Culture's Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations

Geert Hofstede
Sage Publications: London
0803973241 (pb)
xx + 596

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Front Cover This is one of those books whose evocative title can invite a wide readership from various disciplines. A Ph. D. in social psychology and the author of numerous monographs, Geert Hofstede is Emeritus professor at Maastricht University, in the Netherlands. Apart from his academic career, he also worked for private corporations such as IBM Europe. An earlier version of this book, titled Culture's Consequences, International Differences in Work-Related Values, was released by Sage in 1980 (followed by a much needed abridged version in 1984). But since then, there have been so many excellent publications related to management theories and cross-cultural studies that Hofstede's book had to be updated. Nevertheless, the author claims that he had created a paradigm shift in cross-cultural studies when the first edition appeared more than twenty years ago; we now find in this updated version a few responses to some previous critiques (pp. 73 and 462).

This new edition of Culture's Consequences deals about how organizational culture can vary in different contexts, according to corporate values, behaviors and local traditions, from one country to another. From the beginning, Hofstede argues that there are "mental programs in people in general, and values and culture in particular." (p. 1). Here, culture (in the sense of a national culture) is defined by Hofstede in terms deviated from social psychology, and understood as "the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another" (p. 9). Later, the author argues that the organizational culture constitutes "the psychological assets of the organization" (p. 408).

In my opinion, Culture's Consequences is a generous book with more facts than ideas. Its substantial chapters are informative, beginning with numerous definitions, pertinent quotes and general principles. The amount of data and comparative statistics is huge, for instance taking from some of Ronald Inglehart's praised compilations from the World Values Survey (WVS). Incidentally, many of the numbers used here come from the IBM data, like the "IBM Attitude Survey Questionnaire" that was given to thousands of employees. The analysis forms the basis of a "power distance index" (PDI), which is "a measure of the interpersonal power or influence between B [boss] and S [subordinate] as perceived by the less powerful of the two" (p. 83). Many examples and statistics related to the power distance index from 50 countries are given and analyzed (p. 87). Useful conceptual distinctions are given, for instance between "national culture" and "organizational culture" (p. 393).

An ambitious, detailed, sometimes inspiring book about how organizations work, Culture's Consequences : Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations might be helpful to scholars who specialize in organizational anthropology, social psychology, intercultural communication, sociology of work, cultural geography and management. But this quantitative research would perhaps be regarded as a deception for scholars in cultural studies and sociology of culture. In any case, I would suggest the potential reader wait for the publication of an abridged version.

Yves Laberge
Institut québécois des hautes études internationales, Québec