The Social Construction of Civil Identity
A macrological view of civility takes into account institutional and historical processes. Yet, it does not adequately explain what makes people agree to control their thoughts, emotions and behaviors in order to conform to culturally constructed norms.
Certainly, the desire to be a beneficiary of economic benefits governed by others (and the state), and power configurations and social rewards offered in return for conformity, encourage and reinforce conformity. The entire history of the human race consists of one generation teaching a subsequent generation the symbols and rules of social conduct as they have received them and learned to live by them. While a minority have deviated from the norms and chosen the path of non-conformity and contestation, majorities continue to submit to the values of their principal socializing agents and the larger community in which they live. The need to survive physically and socially certainly makes an individual choose behaviors that will contribute to social cohesion, for it is known in some inner core of the self that complete social chaos would threaten the well-being of all. This self-interested awareness exists in people regardless of the nature of the political system that regulates their lives.
Beyond this general need for coherence, however, there are other and more complex reasons for why people agree to restrain their aggression as well as their desire for unlimited pleasure. These reasons are embedded in the process of repression and desire-limitation.
The limitation of desire is a universal phenomenon and a principal means by which children in all societies are socialized to adopt the symbols and practices of their culture. While the degree of repression (restraint) will vary from one era and region to another, the mechanisms involved in the obtaining of the child's consensus remain fairly stable. Whether the system of socialization is founded on punishment and extinction of unwanted behaviors, or the rewarding of desired characteristics, what motivates the child to agree to learn the codex of his or her culture is his or her need to 1) Gain love, approval and acceptance in the social world within and beyond the confines of the family, and, 2) Achieve the competence and relative freedom already possessed by adults.
Herbert Mead (1863-1931) has provided an excellent preliminary understanding of how a child becomes a functioning adult capable of responding to others in society with a shared understanding of the meanings and practices that constitute socially accepted behavior (1934). While Mead does not delve extensively into the emotional nature of socialization, he does outline a very useful system for analyzing the development of role-adoption, shared meanings and common social values, universal in all social communications.
He explains that a child learns to see himself as an individual both separate from the social as well as intimately affected by its codes. For Mead, a child is not born with a personality but with the ability to form one during his exchanges with the world of significant others (parents and kin) and generalized others (the larger social arena of actors and institutions lying outside his immediate experiences in his personal circle) (1934). As the child grows he begins participating in games and learns that his position in a given game is 'defined' in relation to positions and roles occupied by the other players in the game. By observing the rules and procedures of group action, the child learns the taking on of 'roles' and, eventually, the nature and function of symbols. Although he may, while play-acting, take on the roles of his parents or an admired person, it is through participating in games with peers that he learns the meaning of situating himself in the world beyond the family. By 'anticipating' the requirements of various roles he rehearses for the day when he will have to choose a set of adult roles. This interactive experience with the world creates a personality that is both an expression of the 'I' as well as the 'we,' which Mead considers the internalized repository of the codes of the generalized other…in brief, the social order (135-172). The 'I' is socialized through a 'we-ness' process and begins seeing itself as a 'Me,' a product of social interaction in a culture in which certain practices and values are held higher than others.
Mead further specifies that this taking on of roles that are foreign to the child helps him to develop the ability to define a situation. He evaluates himself as the player of the role and in relation to the role itself and its requirements (i.e. the situation). Such overall evaluation that goes beyond the immediate and narrow needs of the self leads to the objectification of the self. An important part of this experience of objectification rests in observing the external behavior of others and imagining what must be their inner experience. Mead locates the development of understanding and sympathy between subjects within this imaginative act. It is a perfectly rational explanation of a complex socialization process that could apply to every culture. Whatever the codes, they are learned in this manner, even though they may be subject to later reversal.
Mead's theory is highly dependent on cognitive normalcy. His project was one of cognition and perception rather than critical evaluation of emotional interaction and conflict. Seeking an understanding of the process that permitted an intelligent being to reflect on himself, he used role models to explain how a child learned to become aware of himself. He concentrated on studying cooperative action, and did not give sufficient attention to the unequal power ratios that might predispose one party to adopt the meanings of another but with extreme reluctance; nor did he take sufficient notice of situations of conflict in which the very idea of shared meanings becomes distasteful and requires defensive and subversive actions. In brief, Mead minimized the conflict aspect of relationships, believing that
No hard-and-fast line can be drawn between our own selves and the selves of others, since our own selves exist and enter as such into our experience only insofar as the selves of others exist and enter as such into our experience also (1934: 196).
He recognized that the child himself had a certain socializing effect on the adult, but saw this interaction as part of the general building of 'consensus.' His conciliatory sociology was better suited to an era less given to questioning the idea of consensus. It does not fully explain occurrences in an emotionally expressive, media-populated, child-centered, parent-centered, capital-driven, pluralist society. Certainly, the French monarchs and their children had shared meanings prior to the arrival of Louis XVI...the children were seen with the queen and king as seldom as possible; their bedrooms were even located far away from the bedrooms of their parents. This was a shared meaning and a definition of roles in the pure sense of Mead's sociology. But one thing missing was an interview with the children to determine how they felt about the arrangement.
Regardless of this weakness, Mead's theory of socializing is invaluable to our understanding of social interactions due to the manner in which he explains how shared meanings are dependent on shared symbols. If there is to be social attunement there must be a certain common understanding and acceptance of symbols and the values to which they are attached. These symbols can change in tandem with social change.
Similar to Mead, Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929) considered socialization
as a process of role-taking (1909, 1922). He explained that a person becomes a social being by virtue of the fact that he is dependent on others for a worthy sense of self. Cooley's 'looking glass self' makes the mirror (or the other) a direct point of reference in the identity of a social actor who must construct a sense of personal identity by imagining what others think of him (1909: 179-185):
A self-idea of this sort seems to have three principal elements: the imagination of our appearance to the other person; the imagination of his judgment of that appearance; and some sort of self-feeling, such as pride and mortification (184).
More so than Mead, Cooley recognized that mutual interdependence in social relations creates emotional reactions (1922: 264). A person 'monitors' himself in order to be able to 'read' the mind of others and, thereby, receive necessary feedback on his self. Cooley ventured into new territory by using the words 'pride' and 'mortification' to describe the reactions possible to an individual during his appraisals of his position vis-à-vis other social actors. Although he did not explain the anatomy of these emotional states and what primary emotions may have been at their foundation, he did remind repeatedly in his writings that the central motivation for cooperative social action was self-esteem and social inclusion. This was a partial explanation.
Erving Goffman (1922-1982) developed Cooley's conception of human interaction further. While he did not use the word 'shame,' he did explain that much of social interaction was constructed to avoid sentiments of 'embarrassment' (1959, 1963, 1967). Goffman's social individual is intensely aware that his acceptance in society will depend very much on the 'impressions' he leaves on others. The social being is an actor in Goffman's system. A person's desire to be adjusted to the social world is what causes him to care about the reactions of others. Embarrassment, a momentary or longer indication of maladjustment is a normal aspect of interaction and serves to re-establish interactive order:
One assumes that embarrassment is a normal part of normal social life, the individual becomes uneasy not because he is personally maladjusted but rather because he is not...embarrassment is not an irrational impulse breaking through social prescribed behavior, but part of this orderly behavior itself (1967: 109, 111).
According to Goffman, what facilitates social harmony is the fact that social 'attunement' is a mutual need of all social actors. The 'management of impressions' is a relational processes that binds all actors in 'performances' designed to represent each actor in the best light (1959: 20-30). If an actor is to present an acceptable 'front,' one which his 'audience' accepts as legitimate and desired, he must to a certain degree accept the duties connected to his social role as well as the values which his audience holds in high esteem.
This 'dramatic realization' (30) is accomplished through the communication of information about the actor, via verbal as well as non-verbal cues. These cues are used by an actor's audience to evaluate his authenticity (35). While the actor may indulge in aberrant behavior or thoughts and emotions that contradict the 'front' he is presenting to society, his acceptance or rejection by others will, nevertheless, depend on whether he is able to convince his audience that his identity and personal characteristics are socially sanctioned.
The necessity of maintaining an acceptable 'front' is what decreases the possibility of conflict between individuals and between groups. The pressure on individuals to conform to the standards of their 'reference' groups creates the potential for the 'discrediting' and 'stigmatizing' of a given actor (1963: 42). Once a person is stigmatized due to a failed frontal presentation, he must, in order to regain entry into the social group, exhibit behaviors that disassociate him from the impression formerly given off (44). This can be done through apology, self-justification, or by showing that the audience was also to blame for the failure of the interactional exchange.
Goffman's view of social interaction is vital to an understanding of civility. All civil interactions (and also uncivil ones) consist of presenting a 'face' to others and helping others 'preserve' face or 'lose' face. That is why civility is a 'collaborative' phenomenon that confirms the legitimacy of those who are involved in the civil interaction. The arrival at a 'working consensus' is dependent on mutual care-taking of face or front. A certain amount of trust and effort is needed in order to avoid 'embarrassing predicaments.' Such predicaments occur when an actor's 'line' or 'front' is put in question either by a 'loss of poise' or by a challenge emanating from his audience. An actor, therefore, is dependent at once on 'reparatory' help from his audience as well as from his own judgment of his 'performance' if he is to maintain self-esteem. Goffman, like Cooley, reminds that the evaluation of one's performance often involves an imaginative act that can work for or against the actor:
He may…add to the precariousness of his position by engaging in just those defensive maneuvers that he would employ if he were really guilty. In this way it is possible for all of us to become fleetingly for ourselves the worst person we can imagine that others might imagine us to be (1959: 236).
Civility consists of not only helping the other realize that our judgment of his performance is favorable but also helping the other avoid the need for morbid introspection. Much of this mutual reassurance is delivered through non-verbal cues (1967: 4) learned through ritualized symbolic action.
Goffman rarely uses the word 'shame' in his theory of social interaction. But it is implicit in his discussion of 'embarrassment.' This is perhaps a weakness of his work because there are different gradations and types of embarrassment and shame. While some of it is attached to maintaining an acceptable social demeanor in the presence of others, a considerable part of self-evaluation is connected to the measurement of personal performance vis-à-vis personally adopted goals. We will discuss this distinction further in our section on the emotional nature of shame.
Now an actor has two alternatives when confronted with an embarrassing situation that makes him 'lose his footing.' How he reacts will depend very much on whether he receives reparatory help from his audience. If he wishes to acknowledge his loss of poise, he can admit wrongdoing and make apologies, or claim to have been misunderstood and try to change the audience's appraisal of him, or deny that he cares what the audience thinks of him. If he receives little encouragement or help from his audience, he may even deny that he feels embarrassed or diminished in his self-esteem. He may develop a thick skin. This denial can be accomplished through aggression directed at those who have caused his loss of face and/or the decision to conquer future unnerving situations through the maintenance of an unflustered front that hides emotional perturbation or awkward sentiments. Most individuals prefer to conceal their unease in socially threatening situations or in moments when their self-evaluation suffers a setback. As Helen Block Lewis has demonstrated in her extensive analysis of conversations between psychotherapists and their clients, even in the therapeutic trust environment individuals are prone to not making direct references to their sentiments of embarrassment, preferring to use dialog that represents these emotions indirectly (1971).
So it would seem that the subject of 'embarrassment' or 'shame' not only involves the by-passing of taboo subjects but is also a form of taboo in itself, for facing the issue may release painful sentiments. It is, therefore, understandable that many writers who have referred to shame have failed to explore it deeply. Elias's study of the civilizing process in the West possesses considerable psychological insight because Elias shows how the experiencing of shame and embarrassment becomes internalized and hidden from view in tandem with the development of rationality. The rising valuation of 'delicacy,' 'discretion' and 'propriety' not only serves to identify unwanted behaviors but also has a dampening effect on emotional expression, including the revealing of painful sentiments such as embarrassment and shame, especially in cultures such as America that dod not have words differentiating between major and minor embarrassments. So, part of social propriety becomes the concealment of sentiments that might create mutual unease ( 1978, 1982). This propensity to deny shame has been discussed at considerable length by Kaufman (1989), Kaufman and Raphael (1984), and Keltner and Buswell (1997).
Now, the manner in which courtesy is practiced in a given culture is not only dependent on historical tradition but also on the manner in which guilt, shame, self-esteem, empathy, and emotional expression are handled. In previous sections we have suggested that emotions are handled differently from one country to another. These differences are of particular interest because courtesy and discourtesy are, very often, not only affected by the emotions of guilt, embarrassment, shame and pride, but also by the extent to which a culture allows forthright demonstrations of emotions.
It is unfortunate that few of the above-mentioned theorists use their theoretical work to go deeper into the subject of emotions. As a result, they present a dramaturgical conception of society that leaves much unsaid regarding the emotional nature of personal and public interaction processes. Yet, we need more understanding of the emotional basis of the socialization process and how emotional reactions can have a considerable effect on civility. We hope to complete the paradigm in the remainder of this book, while building a descriptive sociology of civility that takes cross-cultural differences into account.
The Cross-Cultural Dimension
An important distinction needs be made between 'communal' cultures that favor restraints in the interests of social cohesion and 'individualistic' cultures that tolerate the removal of certain restraints (or the imposition of new ones) in the interests of personal freedom and identity. The two have different rules, produce different personal identities, and create different conundrums in civility practices. Naturally, these tendencies are not either/or categories, but, rather, tendencies (or ideal types) that can be found in varying combinations in all cultures. In most cultures, however, there will be a predominance of one trait over the other.
Taking such cross-cultural differences into account not only helps us understand other cultures but also deepens our insights into our own practices. There is no better way to notice and understand why one does things in a certain way than to see others doing it differently.
Taking cross-cultural factors into consideration also allows us to minimize the conflicts and problems that appear when practices of one type of culture are imposed on another type of culture. William G. Rosenberg has studied the effects of superimposing individualistic Western notions of freedom and the pursuit of material well-being on post-Communist societies habituated to a traditional communal view of relationships; he cautions that this sudden tension between two habituations forced to share the same public and private space may actually be creating resistance of democracy itself (1998: 518-540). Similarly, Eisenstadt argues for a civilizational understanding based on a recognition of the different streams of historical, moral, religious, and economic developments that produce differing private and institutional identities (1998a: 138-158; 1998b: 229-254).
In fact, just as conception of selfhood differs from culture to culture, so do valuations of emotions differ from culture to culture, so do the rules governing emotional expression. What is considered a 'positive' or a 'negative' emotion will differ from one culture to another, depending on the interaction values of the culture and what is considered desirable at the personal and collective levels (Ellsworth, 1994: 45). By consequence, what is openly said---and what is kept implicit and ambiguous---will vary across cultural lines and according to specific interaction situations involving factors as varied as the relationship of the speakers, their relative power in relation to one another and their culture's values regarding intimacy, distancing and imposition. Such variations can also exist in the same society, where different ethnic groups follow different interaction values.
We experienced an instructive case of cultural dissonance during a voyage to the former Yugoslavia when it was still under Soviet influence. We entered a store that had very few goods left on the shelves. This was due to the poverty and political instability of the region. Our traveling companion remarked with ironic humor that the store must have been doing very well since everything seemed to be sold out. The clerk laughed. Encouraged by the laughter, our companion continued making ironic comments about the empty shelves, thinking that the clerk would understand that he was showing dismay at the consequences of Sovietization. The clerk laughed even harder. We suddenly noticed, however, with considerable nervousness, that the clerk's eyes were burning with rage. We excused ourselves and retired to our hotel where we looked up 'anger' in the index of our guidebook to Yugoslavia; we learned that people in that region of the world sometimes start laughing gaily whenever feeling extreme contempt for another person. The clerk had responded with very strong anger, but according to the manner of her culture. In an Islamic country, the same scene might have led to the withdrawal of the clerk into a coldly respectful silence and a subsequent exaggerated politeness. In America, the offense taken might have been expressed by a threatening stare or a direct put-down of our own persons. The sentiment of distaste and the taking of offense is universal; the manner of its expression is not.
Peter B. Smith and Michael Harris Bond caution in Social Psychology Across Cultures (1998) that the search for reliability in studies that cross cultural boundaries and habituations must take into account the fact that particularly Western conceptions of human behavior are often used to design surveys that are then applied to non-Western cultures. Referring to the findings of anthropologists during the 1950's and 1960's, Smith and Bond differentiate between 'etic' and 'emic' studies, specifying that 'etic' studies try to locate what is universally common while 'emic' studies focus on how an activity or meaning is represented in a specific local social setting (57). The problem of 'etic-oriented' studies is that they may use dimensions for a meta-analysis that are not appropriate to all of the cultures being studied. For example, to ask respondents in two countries 'how' they express anger towards their employer may be the wrong manner of framing the question, considering that one of the cultures may not favor showing aggression to begin with. Malaysia, for instance, happens to be the top-ranked country in the world in which relationships involving power are very distanced and formal (47); it would be expected that a Malaysian would not be disposed to speak without deference to a superior and might find the question embarrassing or even baffling.
Furthermore, there are variations within a culture that become lost when we refer to survey results that are calculated according to a measurement of 'means' (41-42). When speaking of violence in America, for example, it is useful to specify that rates of murder and violent confrontation are remarkably higher in those regions in the South and the West where climate is hotter (Cohen and Nisbett, 1994) and/or where more formal codes of honor and courtesy predisposes citizens to be very sensitive to insult. In a study of Southern Americans, Cohen et al. (1999: 257-275) discovered that while southerners restrained themselves more than Northerners during the initial stages of conflict, they were far more given to sudden bursts of anger as the conflict advanced and entered the stage of insults. Appropriately, the authors entitled their article, 'When you Call Me That, Smile!'
Smith and Bond suggest that a harmonization of 'etic-emic' views should be the goal of studies including more than one culture (1997: 41, 67-68). This delicate feat is accomplished by taking the cultural background and values of each group into account prior to arriving at more universal comparisons. We have tried to do this in the preceding chapters (CH. 1-9) by giving considerable weight to the biographies of each of the cultures included in this book and the different streams of 'mentality' that have developed as a consequence of a variety of interactive factors.
Further comparative studies of Western countries sharing common technical environments would even further improve our understanding of how civility varies across cultural boundaries. Smith and Bond provide extensive references to cross-cultural studies; yet, the majority of the studies that they quote compare Western and East Asian countries. There remains a considerable need for separate regional research on the Middle East, Europe and North America. Studies that would set out to compare 'emotional expression' and 'individualism' in various Western countries, as we have tried to do in this book, would yield interesting results and might show that the traits of 'individualism' and 'emotional expressiveness' are not always positively correlated, as we have found in our own study (more on this shortly).
Certain cross-cultural standards and measures have been successfully located by researchers who have taken 'etic-emic' distinctions into account. Aware that general survey results do not necessarily explain differences in temperament at the local level, these researchers have studied cultures individually prior to developing broader cross-cultural measures and comparisons. Mursy and Wilson, for example, have explained in a study of Egyptian complimenting that the manner in which a compliment is accepted in Egypt is very much based on the values of the communal group; the recipient of the compliment accepts it in the name of the group rather than as a recognition of an achievement due solely to his own personal talent (2001: 133-154).
Another study conducted by Lorenzo of complimenting responses amongst British and Spanish university students has found similar differences. The British tend to deflect the compliment by withdrawing slightly, while the Spaniards use it to aggrandize themselves, but not without an appropriate measure of self-deprecating humor (2001: 107-127). Both tactics serve to communicate the deferential message that the beneficiary is not altogether worthy of the compliment.
So, it would seem that, although the need for civil reaction and the psychological process of 'preserving face' is a universal phenomenon, the manner in which civility is practiced is affected by the beliefs and values of specific cultures (Ingelhart et al., 1998). We, therefore, question the notion that technology has a globally leveling effect on culture, for we see no overwhelming evidence of this even in nations that share common technologies and religions. The McDonaldization perspective of globalization (Ritzer, 1996) is far too reliant on economic explanations and not sufficiently balanced by studies of interaction and moral valuation (Davetian, 2001b). Globalization theories that posit that the sharing of capitalism and its products will level local cultures are overly reliant on the idea that people with various cultural histories will react in the same way if placed in the same marketing environment. The behavior of a Frenchmen, an Englishman and an American, however, remain considerably different even though they may consider themselves political and economic allies as members of the G-8, the eight most economically powerful nations of the world.
A traditional communal culture needs a few preconditions in order to live up to its name: social customs designed to favor the continuance of the culture with as little social dissonance as possible, and a morality standard that stabilizes relationships according to codes of duty and obligation. While technical changes are welcomed in such societies, changes in behavior and beliefs are regarded with suspicion because they are thought to possess the potential for destabilizing existing cultural consensus regarding what is to be considered 'good' and 'bad.' A communal society that has maintained its customs for centuries can very well adopt technology exported by 'individualistic' societies without necessarily abandoning its own interaction codex. So, the distinction between 'agricultural' and 'industrial' societies is a superficial distinction. In Japan, for example, the goals of Western technical progress were achieved through the substantial preservation of long-standing Japanese social values and interaction styles (Bond and Smith, 1997: 203). So, we cannot stress enough that when we speak of 'communal' we are not speaking of technically undeveloped cultures, but, rather, of cultures that value communal continuity and vertical associations. Equally troublesome is the notion that communalism dissipates as smaller towns are replaced with large urban centers. In countries where religious ethics or a strong national identity continue to have a strong influence on public morality, civility practices are fairly standard whether one is in a small town or city setting. While the anonymity of the city does provide opportunities for the breaking of moral codes, the civility ethos remains broadly applied.
Emile Durkheim noted the difference between communalistic and individualistic societies when he described how a complex division of labor had facilitated the transition from 'mechanical' to 'organic' solidarity in social relations, the latter permitting more variance between individual preferences ([1897b] 1997). Our own perspective is slightly different, for we find that 'mechanical' and 'organic' solidarity can co-exist in a given society even though it may have achieved a complex division of labor; whether the solidarity is determined by conformity or consensus building through an acceptance of diversity will depend on whether the private or public aspects of a culture are examined. Very often, rituals dating to 'mechanical' solidarity will be preserved even after a society has entered an 'organic' phase. This is especially noticeable in cultures that suddenly move from agrarian to industrialized modes of production through the adoption of imported technology.
In general, the communal social ethos will favor the 'social or group personality' of the individual. Personal identity here is defined in terms of a person's adaptation to the codes of the community (in exchange for relative security of identity within the larger identity of the community). The community, however, is reluctant, or at least quite cautious, to encourage the development of a personal identity given to departing from communal standards. Definitions of 'honorable' and 'shameful' behavior are specified with a fair amount of clarity. The idea of community is maintained regardless of mobility and urban centralization---even in anonymous cities, strangers relate to one another based on their mutual awareness of a standard communal interactive codex. Their replaying of specified civility rituals helps confirm their mutual identity while creating sentiments of harmony. Harmless idiosyncrasies are welcomed and integrated into ironic folk humor, but moral divergence from group norms is discouraged. Deviation can even be interpreted as political or moral subversion and inhibited through social or political censure. Predictably, communal societies slow down the development of self-referential identity. 'Obligation' and 'duty' towards a variety of social hierarchies temper the development of a self-referential consciousness. Furthermore, restraints placed on emotions assure the expression of those emotions that favor group solidarity and the suppression of those that might threaten it (Tajfel, 1991).
The 'individualistic' social ethos has its own opportunities and limitations. While it allows considerable opportunities for the development of a self-directed life-plan, it complicates the maintenance of a communal personality based on conformity to homogenized codes that go beyond specifications of individual talents. As personal choice increases, an uncoupling takes places between the individual and the community.
Jurgen Habermas has addressed this issue of 'uncoupling' or 'alienation' in individualistic societies by arguing that the passing from formal to informal society has been a transition from 'the conventional to the post conventional level of moral judgment.' He stresses that the 'social world of legitimately regulated interpersonal relations, a world to which one was naively habituated and which was uncritically accepted, is abruptly deprived of its quasi-natural validity' (1990: 126). Using a different viewpoint, yet noticing the same crisis, Giddens observes that readily available public information has made individuals become aware of problems that they themselves may not possess. A person entering marriage, for example, is eerily aware of the high rate of divorce (1991:14). This certainly has the effect of creating two parallel anomies: one that is personally experienced and another that is felt through one's imagination of the predicaments of others. Both of the above writers point to an increasingly complex society in which there is great potential for social hesitancy. Philippe Breton cautions that this complexity translates into 'fear of others,' and becomes a precipitating factor during acts of confrontation and violence (2002: 24-31).
Yet, the distinction between 'communal' and 'individualistic' societies is not a categorical one. Much variation can exist within a culture, as well as between cultures that are classified as 'communal' or 'individualistic.' We are speaking of traits rather than categorical states of consciousness. These traits require a more assiduous analysis that distinguishes between 'formality' and 'informality,' for an informal culture can continue to adhere to formal moral values, provided those values are so taken for granted that they do not need be bolstered by formal regulatory interaction rituals. We noticed this process at work during a research trip to the Middle East; relations were more informal than a decade ago, but the moral standards were substantially the same and considerably governed by traditional and neo-Islamic principles.
Whether a given group or culture favors communal or individualistic standards will have a considerable effect on its civility rituals. In 'conventional' cultures, manners, politeness, and deference are mutually connected and imply acceptance of the authority of standard codes linking morality and courtesy. The literature of the medieval era, the Renaissance, and the Victorian era established a strong link between propriety, virtue (morality) and deference. Social membership involved a noticeable amount of 'moral obedience' and 'deference' to rank. In contemporary times, however, due to a decreased tolerance of authoritarian codes, we are forced to make a distinction between manners, politeness, and deference. The three involve different emotional investments and compromises. Deference---more than manners and politeness---implies a submission to the non-negotiable power and influence of another person or institution. One can have impeccable manners, but not defer to other people's wishes and remain quite self-determined. So, a distinction needs be made between the ways in which the self is represented and negotiated in conventional communal and post-conventional individualistic cultures.
In fact, much of what is now being called 'inter-civilizational dialogue' may be connected to the moral disagreements that occur when communal and individualistic societies come face to face with one another without there being sufficient understanding for the causes of such differences. Seeking to find present and human causes for their differences, members of such diverging cultures may resort to demonizing each other's customs and social values. Sometimes, passionate references are made to differences in religious belief, but these differences are only part of the answer. On other occasions, when détente is sought, references are made to their common technical cultures in order to minimize the differences that are value-oriented rather than technical (Davetian, 2001b). Neither narrative leads to authentic inter-cultural understanding.
Now, a fairly instructive system of classification of social values, has emerged from the work of Geert Hofstede. In a seminal study, Culture's Consequences (1980), Hofstede used survey data from forty studies of 'national characters' that compared five or more nations. These studies supplemented his own study of 117,000 IBM workers in various countries. By 1983, Hofstede had accumulated data on value-differences in fifty countries (1983). His study debunked the belief current in the 1950's and 1960's that management style was a universal reality. He found that management styles and values did indeed vary from country to country.
His findings move us to continue questioning whether economic globalization and trans-national corporate projects will eliminate cultural distinctions. Hofstede's study shows considerable statistical variations between respondents from different cultures. While the results cannot be used to typify all members of a culture, they can be used to show that considerable variation exists in the 'values' generally favored by cultures. So although the results indicate that the Japanese value authority more than do the English, there are no guarantees that a minority of English might not value authority more than their Japanese counterparts. What is being sought is a general typology of cultural preferences.
In order to locate value tendencies in various countries, Hofstede constructed four 'dimensions' (or criteria) that functioned independently of one another and occurred in different combinations. These dimensions were:
1) Individualism versus collectivism (the degree to which a person's identity is defined by personal achievement and personal preferences, or, on the other hand, by the imperative of maintaining the profile of the community to which the individual belongs); 2) Large or small power distance (the degree to which respect and deference are exhibited towards those in positions of authority by those who are considered subordinate to them); 3) Strong or weak uncertainty avoidance (the degree to which planning aims at decreasing uncertainty and increasing stability, and, conversely, the degree to which risk is welcomed or avoided); 4)Masculinity versus femininity (the importance given to achievement [masculinity] as opposed to interpersonal harmony [femininity].
Hofstede then gave each of the countries a rating by averaging the responses that concurred with each dimension. From the data compiled by Hofstede (1983) (Table1), we have extracted a summary of the ten most individualistic and ten most collectivist societies, based on three dimensions which interest us: individualism-collectivism, power-distancing, and uncertainty avoidance.
The differences between America, Britain and France reveal some startling facts that reawaken our interest in their historical differences.
I - Overall ranking across three dimensions for the ten 'most individualistic' nations (numbers indicate rank):
Country Individualism Power Distance Uncertainty Avoidance
U.S.A. 1 38 43
Australia 2 41 37
Britain 3 43 47
Canada 4 39 41
Netherlands 4 40 35
New Zealand 6 50 40
Italy 7 34 23
Belgium 8 20 5
Denmark 9 51 51
France 10 15 12
II-Overall ranking across three dimensions for the ten nations 'most favoring power-distance' and 'uncertainty avoidance' (numbers indicate rank):
Country Individualism Power Distance Uncertainty Avoidance
Malaysia 36 1 46
Panama 51 2 12
Guatemala 53 3 3
Philippines 31 3 44
Venezuela 50 5 21
Mexico 32 6 18
Arab region 26 7 27
Ecuador 52 8 28
Indonesia 47 8 41
Africa (west) 40 10 34
Hofstede's data suggests that there is a consistent negative correlation between individualism and the valuation of power-distance and uncertainty avoidance. Yet, France stands out as an exception to this rule. Although rated in the top ten for individualism it also rates unexpectedly high in power distance and uncertainty avoidance:
France: Individualism (10), Power Distance (15), Uncertainty Avoidance (12).
U.S.A.: Individualism (1), Power Distance (38), Uncertainty Avoidance (43).
Britain: Individualism (3), Power Distance (43), Uncertainty Avoidance (47).
Here we have a French culture that possesses strong individualistic as well as collectivist tendencies. Remarkably, France, although 10th out of a field of 53 on the individuality trait, scores nearly equally high on the power-distance trait (15th) as well as the uncertainty avoidance trait (12th). We would expect it to score somewhere around 35th or 40th on these traits. We will attempt to explain this paradoxical finding further on. As for the negative correlation between power distancing/uncertainty avoidance and individualism for other countries ranking top in power distancing, the correlation remains predictable and with few noticeable exceptions. It is interesting to note that Belgium, a country that has substantially adopted French civility practices, also scores high in individualism (8th) as well as power distance (20th) and uncertainty avoidance (5th).
We are moved to wonder why France would value individualism as well as power-distancing. Could it be that something in its emotional socialization system requires the co-existence of what might initially appear as opposing tendencies? If so, what can this tell us about French civility practices and social norms, as well as those of England and America? We will try and make sense of this in our concluding chapter when we review the historical evidence together with the results of our field study of America, France and England.
It should be noted that the valuation of power-distance and uncertainty avoidance entail a certain adherence to vertical authority. In order that distance be preserved, certain codes of deference are required and these codes are implicitly built on the premise that certain individuals are of more worth and possess more wisdom and experience than others. In a parenting situation, the maintenance of power-distance would require that considerable authority---and perhaps even special knowledgeable---be assigned to the parent.
Hofstede's study is particularly convincing because it was undertaken in a corporate environment in which one would expect relative homogeneity of attitude---it would seem that even I.B.M.'s bureaucracy and standard corporate values were not able to neutralize cultural differences. A corporation known for standardizing employee behavior to the extent of specifying the color of shirt to be worn (white in the early seventies) failed to transcend regional differences in values and behavior. Now it could be argued that the study was conducted using well-educated respondents and that, because of this, it does not reflect the tendencies of an entire society. However, the well-educated are those who are usually the most cosmopolitan; if these cadres could not be influenced to change their constitutions, then we can safely conclude that the data on their responses would not be reversed in any considerable way by an inclusion of less cosmopolitan sectors of the population.
A similar universal measure of values has been developed by Shalom Schwartz and collaborators (Schwartz and Bilsky, 1987, 1990; Schwartz 1992, 1994). Their findings confirm the negative correlation between values ascribed to self-direction, stimulation, hedonism, achievement, and power on one hand....and, security, conformity, tradition, benevolence and universalism on the other hand. There seems to be a negative correlation between agreeableness-achievement (- 0.37), agreeableness-power (- 0.36), and agreeableness-hedonism (- 0.40). There is also a positive correlation between extroversion-stimulation (0.25), extroversion-benevolence (0.24); and a negative correlation between extroversion-tradition (- 0.25). It would seem that the restraint of affect and the preservation of collective stability are correlated, or at least have been until now. An interesting finding of this study is the positive correlation between conformity and conscientiousness (0.23) (Luk and Bond, 1993; cited in Smith and Bond, 1998: 83, 84: table 4.1).
Now whether a culture subscribes to communal or individualistic values and the degree to which it values authority and uncertainty-avoidance will affect the manner in which it relates to 'time, context and space,' and, furthermore, and, by consequence, the type of politeness rituals that it employs.