New Thinking in Political Economy series
Edited by Laura E. Grube and Virgil Henry Storr
Chapter 13: National cultures, economic action and the homogeneity problem: insights from the case of Romania
The influential thesis that ‘culture matters’ is in many cases investigated using research designs predicated on the assumption of aggregated entities called ‘national cultures.’ The existence of a nationally identifiable and relatively homogeneous political, civic and economic culture is a basic building block of an important part of the literature studying how culture shapes and is shaped by economic activity. Examples abound, from comparative politics research originating in the well-known work of Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba (1963) and illustrated today by authors such as Ronald Inglehart (1990, 1997), to economics and management studies such as in Charles Hampden-Turner and Alfons Trompenaars’s book tellingly entitled The Seven Cultures of Capitalism: Value Systems for Creating Wealth in the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands (1993). The underlying assumption of this approach (now associated with an entire family of research programs) is that, for descriptive and analytical reasons, one may use as units of observation and units of analysis a series of ‘social facts’ called ‘cultures’ sufficiently homogeneous at the national level to be described as cohesive aggregate-level variables. These phenomena or ‘social facts’ called ‘national cultures’ are shaping and are being shaped by other social, economic and institutional factors. Using the ‘homogeneity-central tendency’ perspective is both legitimate and fruitful in many cases. Relevant insights have been gained using the theoretical-methodological lenses provided that way. However, even without questioning the ontological and causal nature of ‘national cultures,’ one may easily think of an alternative approach.
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