Defining The Concept Of Culture Cultural Studies Essay

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The concept of culture originates from the Latin word "cultura" which means ennoble or spiritual cultivation. It is a concept of great diversity and interest, and many researchers have tried to define it in different ways that include differing cultural aspects in the word ( Mårtensson, R, 1998). There are hundreds of definitions of culture. We cannot define culture simply in one definition because the concept of culture is complex. Each scholar defined culture through different views. Some of them concentrate on cultural content and some of them worked on cultural functions itself. Such kinds of definitions are really important in terms of business perspective to extend the market in broad range.

Simply culture describe as a combination of knowledge, experiences, beliefs, norms, and values which are shared by a group of people.

The anthropologist Kluckholm defined culture as "culture consists of patterned ways of thinking, feeling and reacting, acquired mainly by symbols constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values". (Kluckhohn, C., 1951).

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Another anthropologist and famous researcher Edward T. Hall defined culture as "man's medium; there is not one aspect of human life that is not touched and altered by culture. This means personality, how people express themselves (including shows of emotion), the way they think, how they move, how problems are solved, how their cities are planned and laid out, how transportation systems

function and are organized, as well as how economic and government systems are put together and function."(Hall,E.T.,1981)

Aarti Vasudevan (2007) in her thesis provided another comprehensive definition from Berger and Luckman (1966) which was taken from their book "The Social

Construction of Reality", make the following points,

1. Societies collectively define their own frameworks for creating meaning out of multiple impressions in which life is embedded.

2. These shared frameworks are dynamic and constantly evolving.

3. Apart from certain human universals, such as tendencies to live in families, pair bonding, care of children etc, different societies have varying frameworks. Areas of life that may display great variance from society to society include interpersonal behavior, eating traditions, the understanding and response to authority etc.

4. Culture is the aggregate of many individual perceptions, which come together to form what is seen as the "rules of the game". (link dite hobe aarti vasudevan thesis er)

Hofstede defined culture as "Culture is the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from those of another. Culture in this sense is a system of collectively held values." (G. Hofstede, 1991,2001).

Culture is an important part of business, marketing while it has great influence on consumer taste, needs as it has also impact on interpretations of communication around the market. As Culture varies among the countries, markets etc. That's why in terms of international business, culture plays a very crucial role.

We have to clarify briefly cultural contents and as well as cultural functions. Each society, nations has their own culture. But all the culture consists of some common characteristics which could be visible and invisible. Norms govern the behavior and behavior could be the typical example of a visible element. For example we can consider Canada a multinational country. There millions of immigrant living in Canada from different parts of the globe like china, India, Africa, Middle east etc. although they have migrated to Canada and became Canadian citizen but still they like to hold their own culture. For example a huge number of Chinese immigrants living in Calgary, Canada and I found that there are some parts of the city are pointed as a Chinese area. In that area there are hundreds of Chinese restaurants, shops etc represents Chinese ethnicity. In terms of business it also creates opportunities for the Chinese firms to export product over there. I am not going to say here that they are not taking anything from the Canadian culture. I just want to point out that they are holding both cultures which are visible by their behaviors.

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Values and norms are the typical example of invisible components of a culture. Both visible and invisible are related closely. The e-marketing concept becomes popular recently all over the world. Peoples feel comfort to buy products in online instead of going to market. It is very flexible as well as time saving for someone's. So e-marketing concept is the new norm, in the sense it is already able to impacts on general marketing fields. On the other hand, values apply a powerful influence over people's daily life. Many Chinese symbols, like the crane, pine tree, bat, carp, plum tree and flower, and lotus root, leaf, and flower considered as positive signs because they all represent positive values like fortune, happiness, purity, and longevity.(Zhenyi Li 2001 thesis link dite hobe).

Religion has also strong influence on values and beliefs. So anything like products, symbol etc which are considered against their beliefs will be strongly refused.

According to Hall "culture is communication and communication is culture"1(link add korte hobe as a reference halls article). Its transmitted message and people who shares the same culture can understand them each other. Peoples who come from different culture should try to match with the new culture and adapt it.it is not possible to communicate without understand the meaning of culture that is he basically sharing the content or elements of culture. This could be the key lesson for the MNC when the moves to different areas of globe. According to Hall, there is no area of life that is not affected by the cultural surroundings of the human being. (Hall and Hall, 1987, referred to by Mårtensson, 1998) (link dite hobe full text thesis theke).

Some basic characteristics of culture:

Culture is dynamic and combination of complex sense. It is not so easy to emphasize the characters of culture. But some of the characteristics which are considered important for intercultural communication like:

1. Culture is learned: peoples started to learn culture from their childhood and the power of learning is expressed by the way they behave. Behavior is one of the key elements to understand the initial phase of culture. For example, an Arab child who born in a society where people used to eat with hand and of course he will learn it. All of this learning happens automatically which leads one toward a competence culture. The members of culture share their ideals, values from generation to generation. Culture just does not reside in the behavior and sometimes behavior shows us the meaning of culture. Nobody born having the sense of culture but everybody learn it.

2. Culture is transmissible:

Cultural transmission is the process of passing on culturally relevant knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values from person to person or from culture to culture.( http://www.sil.org/lingualinks/literacy/referencematerials/glossaryofliteracyterms/WhatIsCulturalTransmission.htm).

There are lots of ways of cultural transmission. The most effective and fastest way of spreading culture is spoken words. As well as symbolic way like national flag or national sports team also represents their culture by wearing the dress from those colors which means something to their culture. The growing movie market is also a way of cultural transmission. For example Hollywood, Bollywood movies etc.

3. Culture is dynamic:

With the growing improvement of communication, culture is also subjective to change. Invention is the key of change. For example we can say about internet. Internet brings a new dimension in all aspects of life. By accessing with the internet peoples able to know or come in to touch with other different cultures. Changes also possible by the transmission and could be borrowing from others. For example the management strategy uses by the Japanese is now used by different European countries and USA. On the other hand Japanese car makers used to adopt European marketing strategy in their business.

At the early 90's after the collapse of Soviet Union and the elimination of Berlin wall, lots of cultural changes has been taken place in those areas. Specially the post soviet countries had to do a lot in order to adjust with the new economic challenge, new government system which had enormous affect on their life style and culture.

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With the change of time, society culture may do change a bit. But does it really change? For the time being it may change only the surface of culture which is visible. But the roots of culture which are values, ethics, morality, religious belief, attitudes, the pace of life etc. remain unchanged.

4. Culture is ethnocentric:

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that one's ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one's own. The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion. These ethnic distinctions and sub-divisions serve to define each ethnicity's unique cultural identity. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnocentrism and Margaret L. Andersen, Howard Francis Taylor (2006). Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society. Thomson Wadsworth. ). According to Keesing (1965) ethnocentrism is a "universal tendency for any people to put its own culture and society in a central position of priority and worth." So ethnocentrism becomes a medium to differentiate and judge all other cultures. It's very usual that people consider whatever they believe is the most appropriate than others. Peoples usually who born in a particular culture and grew up with them likes to keep their values forever. People can accept new culture partially if they realize that the new one something superior than the old one. But it is not possible to adopt a new culture anywhere 100 percent because of ethnicity.

Cultural variables and Hofstede dimensions:

Culture varies group to group, place to place as well as country by country. So it's not an easy job to working outside of one's home condition. Especially when MNC move to new market, they are really struggling with the new language, different culture as well understanding the diverse values in the workplace. That's why it is a big task for the MNC to be carefully checked the strategies they have implied in their home market successfully might not work in other places. They have to really consider the local values and local customer.

Hofstede cultural dimension: Geert Hofstede considered as one of the most famous researcher in the field of cultural studies. He did research with the IBM employees in different locations over 53 countries. His research was about to distinguish cultural differences between the countries. And finally he made a cultural dimension which is the guide line to understand the various cultures as well as for MNC to move in to the new market.

Power distance: according to Hofstede Power distance is "the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally" (Hofstede 1991,2001 ).( Hofstede, Geert H.(2001), "Culture's Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors,Institutions, and Organizations across Nations", Sage Publications, 2nd Edition). the power distance mainly concern about the distribution of power equally and unequally in the society. Most of the cases in large power distance culture, power plays a dominating character and the powerless just have to follow them without any remarks. This is something like that the inequality goes behind the attitudes of the follower. Inequality present in all the society more or less. It can occur different areas such as prestige, wealth, and power; different societies put different weights on status consistency among these areas (Hofstede, 2001). As hofstede said that the power distance is the very fundamental facts for the society and its presents in every culture. Hofstede dimension helped to measure the inequality in culture internationally. His research shows that the Asian, African, Latin American culture has the high level of power distance .on the other hand American and European culture has very low level of power distance.

Uncertainty avoidance: Uncertainty avoidance means a lack of tolerance for ambiguity and the need for formal rules (Kale 1996, p. 22). (jalali article and KALE, S., 1996. How National Culture, Organizational Culture and Personality Impact Buyer-seller Interactions. In: Ghauri, P. and J.C. Usunier (eds). International Business Negotiations. Pergamon, Oxford: Elsevier Science Ltd. 21-38.). hofstede defines uncertainty avoidance as the "the extent to which a certain culture programs its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured, new, unknown and surprising situations" (Hofstede and Usunier 1996, p. 122).in our life we have to comply with lot of unknown or uncertain things. Peoples like to avoid anything which is not familiar with them. Because nobody can predict future by hundred percent. A country with a high level of uncertainty avoidance has to face low level of uncertainty. Normally the low level of uncertainty avoidance countries has very well structured society, rules and regulation which is favorable to reduced the percentage of uncertainty. For example Germany. On the other hand countries with low uncertainty avoidance tends to be little bit more optimistic.

"Cultures with a low degree of uncertainty avoidance are open for new things and changes. They don't have feelings of uncertainty about future." (http://www.via-web.de/uncertainty-avoidance/).

They are easy to accept more options or new risks. In terms of business culture, low uncertainty avoidance could be the good destination for the companies. They can introduce new ideas, concept in those areas much easier than the high ratios countries. By launching the new products or implementing the new ideas, later they can enter easily within the high ratios market.

Individualism versus Collectivism: individualism-collectivism dimension shows the relationship of each individual in each culture. "In individualistic societies,

individuals look after themselves and their immediate family only whereas whereas in collectivistic cultures, individuals belong to groups that look after them in exchange for loyalty".(hofstede 2001).in a individualistic society, a child grows with the concept of "I" and develop the individual skills, freedom to choose etc. social norms and bonding are not so tighten in the individual culture. Peoples like to think and take decisions independently. European society is the example of an individualistic culture.

In a collectivistic society, a child grows up with the concept "we" from the beginning. Individual defines according to the position of the group and his thinking, values everything relates to the welfare of the group. In countries with high individualism cultures (e.g. European), brand images that emphasize functional variety, novelty and experiential needs are more effective than social image strategies, (Roth 1995). On the other hand, cultures with low individualism (e.g. Asian) are more amenable to social brand image strategies that emphasize group membership and affiliation benefits than they are to sensory brand images, (Roth 1995).( Roth, Martin (1995) "The effects of Culture and socioeconomics on the performance of global brand image strategies" Journal of Marketing Research).

Masculinity vs femininity: this is another dimension of hofstede which refers to the distribution of values among the culture. According to hofstede, Masculinity versus femininity refers to the distribution of emotional roles between the genders, which is another fundamental problem for any society to which a range of solutions are found.(Hofstede 2001).in the masculine society, each and every individual seems to be more ambitious, aggressive and looking for quick success. On the other hand femininity dominated society; we can see the opposite characteristics. The difference between the man and women are not only defined by genetically, as well as the roles in the society. We can see this tendency in different societies and countries. Hofstede characterize the masculine society as "Masculinity stands for a society which social gender roles are dearly distinct: men are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life." And "Femininity stands for a society where gender roles overlap: both men and women are supposed to be modest, tender and concerned with the quality of life." (Source: Hofstede,2001, page 262,and http://www.via-web.de/masculinity-versus-femininity/).

Long-Term verse Short-Term Orientation: is the last dimension of hofstede which was designed by a researcher based on Chinese markets and later added in to hofstede dimension. A short definition of Long-Term Orientation is: "Long Term Orientation stands for the fostering of virtues oriented towards future rewards, in particular, perseverance and thrift. Its opposite pole, Short-Term Orientation, stands for the fostering of virtues related to the past and present, in particular, respect for tradition, preservation of 'face' and fulfilling social obligations (Hofstede, 2001, Culture's Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations across Nations, 2d Ed. P-359).

"The short-term orientation is also identified with Truth, while the long-term orientation is identified with Virtue." (http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/culture2.html)

In the short term oriented society, they always give preference those events which are occurred recently or now taking place. We can say that they are more realistic. For example, USA, UK etc. On the other hand in long term oriented society, they are always relay on future. They have tradition of adoption even in the changed circumstances. Most of the Asian or emerging countries have the tradition of long term orientation. For example China (118), Hong Kong (96), Taiwan (87), India (61) etc. "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'." (Hofstede, G. (2009, June). Dimensionalizing Cultures: The Hofstede Model in Context. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture (Unit 17, Chapter 14). ©International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology.