What is culture?
Culture is an important part of our lives, but we rarely link it to economic development. It is what separates one group from another, but mostly understated in its importance. Our culture can sometimes be taken for granted because it is part and parcel of who we are. So what then is culture and why is it important in economic development?
Max Webber defines culture as “the collective programming of the mind”. It is what separates one group from another in terms of their conduct and attitude. It is the way or pattern or manner that is common to a group of people. This includes the characteristics of a group of people as members of the wider society. Some people can be identified by the way they dress or even the way they speak.
It is about the assumptions, values and etiquette of people that is distinct to that group and helps to separate them from others. The essence of culture is that it helps to shape the beliefs of individuals and may help them to foster common goals, which can impact the group or contribute to their success.
Why is it important?
Apart from groups of people, organisations also can have their own separate culture. This can help companies to achieve better results. Organisations with a ‘win-win’ culture will try to find a balance that satisfies both parties to an agreement, whereas those with a ‘win at all cost’ culture will have different methods of operation.
There may be some elements of a culture that will allow people to self actualise, be competitive or to strive for perfection. All of these characteristics can help to shape how people behave and their approach to economic development. It also needs to be remembered that culture is fluid and constantly changing. Since culture is about what we do, the attitude of people towards entrepreneurship can have an impact on the way people perceive and deal with risk.
For example, culture that sees a cup as being “half full, rather than half empty”, will impact the general attitude of the people. A country or group of people with a culture of thrift are more likely to save than one that lives for today
Link to economic development.
Culture plays a role in how a group of people look at the world and whether they are content with the status quo or would rather strive to become better.
The Japanese and South Korean cultures have been credited with their rapid economic success. The culture that instils hard-work and the attainment of higher education will provide a different result to one that believes in the intervention of a power outside of their control.
Where people have a sense of purpose and with absolute focus and devotion to achieving their goal, then such a culture will more likely succeed better than one that constantly look for easier solutions or one that expects others to take care of them.
It is therefore important to be mindful of part of our culture that we keep and pass on to the next generation.
But the fact that some people have a different culture does not make it strange. We also copy or are influenced by the other people’s culture.
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