Cross-cultural Management Discourse

Project: Externally funded project

Project Details


During the last two decades, which have witnessed a growing internationalization and globalization of businesses, cross-cultural management has established itself as a significant research field. Studies in this field are usually characterized by a comparative nature and a main interest in differences between different cultural – and usually national – contexts. Much of the initial inspiration for the setting-up of this distinctive field can be argued to have come from Hofstede’s (1980) seminal study, Culture’s Consequences. Hofstede’s model is made up of four (later five) cultural dimensions (Hofstede, 1980; 1991; 2001): ‘Power Distance’, ‘Uncertainty Avoidance’, ‘Individualism’ and ‘Masculinity’ (and later ‘Confucian Dynamism’). These dimensions were identified by Hofstede as a result of statistical analyses of surveys involving people from 66 countries – but only one multinational company. Each of the national cultures involved was assigned a score on each of the four original dimensions: that has allowed many researchers to compare national cultures and make claims about cultural differences on the basis of such supposedly objective measures. In this project, our intention is not to merely repeat the numerous criticisms concerning ontology, epistemology and methodology that have already been formulated against Hofstede’s study, but rather to focus on the very words of Hofstede himself, in his second edition of Culture’s Consequences (2001). What is interesting is that Hofstede’s main purposes in writing this second edition have been to address the criticisms that his work received in the previous twenty years, and to demonstrate that the results are (still) valid. It even seems that Hofstede wishes to extend the relevance of his model to wider societal and world issues – as is shown, for instance, in the new, broader title. Beyond his rigourous quantitative approach, it is the way he comments on his results that serves to legitimate this claim for extended relevance. Our main aim here will be to analyze the discourse that is conveyed by Hofstede’s comments on his results; especially, we will focus on the ways in which Hofstede instrumentalizes some of the correlations he finds in order to tell something about such concepts typically of importance to – and defined by - the West, such as ‘democracy’, ‘development’, ‘modernity’ or ‘progress’. For this discourse analysis, we will find inspiration in works from postcolonial studies and border studies, such as Edward Said’s (1978) Orientalism and Arturo Escobar’s (1995) Encountering Development. We will analyze how the discussion of each of the five dimensions produces the ‘other’ national cultures discursively, from a eurocentric – or, perhaps rather, an ‘Anglo-Germanic’-centric – point of view. We will critically discuss how, by presenting deep cultural values as a central explanatory factor for virtually anything - for instance, ‘innovation’, ‘intolerance’, or also even ‘wealth’ -, Hofstede’s vision of the world is one that greatly undermines the burdens of history, especially the colonial and neo-colonial facts, and thus tends to point to the idea that inequalities should be blamed on the people’s ‘collective programming of the mind’ (Hofstede, 2001, 9) alone. As cross-cultural management discourse becomes more and more institutionalized as legitimate knowledge, one can, with a Foucauldian lens, see this knowledge as contributing to producing both a guilt-free Western subjectivity and a collective cultural responsibility on the part of the people from so-called ‘developing countries’.
Effective start/end date01.09.200431.12.2007


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