Derived from the Latin, the word ”culture” has different meanings in different contexts. By one of them we refer to the myriad ways of living exhibited by a particular group of people, ways that are transmitted from one generation to the next and which distinguish that group from others (cf. Smith, 1997). On many occasions, researchers imply nationality instead of culture. On the other side, this substitute is not a paragon, for other systems, particularly religion and/or religious institutions and social class could be a factor in separating people and gradually making them affiliated with distinct qualities that are incorporated into cultures by which different groups are identified. Furthermore, it is a human being to contribute to the emergence and, subsequently, evolution of distinct cultures by following different behavioral patterns that could be as diverse as life in a rural and industrial hinterland. Consequently, the definition of culture does not seem to be easily covered from all points of view. Thus, the greater part of work on culture and decision making, on which is has a significant impact, has centered on studying and understanding North American and East Asian communities to the shameful negligence of other civilizations.
As far as the term “decision,” also derived from the Latin, is concerned, a reference is made to a commitment to a course of action that is intended to serve the interests and values of particular people (Yates & Potorowski, 2012). This term, however, has some deficiencies too, for decisions, as routinely characterized by people, still can run counter to the definition that is described above. That’s partly because people affiliated with different cultures may mismatch with each other on whether a specific occurrence in question qualifies for a decision.
According to Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, political scientists, an analysis of WVS data ascertains the existence of two main global strands pertaining to cross-cultural differences that might oscillate back and forth:
1. Traditional values versus Secular-rational values and Survival values versus Self-expression values.
3. In the global cultural map (below), the corresponding scores of societies are scattered across these two dimensions. With an upward shift, a switch from Traditional to Secular-rational values is reflected in this map, while a rightward shift represents a movement from Survival to Self–expression values.
Traditional values underline religion, interfamily relationships involving parents and children, as well as esteem in – and probably obedience to – the authority and traditional family values. People who live with these values also reject – or have to turn down – divorce, abortion, euthanasia and suicide. On a general note, these communities, even societies, are distinguished by a higher level of national pride and extreme patriotism.
On the contrary, secular-rational values are opposite to the traditional ones in terms of the qualities and preferences nurtured. The communities that stand out for such values do not necessarily hold on to religion, authority, as well as the qualities that are embedded in a traditional family setting. Therefore, divorce, abortion, euthanasia and suicide cases seem to be acceptable to a certain extent, although far from being prevalent.
Survival values adhere to a different philosophy, thereby laying a particular stress on economic (financial) and physical security. Consequently, these values are associated with a more or less ethnocentric outlook and lower levels of confidence, anticipation and tolerance.
Self-expression values prioritize environmental protection, foster tolerance towards aliens, LGBT communities, promote gender equality, and press for economic and political participation pertaining to decision-making.
The Ways The Culture Varies
An easier analysis is such that having improved its standards of living and transitioned from a developing to post-industrial knowledge society, going through the period industrialization, a country is somewhat conduced to continue moving ahead, from the lower-left area, accommodating poor nation, to the upper-right point, at which rich countries are comfortably located, thereby betokening the passage in both dimensions.
Meanwhile, there is a clearly seen correlation between the prevailing sentiments of the communities/societies, on the one side, and dominant philosophical concepts, political ideas and religious thoughts. Conducive to materialism, secular-rational values were expressed – and driven – by philosophers and the left-wing political forces that constituted the vanguard of the French revolution. As a result, these values are evident in societies that are characterized by a long history of social democratic or socialistic policy, as well as in countries whose residents have intellectual facilities due to philosophy and science studies at the stage of tertiary education. In a sheer contrast, survival values seem to be an inherent part of the qualities that shape eastern-world countries, while self-expression values are intrinsic to the Western world. Where a liberal post-industrial economy goes, more people follow the path that tests their capacity to survive and preserve freedom of thought, thus making self-expression a favored action.
Norway is a vivid example of a society with a high score in terms of Secular-rational and Self-expression values, while Azerbaijan belongs to societies with high scores pertaining to the Survival value and a relatively high score with regard to the traditional value.
1. That the value indicates differences among societies all over the world is well reflected in the culture zone pattern. Hence Muslim societies in the Middle East are a beacon of traditional and survival values. That bears a sharp distinction with Protestant societies in Nordic countries. 6
2. On the same point, the culture zone differences and dissimilarities are not a spontaneous phenomenon, for different societies experienced various historical pathways to get prepared, even matured, before they faced modernity. These pathways account for people’s different senses of existential security and individual agency, which in turn account for their different emphases on secular-rational values and self-expression values.