Running Head: HOFSTEDE’S CULTURAL DIMENSIONS: THE BASICS AND THE CRITICISMS
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions:
The Basics and the Criticisms
Moira E. Hanna
Hofstede’s model (1980) has been used widely in research in the past two decades. The culture-based model consists of four dimensions: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism, and masculinity-femininity. Each of these dimensions was identified through the use of group-level data collected from IBM branches in 40 different countries. Despite the contributions of the model to cultural research, it has faced many criticisms over the years. Some in-principle criticisms include: the level of
analysis used (i.e. group vs. individual), the potential for stereotyping, methodological
concerns, and whether the simplicity of the model truly accommodates the complexity of culture. Even with these criticisms, cultural research continues to rely on Hofstede’s
model as a starting point to quantitatively examine culture.
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions: The Basics and the Criticisms Geert Hofstede made a considerable contribution not only to the field of psychology, but also to all disciplines. The publication of his book Culture’s Consequences (Hofstede, 1980) helped to further orient the world to differences among cultures, and to begin the process of defining cultural differences using a common language. Hofstede posited that the question: “Do American theories apply abroad?” was the beginning of a “paradigm shift à la Thomas Kuhn” (Hoppe, 2004). Although
Hofstede’s book was not the first to address cultural issues and did not cause an
immediate orientation to cultural ideas, the importance of culture became more widespread and has been increasing in importance in such fields as applied psychology,
international business, and the social sciences ever since. In fact, prior to Hofstede’s
publication, the field of cultural research was often delegated to the anthropologists, and was not truly recognized as having a part in mainstream science (Triandis, 2004).
Following his book, however, cultural was able to carve a niche for itself in psychology.
Given the importance of Hofstede’s research in pushing the cultural movement
forward in psychology, this paper will begin by discussing the factors in Hofstede’s theory. Following the introduction of his ideas, the criticisms surrounding the Hofstede’s theory will be presented.
Hofstede’s research, based on information from 40 countries, identified 4 major dimensions on which cultures differ (Hofstede, 1980). They are power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism, and masculinity-femininity. Hofstede arrived at these dimensions through group level data analysis. Although this was the only
method available for analysis given the sample, Hofstede does recognize the need for individual and universal level analyses as well (Hofstede, 1980; Triandis, 2004). Hofstede, however, was not the first to encounter the issue of levels of analysis in cultural research, arguments were already ongoing over the levels at which culture must be studied. In fact, one anthropologist, Clyde Kluckhohn, made an in-principle argument that every culture must deal with several universal problems/circumstances, and thus advocated a standard framework for dealing with similar circumstances (Kluckhohn,
1953). This idea of levels of analysis will be discussed further throughout the following
The first cultural dimension examined is power distance. Power distance, as
defined by Hofstede (1980), is a measure of interpersonal power or influence between a
boss and a subordinate, as perceived by the subordinate. There is an important...
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