneous group at a lower level. Schwartz (1994), citing, Zito (1975), gives the illustrative example of the discrepancy between a hung jury at two levels. As a group, a hung jury is an indecisive jury, unable to decide the guilt or innocence of the accused. However, attributing that characteristic to the individual members of the jury would be incorrect as the jury is hung because its individual members are very decisive – not indecisive.
Test 4 (Level?) Conclusion The ecological fallacy is rampant in the writings of causal subjective culture devotees. Perhaps more so in users than originators, but the error can readily be found in multiple places in the originators’ writings, including Hofstede’s. Even if we suppose that the national or civilization descriptions are accurate, it is at lower levels (individuals, groups, etc.) that we, and business organizations, engage with.
Test 5Strong, Weak, or Nil Causality?Does ‘it’ have an influence on action, and if so: (i) how strong is that influence; and (ii) is that influence distinguishable from other causes? Or is action usually an outcome of multiple and complex factors?A Management Question: when considering current or possible activities in a specific country, how much attention should be given to cultural descriptions of that country – a lot, a little?
Unjustified jump from description to causality• Attitude surveys (based on questionnaires, interviews, or however) provide zero direct evidence of an influence of culture on behaviour.• As existing theoretical traditions provide little guidance for understanding how values shape behaviour, little more intellectually humility and less bombast from subjective cultural devotees in management would be appropriate.
Attributing causality to just one culture neglects theindependent role of other cultural influences If cultures additional to, or other than, the singular culture are acknowledged, then the treatment of that culture as the independent variable is possible only by illogically attributing causal power to one category of culture but effectively denying it to others. Mere acknowledgement of other cultures without incorporating them in a theory of action is an empty gesture.
Excluding any independentrole of non-cultural influences Even if we suppose that within a defined area/group, is an influential – even monopolistic culture - why suppose that it alone – or culture in general – is the only cause of actions there? Why should cultural causality be privileged over administrative, coercive, institutional, or other means of social integration/control?
Myths for inexperiencedteenagers Tsui et al.’s (2007:46) study of 93 papers in leading journals on cross-cultural organizational behaviour observes that “few studies considered non-cultural variables, either theoretically as predictors or empirically as controls” and “researchers have ignored the fact that culture is not the only differentiator of nations.” I don’t belittle such narrowly focused studies – development of technical skills etc. BUT the idea that behaviour at multiple levels within a country can exclusively be explained and predicted on the basis of one narrow representation of culture is frankly ludicrous.
Working Days lost in industrial disputes per1000 employees (annual averages) 1961-65 1966-70 1971-75‘Masculine’ Ireland 337.5 625.6 292.7‘Masculine’ GB 127.0 222.6 538.6‘Feminine’ Spain 14.1 37.1 95.6Data Source: ILO Labour Relations Yearbook
Working Days lost in industrial disputes per1000 employees (annual averages) 1961-65 1966-70 1971-75‘Masculine’ Ireland 337.5 625.6 292.7‘Masculine’ GB 127.0 222.6 538.6‘Feminine’ Spain 14.1 37.1 95.6Data Source: ILO Labour Relations YearbookConsiderable intra-country variation demonstrates that the cause ofaction cannot be reduced to a single force.
Working Days lost in industrial disputes per1000 employees (annual averages) 1961-65 1966-70 1971-75Masculine Ireland 337.5 625.6 292.7Masculine GB 127.0 222.6 538.6Feminine Spain 14.1 37.1 95.6 1976-80 1981-85 1986-90Masculine Ireland 716.1 360.6 183.7Masculine GB 521.7 387.4 117.5Feminine Spain 1,089.8 400.9 433.6Source: ILO Labour Relations Yearbook
Test 5: Degree of Causality? Conclusion Even if cultural causality is supposed it is illogical to deny the possibility of the influence of other cultures and non-cultural forces. We need to (a) separate out the various processes that are lumped together under the heading of culture; (b) not suppose a priori the causal dominance of one type of, or any type of, culture; (c) be open to recognising the influence of non-cultural factors.
Test 6: Enduring or Changing?The Claim:“[N]ational values” are “given facts, as hard as country’s geographic position or its weather” (Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005: 13)There is a “stability to its essential nature ... regardless of place, time or regime” (de Vries, 2001: 597).As Renato Rosalso ironically states: “If it’s moving, it isn’t cultural” (1989: 208).
Persistent HeritageThe claim of unchanging culture: Relies of a priori belief – not empirical evidence. Is inconsistent – once the partitioned population was active in creating a unique culture but somehow that creativity has ceased. And supposes that each culture is coherent, pure and impermeable.
National Cultural Purity But like an Apache rock and roll band, cultures are fusions, remixes, recombinants. They are made and remade through exchange, imitation, intersection, incorporation, reshuffling, through travel, trade, subordination. Geographical borders are not cultural borders.
Examples of ‘impurity’Winslow Homer’s Eight Bells an example Tempura, an example of unique of distinctly American art? Japanese cuisine?
Examples of ‘impurity’Winslow Homer’s majestic Eight Bells was Tempura, from the Latin tempora – described by many contemporaries as practice copied from Portuguese distinctly American, but cross-Atlantic missionaries in Japan – until influences can readily be discerned. recently popular only in Southern Japan
Test 6: (Enduring or Changing?)Conclusion Acceptance of specific legacies (and their contestable interpretations) does not require acceptance the notion of stasis (or uniqueness). The claim that the cultures of nations, civilizations, or whatever do no change relies on essentialist myths not empirical evidence and requires implausible suppositions such as the coherence, purity, and impermeability of culture.
Test 7:Cultural Uniformity or Diversity in a DomainIs a culture uniform in content and consequences across its claimed domain (country, or whatever)? Or is there intra- domain diversity?A management question: Is it true that wherever I locate the new factory in a country, the culture will be the same?
EvidenceThe existence of uniformities within a domain, for example, a national requirement to drive on the right-hand side of the road or to use snow-tyres in the winter, is not evidence of domain uniformity. Confirmatory Bias: The evidence in support of domain uniformity is anecdotal – it relies on invalid step of generalizing from small numbers and the essentialist presupposition of national uniformity. Falsified: It is contradicted by multiple studies. Confuses Domain: It conflates nation with state.
Fons Trompeenars generalises from undisclosed interviews with corporate executives Kets de Vries generalizes from just one character in a novel! Margaret Mead argued that the testimony of any Samoan adolescent was representative of all Samoan adolescents. Hofstede from one company
Considerable diversity (heterogeneity, divergence, variety) has been observed, (e.g. Burrin 2005; Camelo et al. 2004; Campbell, et al., 1991; Crouch, 2005; Goold and Cambell 1987; Kondo 1990; Law and Mol 2002; Lenartowicz et al. 2003; MacIntyre 1967; O’Sullivan, 2000; Streeck and Thelen 2005; Thompson and Phua 2005; Tsurumi 1988; Weiss and Delbecq 1987; Yanagisako 2002).
Even Values Studies haveShown DifferencesFor example:Schwartz (1994)Lenartowicz, Johnson & White (2003)Peterson, Fanimokun, Mogaji & Smith (2006)Peterson & Fanimoken (2008)
National Culture The notion of uniform national culture crucially presupposes nationalist myths of the primordiality of nations. Nations may comprise part of a state or extend beyond the borders of a single state. There are very few single-nation states.• Confuses notions of nation, state, and country• As Walker Connor states: "The prime fact about the world is that it is not largely composed of nation-states" (1978:39).• He reports a 1971 survey of 132 entities generally considered to be states which concluded that only 12 states (9.1%) could justifiably be described as nation-states.
Countries/States The “geographic position[s]” of many countries are not “hard”. They are not fixed and are of comparatively recent origin. State boundaries may be unstable. Whole states or parts of states may be annexed. New states may be formed by seceding from other states. Some multinational states are very stable, some are very volatile. States may be formed by the voluntary or involuntary combination of multiple states. States may fragment into multiple states, violently or peacefully.
Test 7 (intra-domain diversity)Conclusion “The fallacious assumption of cultural homogeneity within nations” (Tung, 2008: 42),
Test 8:Strong or Weak Predictive Power?Do the depictions provide good predictions? Or are many false predictions observed?
Nothwithstanding, the issues of social levels, national culturalist assert that their favoured representations of national cultures (or national cultural differences) enable effective predictions of social action at sub-national levels. Hofstede peppers his books and articles with descriptions of events which he employs to “validate” his measurements of ‘national cultures’ and to demonstrate that they “affect human thinking, feeling, and acting, as well as organizations and institutions, in predictable ways” (2001: xix).
Example “In the USA as well as in other masculine cultures like the UK and the Republic of Ireland there is a feeling that conflicts should be resolved by a good fight ... The industrial relations scene in these countries is marked by such fights. If possible management tries to avoid having to deal with labor unions at all, the labor union behaviour justifies this aversion ... In feminine cultures like the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark there is a preference for resolving conflicts by compromise and negotiations” (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005: 143)(Hofstede, Hofstede & Minkov, 2010), and elsewhere.# Only one section (‘labor unions’) are said to influenced by that which is supposed to be national.# Management is treated as immune to national culture and therefore (unlike workers) influenced by something non-cultural.
Can readily be seen to beflawed In Hofstedes 1980, 2002 masculinity index, Japan is the most masculine country and Germany has the same score as Great Britain, yet throughout the post-2nd World War period their industrial relations has been the exemplar of co-operation.
Tested at the most favourable level, the national, both by:(i) Non-ranked Dichotomy and (ii) a strongerComparative Ranking.• First against Hofstede’s 6 (3:3) named countries;• Then against equivalent and larger groups (8:8).
More recent data for the six named countries– weakest test (dichotomy) - fails
A necessary condition of valid comparison is that the comparators are equivalents. But the comparison in Hofstede’s case study is not equivalent: ‘feminine’ countries are not compared with countries with equivalent levels of ‘masculinity’.
The named ‘feminine’ countries are at the extreme feminine end of the MAS Index but the named masculine countries are not equivalent. Sweden (most); Netherlands (3rd most); and Denmark (4th most). Ireland (9th); Great Britain (joint 12th); USA (joint 19th)
Homicide predictions based on Hofstede’sP-D and MAS Indices - Fail
A post-Hofstedian notion of culture would: Complexity and Richness: Be definitionally clear but without being over-reductive – conflating ‘mind’ with just ‘values’ is anorexic. Incoherence: Recognise the incoherence/heterogeneity of cultures Causal Plurality: Abandon the imperious claim that a specific culture is the source of just about everything and really acknowledge the causal roles of other cultures and non-cultural factors. Level of Relevance: Be aware that what is accurate/useful at one level may not be at other levels. Space: Cease being prisoner of the state or other defined space – and concede the reality of intra-country diversity. Change: Acknowledge change – avoiding nationalistic myths of essentialism. Predictions: Admit that predicting is very difficult if its is really is about the future – avoid the myth of culture as an answering machine. Identification: Concede that the complexity of culture makes identification challenging and avoid depictions that presuppose what it claims to have found. Resonate: Be in line with current notions of culture in major disciplines.
In short ... “unless we separate out the various processes that are lumped together under the heading of culture, and then look beyond the field of culture to other processes, we will not get very far in understanding any of it” (Kuper, 1999: 247).
1. National Identifiable in the local Version 1 (what is identified characterises every individual) presupposes that every national individual carries the same national culture - what is to be found is presupposed (catastrophic circularity). Contradicted even by his own data. Version 2 (what is identified is the national average) In principle there is always an average e.g. in the world, continent, country, region, cycling club, brothel, or whatever but why assume that the average tendency in one micro-location is the national average? Hofstede’s data specifically: Employees not randomly selected and atypicality of IBM.
3. National Culture Creates Questionnaire Response Differences Immediate Circumstances: “We suggest that much of the observed differences in values surveys scores are not in fact, cultural in nature, but simply reflect differences in circumstances between groups of people” (Maseland and van Hoorn, 2010). Classification: Nationally classified data is not evidence of national causality. Almost every classification would produce difference - but what is that status of such differences? Hair colour culture? Strategists not Dopes: Individuals are assumed to be mere relays of national culture: As discussed earlier strategic answering would have occurred as the questionnaire answers were not confidential.
4. National Culture Can Be Identified By Response Difference Analysis Assumption 3 is a necessary but not sufficient condition of 4 The processes of producing national cultural depictions from the question answers is often unclear and sometimes bizarre. Robinson (1983) describes the dimensions as “hodgepodge” of items “few of which relate to the intended construct” (See Dorfman & Howell, 1988; Bond, 2002, also) Different questions have ‘revealed’ different dimensions e.g. Schwartz ‘identified’ seven dimensions “quite different than Hofstede’s” (1994).
5. Situationally unspecific i.e. it’s the same everywhere within a nationË Claims to have identified national culture (or differences) that are nationally pervasive “in the family, at school, … at work, in politics” (1992).Ë The IBM surveys (with all the other limitations described already) was only of employees, indeed only some categories of employees; undertaken within the workplace of a single company (of one industrial type) which was in a specific location within each country; the question were almost entirely work-related; they were administered within the formal-workplace.Ë No parallel or repeat surveys were undertaken in additional workplaces or non-workplaces.
‘Culture’? For a variety of complex reasons the idea of ‘culture’ as a, or indeed the, key social driver has gained immense popularity across a range of academic disciplines. The popularity of the notion of ‘culture’ as an explanation and cure is not confined to the academy - many international agencies, management consultants, and a host of other groups and institutions have embraced it.