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The Fundamental Elements of Culture: the US and India Essay

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Updated: Oct 28th, 2020

Fundamental elements of culture, including locus of control and power distance, are influenced by a variety of factors, such as historical and socioeconomic changes that impact the development of culture. These influences justify the major geographical differences between cultures and their elements. Comparing the United States and India in terms of locus of control and power distance can offer a valuable insight into the differences evident between the two cultures.

In my opinion, the locus of control in India varies greatly depending on the person’s socioeconomic circumstances, as well as demographic factors, such as age, gender, and level of education. For example, a study by Gajendran and Nagle showed that male youth tend to have an internal locus of control, whereas, in females, the locus of control is usually external (145). Indeed, Indian culture has a significant degree of gender inequality, despite women’s rights efforts evident in recent years.

The variation in the locus of control across the society can also be driven by age, level of education, and socioeconomic factors. First of all, in Indian culture, older people are respected and are perceived to be wiser and more independent. Younger people, on the other hand, might experience more pressure from society and their families to make certain decisions, which leads to a higher degree of external locus of control in youth as opposed to older generations.

The level of education and socioeconomic position are tightly linked in Indian society. People with higher education and above tend to have greater career prospects, which gives them more control over their lives (Shifter and Sutton 575). This is also true for Indian culture.

In terms of power distance, I believe that India ranks higher than many other countries due to the inequality of wealth and power in society. There are many disadvantaged groups in India, and there are also wealthy families that are at the top of the social hierarchy. Although India is widely perceived to be the world’s largest democracy, the social hierarchy is perceived to be important, and the caste system is relatively stable, thus leading to a higher power distance within the culture. My opinion on this matter was also supported by research on the topic, which showed that India has a power distance of 77, which is high compared to the global average of 55 (Juhasz 41). However, the research also indicates that Indian culture is undergoing a significant change, which will positively impact this dimension of culture in the future.

In the United States, both the power distance and the locus of control are different. For instance, I believe that there is less variation in the locus of control based on age and gender in American culture. Although the elders are respected, they do not have more power than the younger generations; similarly, the impact of gender on the decision-making power is lower, which allows females to have the same locus of control as males. However, there are still variations in the locus of control based on socioeconomic and racial differences, as noted by Shifrer and Sutton (577).

On the whole, I believe that Americans tend to have a more positive view of their control over their lives than many Indian people do, which is characteristic of the internal locus of control. Power distance in the U.S., on the other hand, is slightly smaller than the power distance in the Indian culture. Personally, I think that in American culture, people embrace a variety of opinions and value feedback from people from different socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition, American workplaces and communities tend to value ambition, which is also linked to small power distance.

My personal perspective on the locus of control and power distance is similar to that of the American culture. I believe that I have a significant degree of control over the events and decisions that influence my life and future. Therefore, I think that I have an internal locus of control. My perception of power distance fits into the culture of small power distance. I think that, although the power in many societies is distributed unequally, this should not mean that the more disadvantaged populations should be disregarded. I think leaders should embrace feedback and ideas from the people they lead, as they can offer valuable insight and skills.

Fundamental elements of culture have an important impact on different aspects of life, including social relations. Some elements of culture impact social relations in one domain (family, education, or workplace) more than others, whereas certain dimensions of culture impact the society in general, thus influencing all social relations. Determining the impact of fundamental elements of social relations can help to understand how the cultural differences impact our lives.

Culture has a significant effect on relationships within the family, as it impacts the values and beliefs of family members. For instance, as found by Hamamura, “Research indicates that family relationships tend to be stronger and closer in collectivistic societies” (10). Moreover, the locus of control can also impact the relations in the family. People with an internal locus of control might be less pressured by their families to make certain life choices and decisions.

For example, in India, where the locus of control in many populations is external, parents have a strong influence on their children’s future life, including education, marriage, and career choices. Femininity vs. masculinity, as well as indulgence vs. restraint dimensions, also have an impact on parenting and the values translated by parents to kids. In societies characterized by masculinity and restraint, families would be stricter and less affectionate.

Coming from a society that is more feminine and indulgent, I would be more likely to emphasize the importance of love, friendship, and freedom in raising my children. However, the collectivist aspect of my culture also affects the role that family plays in my life. My relations with family members are among the key priorities and my life, which has a positive effect on the climate in my family.

Education is also an important aspect of our social life, and the relationships we build with our teachers and classmates are somewhat similar to those we experience in our families. Hence, social relations in education are impacted by the fundamental dimensions of culture in a similar way. Cultures that embrace individualism are more likely to produce teachers that can recognize children’s individual traits and skills and incorporate them into the learning process.

I believe that this has a positive impact on education, as such a culture allows children to learn to embrace their differences. On the other hand, collectivist societies would place a significant focus on cooperation in education (Kirpitchenko 3).

Power distance also has a significant effect on the learning process. I believe that teachers who come from cultures with small power distance allow for more freedom in classroom learning and encourage feedback from parents and students, which assists them in building a positive learning environment. As a student, I believe that coming from a society with a relatively small power distance allows me to voice my opinions more freely, which helps in building a dialogue with teachers and classmates. Moreover, being a collectivist, I actively participate in group activities and perform well in them.

In my opinion, workplace relations are influenced by a greater variety of cultural elements than other social domains. For instance, according to Wen and Huang, uncertainty avoidance has a strong impact on innovation and organizational culture (331). Managers who come from a culture with high uncertainty tolerance are more likely to embrace new ideas from workers, which helps in building a positive organizational culture.

Moreover, time orientation can also impact the relationship between workers and managers. Managers who come from monochronic cultures are more likely to set strict deadlines and schedules for projects, which might become additional sources of stress for workers. Coming from a culture that is masculine yet polychronic, I aim to succeed in all of my projects while at the same time balancing my tasks effectively to avoid stress. As a leader, I would encourage workers to maintain a work-life balance and to exercise their skills and abilities to find innovative ways of performing certain tasks.

Overall, I believe that the role of culture in our social relations is fundamental. While different aspects of culture affect different social domains, understanding the impact of culture on our relations can help us to build a positive environment both at home and at work. Moreover, in the context of globalization and increased diversity, exploring and accepting the role of culture can assist in fostering positive cross-cultural relations.

Works Cited

Gajendran, P., and Y. K. Nagle. “Self-Efficacy and Locus of Control in Indian Youth.” The International Journal of Indian Psychology, vol. 3, no. 3, 2016, pp. 138-147.

Hamamura, Takeshi. “Are Cultures Becoming Individualistic? A Cross-Temporal Comparison of Individualism–Collectivism in the United States and Japan.” Personality and Social Psychology Review, vol. 16, no. 1, 2012, pp. 3-24.

Juhasz, István. “The Workforce in Indian Organizations: An Analysis Based Upon the Dimensions of Hofstede’s Model.” Economics Questions, Issues and Problems, edited by János Tibor Karlovitz, International Research Institute, 2014, pp. 38-45.

Kirpitchenko, Liudmila. “Cultural Imagination and Study Abroad.” TASA 2013: Reflections, Intersections and Aspirations: Proceedings of The Australian Sociological Association 2013 Conference, Monash University, 2013, pp. 1-12.

Shifrer, Dara, and April Sutton. “Region‐Urbanicity Differences in Locus of Control: Social Disadvantage, Structure, or Cultural Exceptionalism?” Sociological Inquiry, vol. 84, no. 4, 2014, pp. 570-600.

Wen, Xiaojuan, and Chi Huang. “The Impact of Uncertainty Avoidance and Organizational Culture on Management Innovation.” 2012 International Conference on Information Management, Innovation Management and Industrial Engineering (ICIII), IEEE, 2012, pp. 331-334.

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