Culture Definitions And Its Concepts Cultural Studies Essay

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There are several researchers who wrote about culture but among them Geert Hofstede (1988-21) was the most influential one. He describes culture as "the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from others".

According to Pugh and Hickson 1995 Culture shapes everything. A culture can be described as an integration of minds (Plakhotnik and Rocoo 2006) or collective life patterns (Kim 1996). Triandias (1994) says that culture has a more specific meaning as it relates to the shared meaning system which is found among people with a particular language in a definable geographical area and during a specific phase. These intercultural systems can also occur between two nationals of the same country with different backgrounds (Kim 1996).

Hall (1997) describes culture as a set of shared meanings. These meanings help human to communicate and understand each other and non are static and changing continuously (Dahl 1998, 2000). To verify the argument further Fisher (1988) defines culture as "shared behaviour". He describes the significance of culture because it organizes the way human do things, avoiding uncertainty and allowing teamwork so that groups of people can accomplish thing which individuals cannot do alone.

Dahl (1998. 2000) includes individual in his concept of culture. He describes the cultural focus as a set of values and attribution of a given group and the individual cultural relation with its acquisition of those values and attributes. Furthermore he defines culture as the totality of the following attributes of a given group or subgroup. These attributes are shared values, beliefs, basics assumptions and any behaviour arising from those groups and individuals.

Moreover culture also symbolizes nations, societies, ethnic or regional groups within or beyond borders, women opposed to men (gender) old versus young (age group and generational culture) profession, status, occupation or self-employed businesses, work organisation or its part in (organisational) cultures ( Black 2001a, 2005 and Hofstede 1994).

Several researchers have different view about the theory of culture, however most of the authors agree with Hofstede research about culture as the collective programming of mind which differentiates the members of one human group from another. This programming exhibits differences along three main dimensions.

Hofstede Cultural Dimensions

Geert Hofstede is the most famous researcher on business culture (for instance. Triandis, 1992; Sondegaard 1994; Shackleton and Ali 1990; Evans and Mavondo 2000 and Chiang 2005. Geert Hofstede perform his research from 1967 to 1973 in two phases while working in Inernational Business Machines (IBM). He analyzed a huge database of employee values scores in IBM. His primary research in 1967 produced 100000 questionnaires in more than fifty (50) countries in three (3) regions which afterwards enhanced to 117000 questionnaires in more than seventy (70) countries by 1972.

These questionnaires were also published in twenty (20) languages according to the understanding of the citizen of that country. For the solidity of data he condensed his research to forty (40) countries. From his initial findings in 1967 and then in 1972 he found four primary dimensions. Later five dimensions which differentiates culture. (Hofstede 1980, 80b 88, 91)

According to Geert Hofstede (1980), there are five core dimensions of culture. Which he describes below:

Power Distance Index (PDI) that is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. This represents inequality (more versus less), but defined from below, not from above. It suggests that a society's level of inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders. Power and inequality, of course, are extremely fundamental facts of any society and anybody with some international experience will be aware that 'all societies are unequal, but some are more unequal than others'.


Individualism (IDV) and Collectivism: on the one side versus its opposite, collectivism, that is the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups. On the individualist side we find societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him/herself and his/her immediate family. On the collectivist side, we find societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families (with uncles, aunts and grandparents) which continue protecting them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. The word 'collectivism' in this sense has no political meaning: it refers to the group, not to the state. Again, the issue addressed by this dimension is an extremely fundamental one, regarding all societies in the world.


Masculinity (MAS) versus femininity: refers to the distribution of roles between the genders which is another fundamental issue for any society to which a range of solutions are found. The IBM studies revealed that (a) women's values differ less among societies than men's values; (b) men's values from one country to another contain a dimension from very assertive and competitive and maximally different from women's values on the one side, to modest and caring and similar to women's values on the other. The assertive pole has been called 'masculine' and the modest, caring pole 'feminine'. The women in feminine countries have the same modest, caring values as the men; in the masculine countries they are somewhat assertive and competitive, but not as much as the men, so that these countries show a gap between men's values and women's values.


Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) deals with a society's tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity; it ultimately refers to man's search for Truth. It indicates to what extent a culture programs its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations. Unstructured situations are novel, unknown, surprising and different from usual. Uncertainty avoiding cultures try to minimize the possibility of such situations by strict laws and rules, safety and security measures, and on the philosophical and religious level by a belief in absolute Truth; 'there can only be one Truth and we have it'. People in uncertainty avoiding countries are also more emotional, and motivated by inner nervous energy. The opposite type, uncertainty accepting cultures, are more tolerant of opinions different from what they are used to; they try to have as few rules as possible, and on the philosophical and religious level they are relativist and allow many currents to flow side by side. People within these cultures are more phlegmatic and contemplative, and not expected by their environment to express emotions.


Long-Term Orientation (LTO) versus Short-term orientation: this fifth dimension was found in a study among students in 23 countries around the world, using a questionnaire designed by Chinese scholars It can be said to deal with Virtue regardless of Truth. Values associated with Long Term Orientation are thrift and perseverance; values associated with Short Term Orientation are respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and protecting one's 'face'. Both the positively and the negatively rated values of this dimension are found in the teachings of Confucius, the most influential Chinese philosopher who lived around 500 B.C.; however, the dimension also applies to countries without a Confucian heritage.


Criticism of Hofstede's Dimensions:

There are several debates about Hofstede's culture dimensions. Several researchers like McSweeney 2002, Wärneryd 1988, Baskerville 2003 and Freillich 1989 have criticised Hofstede research. Callahan (2006) mentions that hofstede's are not very different, they overlap and to some degree, associate with each other. Wärneryd (1988( says that the research suffers because of a lack of well defined and structured cultural dimensions which could explain cultural differences. Moreover according to Chiang (2005) the major problem with Hofstede's research is whether his model is complete and ready. He said Hofstede empirical research is focusing mainly on the single dimension of culture or particular employee group. Triandis (1982) suggests that the researchers is too culture bound in its subjectivity and the data collection method. Boyacigiller (1984) and Roberts and Showsorge (1983) focused their criticism on methodological grounds. They suggest that research findings are too general. The key criticism on Hofstede dimensions and the concept of culture arises from Mcsweeney (2002) who focuses on the flaws in Hofstede IBM matched sample and Hofstede assumptions in measuring national cultural concepts. He said that regarding Hofstede idea of national samples (Hofstede 1980, 1999), however the respondents were from IBM.

He also criticised Hofstede by claiming that all his IBM employees shared the same organizational and occupational culture everywhere. He mention that Hofstede never recognized any key error or flaws in his research. He propose that Hofstede's questionnaire should be categorised to reflect additions or alternative characteristics like religion, race or first language. According to McSweeney (2002) it's vital for everyone to know about the richness and integration of national practices and organization. There should be concern for the individual traits along with, nations, societies, organizations and regions. So to sum up McSweeney's main criticisms were:

The surveys which are done in IBM is not the appropriate way of measuring culture.

The nations are not the best option to study culture

Employees of single company are not the representatives of the whole nation

IBM one subsidiary cannot provide the information about the entire national culture.

Hofstede research is too old and with continuous growth in globalisation, it's now out dated and four or five dimensions are not well enough to illustrate the entire nation's culture view.

Levels of Culture

Morden (1995) says that to understand comparative national and international management practices, we need to understand the levels of culture at industry, organizational or corporation, national and international, as culture exists at different levels which can be vary at various scales of variation among these levels.

This part of literature review will examine each level of cultures

International Culture

Culture can go across borders. In some countries (for instant Middle East, European countries, Islamic nations and the African countries) culture might share some cultural values but there might be many variations in terms of family influence, media influence and regional influences. Appropriate organisational cultures can reduce these gaps and national differences by providing them familiar practices within that business sector. Familiar practices keep companies together which are operating globally (Morden 1995 and Hofstede 1994).

Morden (1995) identifies at least two implications for international management of cultural diversity - the best fit approach and polycentricism, international cultural understanding can be used in the motivation, leadership and management by objectives ( Hofstede 1988, 1994 and Morden 1995). Hofstede (2006) identifies that those people who are broadminded and feel less threatened by different ideas are people who successfully operation in an international environment.

National Culture

National culture is the most important level of culture which as the direct impact on the operations and strategies of the global companies operating in that country, particularly in term of hiring staff or recruitment, section and development procedure in that country. The behaviour of individuals in any society is likely to be affected by common values and beliefs which emphasizes on the culture. These cultural values and beliefs guide people to construct especial foundations and practices in the society. This could be the education system, family system, law, order and legislation, tribal system and the influence of the political system in the society. In closed societies, institutions can be modified but it hardly changes the social norms and values (Hofstede 1988).

Lot of the national culture (Newman and Gannon 2002; Keesing 1981 and Hofstede 1988 and 2001) is in products of the mind such as norms, values, stories, languages, art, and sharing interpersonal behaviour. Values can be described as having deeper meaning behind impression of good and evil and the way individuals communicate or dress up, relations with others, buying, selling or trading reflect the practices of the culture.

Industry Culture

The performance of Industrial sector effects a lot due to the cultural differences, as national culture is associated with the industrial relations systems (Keynes 1936; Poole 1986 and Black 1994. 2001). National culture is the core determinant of industrial cross-national variations, as it is considered as a force for controversial labour market diversity (Poole 1986). Attitudes towards finance, employee interest, benefits and technological changes are some of the characteristics of industrial culture which can be imposed in two ways; through individual decision-making and through laws and legislation. The effects of culture in individual decision making may be indirect and invisitble while legislations are positive and direct. Industrial decisions are made under the anticiapation of potential cost and sales advance; it is here where industrial culture as a distinct influence on organisation. ( Keynes 1936 and Black 1999, 2001,2005). Precise cultural values/ actions which are reliable and valid can be applied to any countries to measure the relationship between cultural values and diverse dimension of a country's industrial relation regime. (Laurent 1986, Black 2005 and Poole 1986).

Organisation/Corporate Culture

Organisational culture is to some extent unlike from the industry and the national culture but has a similar influence. It's a culture within the corporation which can be modified all over its subsidiaries or according to the culture of that nation. (Morosini et al 1988). . Fombrun(1984) saw organisational culture party as the outcome of national culture, while Laurent (1989) argued that national culture is more powerful and stable than organisational culture.