Literature review: Hofstede, Geert H. Culture's Consequences. Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations across nations.
Literature Review 2011 3 Pages
Geert Hofstede is professor emeritus of Organizational Anthropology and International Management at Maastricht University. His book “Culture's Consequences. Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations across nations” is a revision of his earlier book titled “Culture's Consequences, International Differences in Work-Related Values”, which was released by Sage in 1980. This book has been one of the most influential works in the field of cross-cultural marketing and social studies, but it has also been immensely criticized. His new book is a almost completely rewritten version and dated material has been removed. Further, Hofstede increased the number of analyzed countries and new literature has been taken into account. His first chapter introduces into the topic and informs about general cultural issues, studying culture and cultural change. He defines culture as “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another” (p. 9). The second chapter provides a methodological justification and describes the data-collection process.
The following five chapters deal separately with his identified five main dimensions of national cultures which order the value system. Based on an extensive research, Hofstede points out the scores of countries and gives historical reasons for it. Therefore, the third chapter focuses on power distance, which describes the degree of acceptance of power differentials within society, organizations and family. The forth chapter deals with society's tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. This is followed by the comparison of the extent to which individuals of a society prefer to be integrated in groups or the preference of self- reliance. The dimension explores the tendency of a society towards a tough masculine or a tender feminine attitude. The fifth dimension, the long-term and the short-term orientation of cultures, is discussed in the seventh chapter. This dimension has been added in comparison to the edition of 1980. The following two chapters outline the consequences of the cultural differentiation on management, organizational matters and the influence on migration, international politics, multinational business, education, tourism and internet. Further highlighted aspects are the influence of language, culture shock, intercultural training and intercultural negotiations. The last chapter deals with experiences the author made during research. He gives advice and proposes future research directions.
The major part of research data is taken of his “IBM Attitude Survey Questionnaire” , which he also used for his earlier book. About 116.000 questionnaires were provided to the worldwide employees of IBM during the 1960s and 1970s. Consequently, the dimensions rather measure the differences in the corporate culture of IBM than between the cultures of different countries. Exactly this makes the results very important for international companies, because it is proved that cultural traditions still influence employees despite a strong company’s corporate culture. Nevertheless, a different international company could have been questioned to find out how culture influences businesses. On the other hand, these research results might be biased, because the questioned employees usually only represented one kind of social class, especially in developing countries. Anyways, Hofstede’s intention is to describe the differences between cultures in terms of work-related values for specific usage, and not to give a complete picture of cultures. Further, it must be considered as critical that the book uses the same data as the first edition. In Hofstede’s view, though, cultural tendencies and their values are stable. In my opinion, national cultures have been undergoing increasingly changes within the last view years due to migration, internet, entertainment industry and globalization. Additionally, individual research results of most of the African and Arabic countries are missing, since they are only represented by a division into three regions. One of the most interesting parts of the book is Hofstede’s response to the five primary criticisms of his original work (p. 73), such as the unsuitableness of the surveys and their unrepresentableness, that nations are not a suitable way to study culture, that his data is outdated and that five dimensions are not sufficient. However, he honestly recognizes the limitations and rather sees his work as a starting point. Nevertheless, he considers his impact as paradigm shifting (p. 73).
As a conclusion, Hofstede’s work does not represent the complexity of cultures and has its limitations, but it sensitizes and gives plenty of useful information about cultures especially concerning the world of management, consumption behavior and marketing. Further, the work is convincingly presented and nicely structured. Therefore, it is an essential reference for students, teachers, business people and researchers.