what you get here

This is not a blog which opinionates on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers to muse about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

The Bucegi mountains - the range I see from the front balcony of my mountain house - are almost 120 kms from Bucharest and cannot normally be seen from the capital but some extraordinary weather conditions allowed this pic to be taken from the top of the Intercontinental Hotel in late Feb 2020

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Fourth Dimension?

It’s strange how our mind operates on single tracks but suddenly makes a connection with an idea that has been travelling on a parallel track.

This past year has seen regular posts about the idea behind the blog’s new title – that writers who work across boundaries (be they cultural or intellectual) tend to think more creatively and to express their ideas more clearly than those stuck in the old silos. I even developed a table of some 20 writers to prove the point.

Completely separately, there have also been regular posts about cultural values – referring to the work of people such as de Hofstede; Ronald Inglehart; FransTrompenaars; Richard Lewis (of When Cultures Collide fame) and Richard Nesbitt.  That body of writing emphasises the distinctiveness of cultural values and is most graphically illustrated in the Inglehart cultural map of the world which is best explained in this brochure. Those were the days when a body of literature called “path dependency” was raising important questions about how “sticky” cultural values were…viz how difficult it is to change national behavioural traits

There is one guy who could have helped me make the connection between these two very separate streams of thinking – and that is the rather neglected figure of Ronnie LessemRonnie who? I hear you asking. I first came across his work in the early 1990s when I bought a copy of “Global Management Principles“ (1989) which impressed me very much. It - 

classifies the management literature (and styles) of the twentieth century using the points of the compass.   North" is traditional rational bureaucracy: "West" celebrates the animality of the frontier spirit: "East" the developmental side of the collectivity; and "South" the metaphysical He then goes on to argue that organisations and individuals also go through such phases. It is undoubtedly the most inter-disciplinary of the management books: and gives very useful vignettes of the writers and their context. 

And utterly original – as you would expect of someone raised in Zimbabwe in southern Africa who then moved to the UK. His work blazed a trail, however, which few have chosen to follow – it’s just too original! His personal style of writing was a bit daring for academia in those days! And his references sometimes too wide – in the opening pages he quotes approvingly the development style of the ultimately-disgraced Bank for Credit and Commerce

In a way, it embodies the thesis-antithesis-synthesis approach beloved by those who refuse to accept the Manichean view of the world and argue instead for “balance” (Giddens; Mintzberg) - except that it adds a fourth dimension! 

Which is my cue for an (overdue) discussion of this issue of World Views. In the 1970s anthropologist Mary Douglas developed what she called the “grid-group” typology, consisting of four very different “world views” – what she calls hierarchist, egalitarian, individualist and fatalist. This came to be known as “Cultural Theory”. I came across Mary Douglas’ theory only in 2000, thanks to public admin theorist Chris Hood’s “The Art of the State” which uses her typology brilliantly to help us understand the strengths, weaknesses and risks of the various world views. 

I am aware of only one book-length study which compares and contrasts these various models “Way of life theory – the underlying structure of world views, social relations and lifestyles” – a rather disjointed dissertation by one, Michael Edward Pepperday (2009) an introduction to which is here. Those wanting to know more can read this post which might encourage them to have a look at this short article “A Cultural Theory of Politics” which shows how the approach has affected a range of disciplines. Grid, group and grade – challenges in operationalising cultural theory for cross-national research (2014) is a longer and, be warned, very academic article although its comparative diagrams are instructive

Lessem Resource

Management development through cultural diversity (1995)

Integral Polity – integrating nature, society, culture and the economy (2015)

No comments:

Post a Comment