Introduction To Culture

Introduction To Culture

Introduction To Culture

Various definitions of culture exist in which the many facets are attempted to be included but there is no mutually agreed upon definition. Many times the definition of culture will change depending upon which discipline it stems from (House, Javidan, Hanges, & Dorfman, 2002). In fact anthropologists alone have created more than 250 specific definitions of the term culture (Aviel, 1990). Two words that are commonly found in these varying definitions are “learned” and “shared.” The sharedness of cultural traits allows for easier grouping of individuals (House et al., 2002). Cultural elements (attitudes, beliefs, values, etc.) must be learned since they are not inherited and the dynamic nature of change is based on the learning process (Wilhelms, Shaki, & Hsiao, 2009; Alkhazraji, Gardner, Martin, & Paolilo, 1997). According to Ralph Linton in his work The Cultural Background of Personality, “A culture is a configuration of learned behaviors and results of behavior whose component elements are shared and transmitted by the members of a particular society” (1945, p. 32).
One aspect of culture that most researchers agree upon is that “culture must be studied as a whole and not as a summation of its component parts” (Yaprak, 2008). Even Geert Hofstede goes onto describe culture as “a whole that is greater than its parts” (as quoted in Yaprak, 2008). Previous research focused
heavily on individual cultural traits and dimensions whereas current research looks at all parts of culture. Within the different layers of culture there can be many components that affect culture (Leung, Bhagat, Buchan, Erz, and Gibson, 2005).
THE CULTURAL CLASSIFICATION MODEL
A cultural classification model was presented in, “How We Communicate About Cultures, A Review of Systems for Classifying Cultures, and a Proposed Model for Standardization” (Wilhelms, 2009). It incorporates preexisting definitions of culture into a standardized model for use across the disciplines. The model is flexible and allows for growth within the layers as well as movement between layers.
The model consists of five cultural layers assembled around a core. A layer contains the structures and organizations that comprise culture. The contents of the layers are in a state of continual change. The core represents the individual, which is the smallest particle of culture. Individual culture does not exist hence the individual does not represent its own layer. Individuals receive their values from a combination of cultures (national, religious, organizational, ethnic, etc.) that they are a part of. The degree to which individuals adapt and maintain values varies on an individual basis (Straub, Loch, Evaristo, Karahanna, & Strite, 2002). Starting outward from the core, the micro culture is the smallest form of cultural segmentation. Micro culture can be made up of a group of friends, a family, and even a single firm. At this level, the members are the most similar to one another. They share a combination of the same goals, beliefs, strategies and backgrounds. The next layer is meso culture, which consists of two or more groupings of the microcultural segments. Wilhelms et al. (2009) go on to explain that these meso-cultural groups are very homogenous at some level in order for them to be grouped together yet they also have inherent differences in beliefs/behavior that cannot be overlooked. Three firms may share the same raw materials, goals, and legislative constraints but the strategies each of them pursue may be very diverse. This layer is not as compartmentalized as micro culture but not quite as broad as groupings found within the macro layer.

From “CULTURAL LAYERS: A PRACTICAL APPROACH FOR INTERNATIONAL MARKETING” by Ralf W. Wilhelms

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