universalism vs. particularism again

via t. greer (thanks, t!), here are some excerpts from nisbett‘s The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why [pgs. 62-65, 69 – links and highlights added by me]:

“Similar data have been collected by Charles Hampden-Turner and Alfons Trompenaars, who are professors at an international business school in Holland. Over a period of several years they gave dozens of questions to middle managers taking seminars they conduct throughout the world. The participants in their seminars — fifteen thousand all told — were from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Singapore, and Japan (and a small number from Spain and Korea, as well). Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars presented their students with dilemmas in which independent values were pitted against interdependent values.

“To examine the value of individual distinction vs. harmonious relations with the group, Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars asked the managers to indicate which of the following types of jobs they preferred: (a) jobs in which personal initiatives are encouraged and individual initiatives are achieved; versus (b) jobs in which no one is singled out for personal honor, but in which everyone works together.

More than 90 percent of American, Canadian, Australian, British, Dutch, and Swedish respondents endorsed the first choice — the individual freedom alternative — vs. fewer than 50 percent of Japanese and Singaporeans. Preferences of the Germans, Italians, Belgians, and French were intermediate….

“Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars asked their participants to choose between the following expectations: If I apply for a job in a company, (a) I will almost certainly work there for the rest of my life; or (b) I am almost sure the relationship will have a limited duration.

More than 90 percent of Americans, Canadians, Australians, British, and Dutch thought a limited job duration was likely. This was true for only about 40 percent of Japanese…. The French, Germans, Italians, and Belgians were again intermediate, though closer to the other Europeans than to the Asians.

“To examine the relative value placed on achieved vs. ascribed status, Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars asked their participants whether or not they shared the following view: Becoming successful and respected is a matter of hard work. It is important for a manager to be older than his subordinates. Older people should be more respected than younger people.

More than 60 percent of American, Canadian, Australian, Swedish, and British respondents rejected the idea of status being based in any way on age. About 60 percent of Japanese, Korean, and Singapore respondents accepted hierarchy based in part on age; French, Italians, Germans, and Belgians were again intermediate, though closer to the other Europeans than to the Asians….

“Westerners prefer to live by abstract principles and like to believe these principles are applicable to everyone. To set aside universal rules in order to accomodate particular cases seems immoral to the Westerner. To insist on the same rules for every case can seem at best obtuse and rigid to the Easterner and at worst cruel. Many of Hampden-Turner and Trompenaar’s questions reveal what a marked difference exists among cultures in their preference for universally applicable rules vs. special consideration of cases based on their distinctive aspects. One of their questions deals with how to handle the case of an employee whose work for a company, though excellent for fifteen years, has been unsatisfactory for a year. If there is no reason to expect that performance will improve, should the employee be (a) dismissed on the grounds that job performance should remain the grounds for dismissal, regardless of the age of the person and his previous record; or (b) is it wrong to disregard the fifteen years the employee has been working for the company…?

More than 75 percent of Americans and Canadians felt the employee should be let go. About 20 percent of Koreans and Singaporeans agreed with that view. About 30 percent of Japanese, French, Italians, and Germans agreed and about 40 percent of British, Australians, Dutch, and Belgians agreed. (Atypically for this question, the British and Australians were closer to continental Europeans than to the North Americans.)

“As these results show, Westerners’ commitment to universally applied rules influences their understanding of the nature of agreements between individuals and between corporations….

“The work of Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars makes clear that the West is no monolith concerning issues of independence vs. interdependence. There are also substantial regularities to the differences found in Western countries. In general, the Mediterranean countries plus Belgium and Germany are intermediate between the East Asian countries on the one hand and the countries most heavily influenced by Protestant, Anglo-Saxon culture on the other….

i see dead people more or less this same pattern over and over again:

– brits, americans, canadians, australians, dutch, swedes
– germans, italians, belgians, french, other mediterraneans
– japanese, koreans, singaporeans

the top group — especially the anglos wherever they be in the world — are:

– the most outbreeding of populations in the world — AND have a long history of doing so (see mating patterns series below ↓ in left-hand column)
– the most civic
– amongst the least corrupt
– the best at handling liberal democracy — in fact, they invented it
– and, what else … oh yes … are amongst the least violent populations in the world.

and the funny thing about that last point is that the violence rates — the homicide rates — dropped in these various countries over the course of the medieval period in pretty much (afaict) the very same pattern as hampden-turner and trompenaars’ independence/universalism vs. interdependence/particularism pattern above:

– england
– belgium/netherlands
– germany/switzerland
– scandinavia
– italy

i find it hard to believe that all of these co-incidences are all just a bunch of coincidences.

and given that the history of outbreeding in all of these places also seems to fit the same pattern (again, see mating patterns series below ↓ in left-hand column), i think (as you already might have started to suspect) that the mating patterns and all these behavioral/cultural patterns are tied together.

(however, if some of the apparent cognitive differences are also tied to the mating patterns, i will be genuinely shocked!)

need to have a look at the hampden-turner and trompenaars book to see where the scores of the middling european countries fall. another reason to get out of my pjs (and put on some street clothes!) and head to the library. (^_^)

see also t. greer’s “West and East and How We Think.”

previously: universalism vs. particularism

(note: comments do not require an email. not my pjs. =( )


universalism vs. particularism

these are really just some notes on universalism vs. particularism that i want to jot down before i forget about them. (been known to happen.) i’ll be coming back to these ideas of universalism and particularism — particularly wrt ideas about morality and actual moral behaviors — in a later post(s).

previously, in this post:

“in ‘Corruption, Culture, and Markets,’ lipset & lenz…[pgs. 119-120 – links and emphases added by me]…

“‘The second major cultural framework, one derived from Plato via Banfield, assumes that corruption is in large part an expression of particularism — the felt obligation to help, to give resources to persons to whom one has a personal obligation, to the family above all but also to friends and membership groups. Nepotism is its most visible expression. Loyalty is a particularistic obligation that was very strong in precapitalist, feudal societies. As Weber implied, loyalty and the market are antithetical. The opposite of particularism is universalism, the commitment to treat others according to a similar standard. Market norms express universalism; hence, pure capitalism exhibits and is sustained by such values.'”

now, from Communicating Across Cultures [pgs. 81-82 – links and emphases added by me]:

“Universalistic-Based versus Particularistic-Based Interaction

“Independent-self individuals like to use a ‘universal’ set or a ‘fair’ set of standards to measure others’ performance. In comparison, interdependent-self individuals prefer to use a ‘contextual’ or a ‘particular’ set of criteria to evaluate others’ performance in different situations.

“According to Parson’s (1951) work, there are two kinds of societies: ‘universalistic’ and ‘particularistic.’ Independent-self individuals tend to be located in universalistic societies, whereas interdependent-self individuals tend to be located in particularistic societies. People in universalistic societies, such as Canada, the United States, Sweden, and Norway, believe that laws and regulations are written for everyone and must be upheld by everyone at all times. In contrast, for people in particularistic societies, such as China, South Korea, Venezuela, and Russia, the nature of the particular relationship in a given situation will determine how you will act in that situation (Trompenaars, 1994).

For members of universalistic societies, the law or regulations should treat everyone equally. On the other hand, for members of particularistic societies, the laws or regulations can be molded to fit the specific relationship or the in-group needs. Universalistic work practice emphasizes the importance of detailed contracts and penalty clauses in order to conduct business properly; particularistic work practices focuses on developing interpersonal trust and close social ties to maintain work commitment.

“The in-group asserts a profound impact, especially in particularistic societies. The concept of an ‘in-group’ can refer to both the actual kinship network to which you belong (e.g., your family group) and the reference groups (e.g., work group, political group) with which you identify closely. On the cultural level of analysis, the definition of the in-group can vary tremendously across cultures. For example, in the United States, the in-group is typically defined as ‘people who are in agreement with me on important issues and values’ (Triandis, 1989, p. 53 [pdf]). For the traditional Greeks, the in-group is defined as ‘family and friends and people who are concerned with my welfare’ (Triandis, 1989. p. 53). For the Western Samoans, the in-group consists of the extended family and the immediate village community (Ochs, 1988). For many of the Latin American groups, in-group refers to the extended family and the immediate neighborhood. For Arab cultures, in-group refers to immediate and extended family networks of parents, spouses, siblings, related cousins, and even honored guests who are unrelated to the host….

“For individualistic [universalistic] cultures, the in-group and out-group share a permeable boundary; for collectivistic [particulartic] cultures, in-group and out-group interaction follows a clear set of prescribed, identity-related behaviors.”

i think that there’s a connection between individualistic [outbred] societies having more universalistic ideals/morality and clannish [inbred] societies having particularistic ideals/morality.

kevin macdonald wrote extensively on how gypsy morality applies only within gypsy society — gypsy morality does not apply to non-gypsies [pdf]. in other words, gypsies are inbred [pg. 10 – pdf], clannish, and have a very particularistic moral system. at the other end of the spectrum we’ve got groups like the unitarians where everything goes, really, and just about everybody is included.

i’d like to think more about all the different religions/religious denominations and all the various moral systems in general and work out which ones are universalistic and which ones are particularistic — and how much. if you’ve got any ideas about all this, drop them in the comments, please! (^_^) for instance, roman catholicism is pretty universalistic (“catholic”) in that anybody can join up, but you do have to join up to be saved, so it’s not 100% universalistic. then you have judaism in which, i think, there’s a range of universalism-particularism — you can’t join the hasidim (i’m assuming), but you can convert to (is it?) reform judaism. but, again, you’ve got to join up.

one group that i think is particularly interesting is the calvinists. calvinism is often characterized as being individualistic in that the reform churches broke with roman catholicism and, like other protestants, argued for a more direct connection between individuals persons and god; but calvinism is, in fact, very particularistic in its ideas of reprobation and double predestination. you can’t just join up — god has to choose you. that’s particularistic.

previously: individualism-collectivism and familism, respect for parents, and corruption

(note: comments do not require an email. calvin.)