Richard Nisbett book 'The Geography of thought' illustrates how communities differ in norms, values, power distance and intercultural communication among other aspects. The common practices visible from many societies include enculturation, ethnocentrism, Gemeinshaft and Gesellshaft. China and Greece are used to explain the difference between Eastern and Western cultures (Nisbett, 18). A philosopher once argued that the difference between the two cultures is because the West had Aristotle's influence while the East had Confucius influence.
Greeks mixed with all types of people, beliefs and customs who practiced diverse religions, politics and ethnicity. Due to their location, they developed logic and formal cognitive procedures that helped them deal with dissonance during assembly and market place. China on the other hand has an ethnic group known as Han, which approximately 95% of its population belong to (Nisbett, 48). The country has ethnic homogeneity and centralized political control thus Chinese population is not exposed to different beliefs, values, religion and practices. Therefore, since they had little difference in opinions they had little procedures in solving conflicts.
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In summary, China is a Gemeinshaft society mostly due to the homogeneity in their values, norms and practices. China is a one ethnic group society making intercultural communication easy. China's economic activity was farming which brought people together because of irrigation and other joint activities that required cooperation. Greece on the other hand is a Gesellshaft, its main focus mainly on individualism due to the multiple ethnic groups, mixed practices, religion and norms. Their economic activity being hunting, fishing encouraged them because they did not need cooperation.
The question that Nisbett raised in this chapter was 'why the East and West have developed different habits of thought' (Nisbett, 29).In the answer Nisbett uses an illustration of two countries China and Greece to find out what factors cause the difference in terms of political, economic and social arrangement. In the chapter, Nisbett explains some of the factors to include ecology, economy, social structure, attention, metaphysics and epistemology and cognitive processes (Nisbett, 33).
Nisbett expresses that the ecology of a community influences the economic activity that the community practices. The economic activity on the other hand influences the social structure of the given community. For example, China practices agriculture because they have relatively fertile plains, navigable rivers and low mountains (Nisbett, 34).People that practice agriculture due to the nature of their activity need to get along with one another harmoniously. For example, people growing rice through irrigation need to live together because of the centralized control. Despots (Nisbett, 83) ruled ancient agricultural societies including China irrigation systems. Another factor making Chinese people live along well was the fact that village elders and regional magistrates ruled the peasants.
Greece's ecology however, factor economic activities such as herding, hunting, fishing and trade because it was mostly a mountainous landscape that descended to the sea. These activities did not require cooperation with others except trading. When Greece began farming, their climate and soil could only allow olive oil and wine farming which they highly commercialized (Nisbett, 78). Therefore harmony was not developed and could be heard arguing at marketplace when trading.
According to Nisbett, individualism and collectivism are the two aspects that explain the difference between the East's 'high culture' and the West's 'low culture'. Westerners believe in individualism, they believe that every person should control their own behavior and be oriented towards achieving their own goals. When it comes to personal relations, westerners prefer equality and prefer superior position when relationships are hierarchical. Easterners however condone individuality and are less concerned with self-aggrandizement and personal goals (Nisbett, 48) .Easterners get more concerned with acting collectively and maintaining harmonious social relations. They are concerned with group goals success as opposed to personal goals success. For example, In Europe when someone cleans your car, you say "Thank You" to thank the person for the favor. However, in Asian the gesture is not appreciated because it is a collective duty to help each other (Nisbett, 49).
The fascinating points in the second chapter that influence the outlook of the East is the fact that in China the word individualism is not recognized (p 51).The "I" word is not in existence and the closest word that expresses individualism is 'selfish'. This shows that even when a child is small he/she grows up not knowing how to act on his own (Nisbett, 108). This is the reason why Eastern people are dependent due to the fact that they have to rely on decision of a group. Another fascinating point is the fact that instead of teachers teaching children self-esteem and self-actualization as common in Western communities, Eastern teachers teach the students self-criticism so they can live in harmony with others (Nisbett, 115)
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From the two chapters the most preferred question that relates to them would be, "Which of the two cultures West or East is richer?" Chapter 1 expresses the main differences between the behavior of two cultures while chapter two expresses the influence the collective and individualism characters have on the involved parties. From the two chapters, none of the culture is richer than the other. Each culture beliefs are positive and negative in some way. While it is positive for Easterners to encourage harmony their children have low self-esteem and are dependent on other people. Westerners on the other hand believe in individualism so much that they forget that harmonious living is important for personal and society's development.
Leslie T. Chang's book, "Factory Girls" shows how young girls have migrated from their rural villages to the Cities to look for a better life. The book discusses the culture shock, immigration, assimilation and diffusion. The Factory girls believed that their villages had nothing to offer them. Most of them said that "There was nothing to do at home, so I went out" (Nisbett, 11). The city life was not simple to them either as most of them had to work in factories that paid them poorly and deducted them fines for no good reason. In the book, the story of one factory girl 'Lu Qingmin' is illustrated. Her search for a good job despite her unaccomplished education was hard for her (Nisbett, 18). She works in a place that she cannot tell her friends because she is ashamed. Her parents expect her to send money home, which she cannot to send like the other girls.
Despite of all the problems Min adjusts to her poor life as a factory girl. She gets a boyfriend who only reached middle school who her sisters and friend think is not good enough for her. They find her an educated boyfriend one, which they say is polite and well behaved. The relationship does not last. After a long struggle, Min gets a good paying job and her life and that one of her family change. She can now afford to send enough money to her parents who start business and can educate her sisters (Nisbett, 48).
Hofstede's value of culture dimension demonstrate that power distance, individualism, uncertainty avoidance Index, Masculinity and Long-Term Orientation are the five culture value dimensions. "Factory girls" demonstrate the five value dimensions very well. The power distance is demonstrated by the fact that the Factory managers believed their culture was superior (Nisbett, 58). In spite of the factory girls working, so hard they were mistreated and were not well paid. Their salaries were deducted incase they were minutes late, when they took off, when they went to bathroom many times among others. They were not allowed to quit their job despite the mistreatment. Individualism is expressed where everyone had to work hard in order to succeed. Min did not believe in following her peers' advice but on personal goals. She quit jobs despite her parent's protect because she wanted to prosper.
The value of masculinity comes in place whereby Min's boyfriend Ah Jie was supposed to be more educated than her in order to be accepted by Min's friends and family. A more educated man who earned more than her was more preferred. Uncertainty Avoidance Index is evident throughout the book where the girls had to lead a bad life with hope that it would improve (Nisbett, 68). Min had the Long-Term Orientation that her determination, honesty and hard work would make her a successful person in the end.
"The new population Bomb" suggested that food production and other critical resources would outpace world population growth causing mass starvation. If this were the case, I would recommend the Chinese government to encourage rural development. "Factory girls" illustrate that a large number of young people leave their rural homes due to unemployment and search for a better life. If rural industrialization and farming were boosted, the young people would not migrate. Since the largest population will participate in food production, the problem might be solved.
China has been known to be Gemeinshaft society mostly due to agriculture, which attracts harmony. Globalization will change it to be a technological culture and with time, the individualism attached to the technological development might change it to a Gesellschaft society (Nisbett, 73). Globalization and change in values over time might change the city life to be individualism while the rural life, which might comprise of elderly people and children remain collective.
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What have impressed most from the three chapters of "Factory Girls?" is the fact that despite the changing culture the girls go through from the village life to the city life they have the ability to react to the culture shock and the immigration problems and lead a normal life. Min comfortably adapts to the city life with courage and does not get afraid of anything. She clearly adopts individualism although she had been brought up in a society that condones it. Her adopted individualism earns her a well paying job, which in the long run boosts her family and society.