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10 - Unequal power relations, identity discourse, and cultural distinction drawing in MNCs

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 April 2011

Sierk Ybema
VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands
Hyunghae Byun
VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands
Christoph Dörrenbächer
Berlin School of Economics and Law
Mike Geppert
University of Surrey
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While organizational scholars have shown a sustained interest in cultural processes in transnational contexts, the dominant approach in cross-cultural research has overlooked processes of culture construction and distinction drawing, and offers an a-contextual and a-political understanding of cultural encounters. Cultural identity, as it is usually conceptualized, starts from the assumption that national identity imprints a value-based, mental program or collective “software” in peoples' minds (Hofstede 1991). These cognitive models are represented through a small set of continua – individualism–collectivism, masculinity–femininity, power distance, anxiety reduction, long-term or short-term orientation (for similar approaches, see e.g. House et al. 2004) – which are claimed to manifest themselves in organizations through stubbornly distinctive patterns of thinking, feeling and acting located in the nationally constituted actors. Despite the appealing simplicity of a description in terms of dimension scores and the useful grip it promises to provide on a complex phenomenon, such a description gives a rather minimal, static and monolithic sketch of national cultures (for a critical discussion of Hofstede's work, see e.g. Ailon 2008). A few general characteristics are considered to be deep-rooted determinants of behavior that are assumed to constitute a true and timeless cultural essence.

Politics and Power in the Multinational Corporation
The Role of Institutions, Interests and Identities
, pp. 315 - 345
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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