Cultural ecology in the cross-cultural management research: a procedural analysis model.

Author:Chou, Linjie

    The current trend in cross-cultural management research is moving toward a dynamism-oriented approach. This is because the positivist and static Hofstedian tradition cannot accommodate the changing nature of cultures (Fang, 2006, 2009; McSweeney, 2002; Guitel, 2004, Nelsen et al., 2005). Cultural ecology is, therefore, being presented as a promising bridge for bridging the gap between the dynamic, changing nature and paradoxical need of culture (Bird and Fang, 2009; Chou, 2009). Although a few papers specifically concerning the topic have been published, there is still lack of a genuine theoretical framework on which the serious cross-cultural researcher can rely. The purpose of this paper is, therefore, to point out a general direction in conceptualizing the cultural ecology by imposing a procedural structure. In the first part of this paper, an overview of what cultural ecology is, and what it is related to, will be given, followed by a discussion of the three major schools of thinking in cultural ecology, namely, evolutionary approach, materialistic approach and management application approach. Finally, the 'cultural ecology procedural analysis model' will be introduced.


    The emerging discipline of cultural ecology provides a holistic possibility for bridging the gaps within the incomprehensive cross-cultural research due to the fact of lacking in contextual measures. Cultural ecology denotes the changing relationship between culture and the environment (Bada, 1995; Everette, 1996) or the total web of life (Steward, 1955), through developmental adaptations (Berry, 1977; Cohen, 2001). This has the potential to accommodate the simultaneous coexistence of the paradoxes (e.g. masculinity vs. femininity; hierarchy vs. egalitarian; long-term orientation vs. short-term orientation) in cross-cultural management research. Cultural ecology, as a discourse, can be used to fulfill the dialectical and movement appreciation that modern cross-cultural research aims for. How cultures interact with the environment is related to how societies confront and solve the common problems of existence (Thomas, 2008). Culture, thus, gives meanings to one's way of life and provides control over environment and norms, values and myths, in turn, allow people to make sense of the environment (McCarthy, 1998). The undeniable interdependency between ecology and culture is crucial for the understanding of human relations. Thus, cultural ecology can be said to be a key ingredient of future cross-cultural management studies.


    Generally, the cultures in different parts of the world are often linked to the given availability of natural resources, climate, terrain and geographic latitude (Hofstede, 2001; Triandis and Suh, 2002). Each culture has developed its own unique structure for dealing effectively with its environment, given its available resources (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 1993). Hofstede (2001) suggested that the forces of nature can change the cultures from the outside. On the subsistence level, the distinction between hunter-gatherers and agricultural society, for example is a clear indication of the cultural-ecology causality. In the arctic, Nordic, hunter-gatherer societies, people tend to look after themselves, first, because survival is often in stake (Hofstede, 2005), and this leads to the birth of individualism and 'hands-to-work' Protestant ethics, which, in turn, facilitate the ideological foundation of 'egalitarianism' and 'low uncertainty avoidance' orientation. The typical Icelandic management style is summarized as 'egalitarianism' and 'reaction to adverse nature', which is related to its relatively small size and ever-changing weather that is hardly possible to avoid uncertainty (Eyjolfsdottir and Smith, 1996). Compared with the Latin management, Nordic management in general is more employee oriented and responsibility delegated (Lindell and Arvonen, 1996). Conversely, in the warm or temperate agricultural societies, such as Africa, Asia and Latin America, the survival of offspring is possible even without the significant investment of fathers because of the abundance of foods. This may give rise to competition in power among the men in politics, which enforces the strict socialization and masculinity values (Triandis, 1982; Triandis and Suh 2002). Chinese culture is a very power-centered culture that places importance on masculine status symbols (Bjerke, 1999) such as wealth and one's social networks. Ronen and Shenkar (1985) sketched clusters of countries according to geographic, linguistic and religious classifications, which resulted in a clockwise latitudinal-GNP per capita set out, which confirmed the importance of ecology on work values and attitudes. In a stepwise regression analysis, Hofstede (2001) showed that, across 50 countries, 43% of the variance in power distance indication can be predicted from the geographic latitude alone, and 51% can be predicted from a combination of latitude and population size. The disparities in economical and social development between east and west, and Northern and Southern Hemispheres are concurred as the consequences of cultural ecological differences.

    The study of cultural ecology is also fond of culture's rich life during and after cultural clashes and collisions (Fang, 2009), where, at any certain point, adaptation can occur. Cohen (2001), for instance...

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