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The Cultural Imperative

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The Cultural Imperative

Global Trends in the 21st Century

Intercultural Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Why do the Japanese save “face” and the French flaunt their flair? Blame culture, slow to evolve; even slower to change.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Those who extrapolate trends and predict the future say that economic, political and even genetic factors will determine the future of the world. But, in fact, culture makes the world go around, according to Richard D. Lewis, a well-traveled scholar who reflects here on the origins and implications of human cultures. Culture has deep roots in history, religion and language, so it will probably be a more potent factor in shaping the future than many observers grant. Now it is fashionable to say that cultures are coalescing into one global culture. This author strenuously opposes that easy assumption. He also offers a deeper look at Islamic culture in a post-Sept. 11 addendum. Overall, his intriguing arguments might have been much more involving if a good editor had pared away some of his more facile references and observations. At times, the book seems to serve up a tad too many stereotypes and clichés. Yet also finds that it offers some fascinating, thought-provoking suggestions, and recommends it for a rainy weekend at the beach or for airplane reading.


Culture Creates Defining National Attributes

The era of the 1950s brought bad news for students of culture. During that decade, various theories of determinism derived from logical positivism established their rule over the study of social science in U.S. universities. However, cultural studies rely on forms of evidence and information that do not quite fit the data-driven tradition of positivism. Today’s trend is going the other way; deterministic theories - especially those of genetic and economic determinism - have not fared well recently. The collapse of Communism put Marxist notions in rather a bad light. And, modern advances in the study of genetics show the primitiveness and inadequacy of genetic determinism.

The withdrawal of great colonial powers from their once-vast empires revealed an unsuspected truth about colonialism - namely, that it was not, in fact, wholly responsible for low levels of wealth and development in countries where it held sway, especially on the continent of Africa. African countries produced staggering amounts of what qualifies as treasure by any measure - gold, silver, diamonds - and also cash crops such as cocoa. Southeast Asian countries...

About the Author

Richard D. Lewis, knighted by President Ahtissari of Finland in 1997, is chairman of Richard Lewis Communications, author of the best-selling When Cultures Collide: Managing Successfully Across Cultures, former tutor to Empress Michiko of Japan, and a lecturer and consultant with a worldwide client roster.

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