Fang’s Yin Yang perspective on culture as complementary to Hofstede’s cultural dimensions paradigm

[notes from an evening contemplation from 22 April 2012]

The world is getting faster and smaller. We are at an age where social media platforms over the internet are no longer activities that we engage in only during our spare time, but rather have them as integrated activities into the workings of our lives. Internet and wireless technology today allows us to traverse geographic boundaries, space and time in order to create new relations, work across cities in virtual groups with people from different time zones, where getting in touch with others from different cultural backgrounds is the norm. It is in view of this scenario of the greater interconnectedness in the world that this paper is writ, where together with other scholars [1-5], supports the call for more comprehensive perspectives in the study of national cultures.

The call towards a more dynamic and integrated perspective towards the study of culture, can be viewed as a development of theory in the field that is built upon the previous works of other outstanding scholars in the field of cultural studies that began in the 1930s with studies in cultural anthropology in relation to organisation [6-10]. Theoretical development in cultural studies at both national and organizational levels took ground during the 1970s with the expansive work of Geert Hofstede. Covering more than 70 countries with IBM employee values scores collected between 1967 and 1973, his efforts culminated in a book in 1980, Cultures Consequnces that outlined how values at the workplace were influenced by culture. Amongst other influences, Hofstede’s milestone work not only provided researchers in the field with a framework within which large scale cultural studies might continue to be researched, but it enabled the otherwise often defined as ‘soft concept’ of culture, culture as dominant group ideology, to be measured and analyzed.

In this light, one could view Fang’s [12] Yin Yang perspective of culture not as an alternative method of analyzing culture, thereby contributing to a polarized view or framework of the study of culture for scholars in the field such as ‘East’ versus ‘West’, but rather one that is complementary to the influential works of Hofstede.

In line with Hofstede’s [13:466] view that research “does not present a finished theory” and serendipitously so, Fang’s perspective on cultural studies has thus far acknowledged Hofstede’s influence [3,4,12] and has built upon the works of Hofstede even if in search of another wave of theoretical development in the field of cultural studies. Thus, where Hofstede has provided scholars with an average score of national cultures that are assimilated as a whole, thus producing national ‘cultural dimensions’ for various countries that serve as a useful litmus test for any national or organizational culture at one point in time, Fang’s Yin Yang perspective turns towards the more integrative approach towards studying cultures and introduces to scholars a more fluid post-globalization theoretical context within which to explain the anomalies of culture, such as how and why those ‘cultural dimensions’ may vary whether within countries and groups or across countries and groups.

To this end, both Hofstede and Fang provide a platform towards a larger integral system of studying culture, Hofstede providing neatened frameworks and Fang providing an overarching theoretical framework to explain the anomalies within Hofstede’s paradigm. Considering that communication and information technology is only going to make more seamless the world, Fang’s push for a more integral theory and practice in the study of culture is one that is more holistic in perspective and framework within which studies on culture can continue in today’s age of wireless technology. The point being that individuals from different parts of the world will increasingly need to learn from each other, this move proving more useful in terms of creativity and innovation in ideas, than for perspectives to proceed in a more assimilative approach to studying culture where the ‘median’ of any group or nationality is taken to represent the values of the group in its entirety per se.

[1] Osland, J.S. and Bird, A., 2000, ‘Beyond sophisticated stereotyping: cross-cultural sensemaking in context’, Academy of Management Executive, vol. 14, pp. 1-12.
[2] Hong, Y.Y., Morris, M.W., Chiu C.Y. and Benet-Martinez, V., 2000
[3] Fang, T., 2003, ‘A critique of Hofstede’s fifth national culture dimension’, International Journal of Cross Cultural Management , vol. 3, no 3, pp. 347-368.
[4] Fang, T., 2005-2006, From ‘Onion’ to ‘Ocean’: paradox and change in national cultures, International Studies of Management & Organization, vol 35, no. 4, pp. 71-90.
[5] Bird, A. and Fang, T., 2009, ’Editorial: cross cultural management in the age of globalization’, International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 139 – 143, Sage Publications.
[6] Mayo, E., 1933. The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization. New York: Macmillan.
[7] Roethlisberger, F.J. and Dickson, W.J., 1939, Management and the Worker: an account of a research program conducted by a western electric company, Hawthorne Works, Chicago. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
[8] Gardner, B., 1945, Human Relations in Industry. Homewood, III.: Irwin.
[9] Warner, W.L. and Low, J., 1947, The Social System of the Modern Factory: the strike, a social analysis. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
[10] Richardson, F. and Walker, C., 1948, Human Relations in an Expanding Company. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
[11] Hofstede, G., 1980, Culture’s Consequences: international differences in work-related values. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
[12] Fang, T., 2011. ’Yin Yang: a new perspective on culture’, Management and Organization Review, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 25-50. The International Association for Chinese Management Research.
[13] Hofstede, G., 2001. Culture’s Consequences: comparing values, behaviours, institutions and organizations across nations, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.