oa Business Management Review - Culture, societal contexts and organisational forms

Volume 8, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0856-2253



This paper represents an attempt to develop a model of organisations that captures cultural specifics while enabling analysis and comparisons of organisations across different cultural contexts. The paper suggests that previous attempts to develop models of organisations that enable analysis and comparisons between organisations in different societies, especially those in underdeveloped with those in developed societies, are flawed because they fail to theorize, in a dialectical manner, the crucial imprint of culture on organisational phenomena. A dialectical understanding of culture would enable us delimit cultural universals and cultural particulars. The objective of such delimitation would be to permit organisational comparisons across cultural contexts and, at the same time, enable us capture specific cultural particulars. Adopting Schein's (1988) discussion of the different levels and areas of cultural reality as the most adequate understanding of culture, the paper locates cultural universals in the sets of questions that are posed in each area of cultural reality at the level of core beliefs and assumptions. Cultural particulars reflect the unique constellation of answers that each society provides to the sets of questions in each area of cultural life. It follows that organisational forms and actions vary between different cultural contexts as a result of the differences in the answers that are provided by members of society to the questions that are posed in each area of cultural life. Three organisational forms: the underdeveloped, the transitional and the developed, which have their correlates in three types of cultural contexts, are identified. Specifically, it is suggested that the underdeveloped society is characterised by the underdeveloped organisation. The consequences of the discussion for aspirations towards development in underdeveloped societies are also analysed.

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