The classification of different groups in the society is a practice that has gone on for some time now. Classification of countries is done based on the study of the cultures of the population of the country. Hofstede is one of the most renowned scholars who have attempted to define and expound on the subject of cultural classification of countries. The paper has explored the features and the assumptions that were used by Hofstede to group Arab countries into one. The findings have revealed that a number of characteristic are justified, while other characteristics are not justified because they follow a general framework that does not reflect the entire Arab countries. It has also been noted that there is a widening gap in the development of cultures within the Arab world. Therefore, trying to single out characteristics of cultural classifications and applying them collectively is no longer considered rational.
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There seems to be a growing trend in the classification of things in the world. One of these trends is in the classification of people, societies and even countries according to the perceptions that are held about the people, societies or even the countries. Culture comes from the mental programming of the mind, which makes human beings to attach certain behaviour to a certain group of people, societies or countries. For instance, most people attribute Islam to Arab countries, yet there are a substantial number of people from the Arab countries who are not Muslims. Hofstede is one of the renowned researchers who have made attempts to group countries according to cultural proximity. To advance this, Hosfstede was convinced that Arab countries could fit into one group. This paper explores the differences in the categorization of Arabian countries by Hofstede. The paper begins by justifying Hofstede grouping of the Arab countries. This is followed by a criticism of the Hofstede grouping. The criticisms are backed by suggestions of elements of grouping, which seem rational.
Understanding cultural grouping
Hofstede observed that culture is a critical factor when it comes to the social and economic classification of countries. The features of companies on the global markets are highly influenced by their culture. Within the context of the knowledge society that is characterized by growth in the channels of information exchange, Hofstede brings about a cultural dimension that is used to classify countries in the international scene according to their cultures. According to Hofstede, culture can be defined as the programming of the human mind, which leads to the separation of one category of people from others. The social environment in which a person resides has a profound influence on the mental programming of a person, thereby determining how the person distinguishes groups of people within the society (Hofstede & Hofstede 2005).
Hofstede argued that there are different levels of culture, which are derived from the different levels of mental programming within a person. These levels include the national level of classification and the regional level of classification. National cultures are used to classify most of the countries in the international scene. There are three main characteristics that can be used to define national cultures. These characteristics are derived from the culture of the people. They include: Relation to authority, conceptions of self, and the way people respond to conflict. This entails the way aggression is controlled and the way people express feelings (Hofstede & Hofstede 2005).
According to social anthropology, classification of countries according to culture can also be looked at from a relativistic viewpoint (Ferraro & Andreatta 2010). This is likened to the argument by Hofstede that cultural attachments are derived from mental programming. The social environment of a person plays a great role in the development of cultural attachments of a particular people or nation. A certain environment may lead a person to dwell on certain features of the people and ignorance of other features. Therefore, no particular grouping of a given people can be said to be a total reflection of the culture of the population. This gives a room for people to critique the classifications, including the cultural frameworks supposed by Hofstede. The social environment of a person often possesses a lot of features, thus it becomes hard for one to effectively rely on these features and classify a certain country or region. These features include the social ties and behaviours, the patterns of economic interaction and the orientation of the political relations. There are significant differences within each individual feature from which cultural traits are derived. This further implies the complexity of grouping a certain region by basing on similar features (Stocking 2001).
Hofstede grouping of Arab Countries
In his classification of Arab countries, Hofstede picked on a number of countries from the Arab world and classified them into one by basing on a number of cultural traits through relating them with states in other regions. The five dimensions model of analysis was used by Hofstede. The countries include: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Kuwait. The characteristics of cultural classification that were used to rate and group the Arab countries into one include: Power distance, individualism, femininity and masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, and long term orientation (The Hofstede Centre n.d.).
Analysis of Hofstede’s Grouping of Arab Countries
It is critical to say that the culture of a place is a conception of a human mind, which is shaped by the social environment of a person. As pointed out in the literature, cultural relativism makes it hard to approve a given grouping of countries by virtue of culture. It is vital to expound on the grouping of Arab countries by Hofstede. By doing this, it is easy to derive critical arguments about the grouping. According to Hofstede, the Arab world is masculine. The implication of this is that people in the Arab countries live to work. Also, managers in the Arab countries are assertive and decisive in nature. The emphasis of management in these countries centres on competition, equity and performance. Also conflicts are managed through fighting them out. This is subject to debate considering the fact that the Arab world is making efforts to ensure that it is fully incorporated into the globalising world. Moreover, each country has its own path of development, which impacts the political and economic culture of the country. The number of countries taken as a sample for the classification of the Arab world cannot be said to reflect all other countries in the region.
Hosfstede also argued that Arab countries portray a rigid code of behaviour and belief and do not tolerate other behaviours. He continues to argue that these features make these countries resistant to innovation. What has been seen in most Arab countries is political rigidity in the sense that most regimes stick to power for a long period. Nonetheless, most of the countries have shown their ability to adopt technologies at a quicker pace than even the non-Arab countries.
The other characteristic that has been used by Hofstede to group Arab countries is that they embrace collectivism. Collectivism implies that Arab countries embrace collective working. This has some truth considering the fact that these countries do not highly embrace capitalistic practices. Once again, it can be said that the characteristic of collectivism is derived from the religion that is commonly practiced in the country.
The argument that the Arab world is hierarchical carries a lot of weight. Hierarchy is often drawn from the system of governance in the country. This implies that the system of management that is embraced in the Arab countries is centralized. While a substantial number of countries in the Arab countries still embrace the centralized management, the globalised environment is forcing them to shift to the hybrid system of administration, which minimizes hierarchy.
It can be agreed that countries in the Arab world have followed the authoritative structure of management. Therefore, the character of assertiveness can be taken as a culture, and a character of the Arab countries. However, it is critical to note that most countries are changing their structures of operation in order to meet the demands of the changing world. The implication that the Arab world is masculine can no longer be applied in a blanket form. Companies of the Arab world have realized the essence of incorporation into the global economy and are adopting practices of management that are more accommodating.
There is a point in the argument that Arab countries portray rigid codes of behaviour and belief. This is backed by the fact that most of the Arab countries are known to embrace the Islamic religion. The aspect of rigidity is often derived from exercising of Islamic principles in the administration. The application of Islamic principles cannot be used to imply that the countries have a rigid code of behaviour. The fact that these countries fit within the global world is a reason enough to suppose that they can adjust their behaviour. Picturing this from the economic perspective, it can be observed that there are a large number of multinational companies that have successfully established their operations in the Arab world. The fact that these multinationals have successfully fitted their operations in the Arab world means that the Arab countries are dynamic.
Recently, the Arab countries have been showing tendencies of moving away from collectivism. They have begun embracing economic capitalism. The reason why most of these countries are moving away from socialism is that socialism has resulted in the development of autocratic regimes. The revolutions that were recently witnessed in the Arab world have been pointers to the fact that the countries are moving away from the closely knit relations and are copying practices of relation and administration of capitalistic countries.
From the discussion and analysis in the paper, it can be said that culture is a critical element that can be used to categorise countries. Basing on the fact that culture is formed by human minds, the grouping of Arab countries by Hofstede can be subjected to a lot of criticism.
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Ferraro, GP & Andreatta, S 2010, Cultural anthropology: An applied perspective, Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.
Hofstede, G & Hofstede, GJ 2005, Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind; [intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival], McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.
Stocking, GW 2001, Delimiting anthropology: Occasional essays and reflections, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WN.
The Hofstede Centre n.d., Arab World (EG,IQ,KW,LB,LY,SA), Web.