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Cultural Anthropology and International Business How often do we hear people say "The whole argument is academic"? By this statement they mean that, despite the elegance of the logic, the whole line...

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Cultural Anthropology
and International Business
How often do we hear people say "The whole argument is academic"? By this statement
they mean that, despite the elegance of the logic, the whole line of reasoning makes lit-
tle or no difference. In other words, the term academic has become synonymous with ir-
elevant. In all of academia, it is hard to think of other disciplines generally perceived by
the public to be any more i
elevant to the everyday world than cultural anthropology, the
comparative study of cultures. The student of biology, for example, can apply his or her
skills to the solution of vital medical problems; the student of creative arts can produce
lasting works of art; and the political science student, owing to a basic understanding of
political dynamics, can become a local, state, or national leader. But according to popu-
lar perception, the study of cultural anthropology, with its apparent emphasis on the non-
Western cultures of the world, has little to offer other than a chance to da
le in the
To counter the long-held popular view that cultural anthropology is of little use in
helping to understand the world around us, in recent years an increasing number of cul-
tural anthropologists have applied the theories, findings, and methods of their craft to a
wide range of professional areas. Professionals in such areas as education, u
an ad-
ministration, and the various health services have been coming to grips, albeit reluc-
tantly, with the cultural environments within which they work; however, those in the area
of international business, although having perhaps the greatest need, remain among the
most skeptical concerning the relevance of cultural anthropology. There has in fact been
little contact between cultural anthropology and the international business sector. Ac-
cording to Erve Chambers, cultural anthropologists have avoided working with the in-
ternational business community because of "a highly prejudiced ethical stance which
associates commercial success and profit taking with a lack of concern for human wel-
fare" (1 985, 128). Also, Western multinational corporations have not actively sought the
services of cultural anthropologists, whom they generally view as serving little useful pur-
2 Cultural Anthropology and International Business
pose other than providing more interesting cocktail-party conversation about the esoter-
ic peoples of the world. In short, both cultural anthropologists and international busi-
nesspeople view the concerns of the other as i
elevant, morally questionable, or trivial.
This book rests on the fundamental assumption that to operate effectively in the in-
ternational business arena one must master the cultural environment by means of pur-
poseful preparation as well as sustained learning throughout one's overseas assignment.
Now, as in the past, international businesspeople acquire their international expertise
while on the job, and they consider such hands-on factors as business travel and overseas
assignments to be the most important experiences. While not minimizing the value of ex-
periential learning, this book argues that, in addition to on-the-job learning (and in most
cases, before entering the international marketplace), successful international business-
people must prepare themselves in a very deliberate manner in order to operate within a
new, and frequently very different, cultural environment.
When the average American hears the word anthropologist, two images usually come to
mind. The first image is that represented by Ha
ison Ford in his portrayal of anthropol-
ogist Indiana Jones in the film Raiders of the LostArk. In his search for clues to the se-
crets of lost civilizations, Indiana Jones spends most of his time being chased by irate
cannibals, engaging in hand-to-hand combat with sinister Nazis, and being thrown into
pits with thousands of snakes. Although this image is exciting theater, it gives us little in-
sight into what anthropology is all about. The second image of an anthropologist is that
of the i
elevant academic who spends every moment out of the classroom interviewing
exotic peoples whose cultures are about to become extinct. Anthropology, however, is nei-
ther hazardous to the health nor i
elevant. Both these views of anthropology are mis-
leading stereotypes, which obscure both the nature of the discipline and its relevance to
the world.
The scientific discipline of anthropology is far less life-endangering than Hollywood
would have us believe and far more relevant than most of us imagine. To be certain, an-
thropologists do travel to the far corners of the world studying little-known cultures (cul-
tural anthropologists) and languages (anthropological linguists). Moreover, some
anthropologists unearth fossil remains (physical anthropologists) and artifacts (archae-
ologists) of people who lived thousands or, in some cases, millions of years ago. Despite
the fact that these four subareas of anthropology frequently deal with different types of
data, they are all directed toward a single purpose: the scientific study of human cultures
in whatever form, time period, or region of the world in which they might be found. Ac-
cording to Carol and Melvin Ember,
Anthropology is concerned explicitly and directly with all varieties of people throughout the
world, not just those close at hand or within a limited area. It is also interested in people of
all periods. Beginning with the immediate ancestors of humans who lived a few million years
ago, anthropology traces the development of humans until the present. Every part of the
world that has ever contained a human population is of interest to anthropologists. (1999,2)
Cultural Anthropology and International Business 3
Cultural anthropologist no longer work only in exotic parts of the world, such
as southwest Africa.
4 Cultural Anthropology and International Business
Anthropology differs from other disciplines that study humans in that it is much
oader in scope both geographically and historically. Four distinct yet closely related sub-
fields comprise anthropology: (1) archaeology, the study of ancient and prehistoric so-
cieties; (2) physical anthropology, the study of humans as biological entities; (3)
anthropological linguistics, the comparative study of languages; and (4) cultural an-
thropology, the search for similarities and differences among contemporary peoples of
the world. Even though the discipline encourages all anthropologists to constantly inte-
grate these four fields, in recent decades increasing disciplinary specialization has made
it virtually impossible for any anthropologist to cover all four fields in a comprehensive
way. When we look at the contributions anthropology can make to the more effective
conduct of international business, we are looking primarily at cultural anthropology.
Cultural anthropology seeks to understand how and why contemporary peoples of
the world differ in their customary ways of behaving and how and why they share cer-
tain similarities. It is, in short, the comparative study of cultural differences and similarities
found throughout the world. Cultural anthropologists may often appear to be document-
ing inconsequential cultural facts about little-known peoples of the world, but our learn-
ing more about the wide range of cultural variations will serve as a check on those who
might generalize about "human nature" solely on observations from their own society. It
is not at all unusual for people to assume that their own ways of thinking and acting are
unquestionably rational, "natural," or "human." Consider, for example, the nonve
gesture of negation (found in the United States and in other parts of the world), shaking
the head from side to side. In some parts of India, however, people use this very same ges-
ture to communicate not negation but affirmation. In fact, there are any number of dif-
ferent ways of nonve
ally communicating the idea of negation, all of which are no more
or no less rational than shaking the head from side to side. The study of cultural anthro-
pology provides a look at the enormous variations in thinking and acting found in the
world today and how many different solutions have been generated for solving the same
Anthropology does more than simply document the enormous variations in human
cultures. If anthropology deserves to be called a science, it must go beyond the mere cat-
aloging of cultural differences. It must also identify and describe the commonalities of
humans amid the great diversity-that is, the regularities found in all cultural contexts
egardless of how different those contexts might appear at first glance. For example, for
any society to continue to exist over the long run, it must solve the basic problem of how
to pass on its total cultural heritage--all the ideas, values, attitudes, behavior patterns, and
so on-to succeeding generations. Should that complexity of cultural traditions not be
passed on to future generations, that society will very likely not survive. Saudis have
solved this problem by developing Koranic schools, which pass on the cultural traditions
to the younger generations; in parts of West Africa, "bush schools" train young adoles-
cents to become adults; in our own society, we rely on a formal system of compulsory
education, complete with books, desks, and teachers. Although the details of these edu-
cational systems vary enormously, all societies in the world-today or in the past-have
worked out a system for ensuring that new generations will learn their culture. Thus, the
science of anthropology attempts to document the great variations in cultural forms while
Cultural Anthropology and International Business 5
looking for both the common strands that are found in and the general principles that apply
to all cultures.
The strong comparative perspective that anthropologists
ing to the study of the
human condition helps reduce the probability that their theories will be culture bound.
Sociologists and psychologists, for example, concentrating as they have on studies of
peoples from Western societies, are more likely to construct theories that are based on
Western assumptions of reality. The cross-cultural perspective of anthropological stud-
ies has frequently served as a co
ective to those disciplines that rely more heavily for their
theory construction on data from Western societies. According to Clifford Geertz, cul-
tural anthropologists were the first to recognize
that the world does not divide into the pious and the superstitious; that there are sculptures
in jungles and paintings in deserts; that political order is possible without centralized power
and principled justice without codified rules; that the norms of reason were not fixed in
Greece, the evolution of morality not consummated in England XXXXXXXXXXWe have, with no little
success, sought to keep the world off balance; pulling out rugs, upsetting tea tables, setting
off fire
Answered Same Day Sep 11, 2021


Komalavalli answered on Sep 11 2021
145 Votes
A nation's culture is conveyed via its systems. Three systems – government, education and the family play an important role in the transmission of cultural standards. The government usually presents an ideology or a series of convictions. These ideas are then taught by schools and the families, and the actions that support them. The convictions are frequently refe
ed to as values, and the conduct supporting such ideals is refe
ed to as standards.
Values are abstract ideas that are good, right, ethical, moral and thus desirable for particular behaviors. In the United States, freedom is one virtue; equality is another. These ideals can be attributed to a...

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