Cultures and Organizations

Sep 10

One of the assigned texts for my current course in global management is Cultures and Organizations, which carries the catchy subtitle Software of the Mind. As they setup the book they naturally provide details about the quantitative methods used to analyze the data presented. This includes both the methods and the models, as well as the evolution of the same throughout the research. What’s more interesting is their take on nurture vs. nature, which is to say that they explore the relationship between genetics and social influence. At the foundation they place values, which they argue are learned extremely young. Building on this foundation of values are practices and objects such as rituals, heroes and symbols. The research focuses primarily on the statistical trend, leaving analysis of deviations to a minimum. Diluted Values & Cultural Relativism In the introductory chapter, The Concept of Culture, they highlight some of the ways in which culture change, both over time and with respect to other cultures. One concept they identify is Moral Circles, going further to define some common boundary markers for moral circles. A moral circle is a peer group within which all members have a common moral agreement. Typical demarcations for a moral circle are religion or philosophy. A very interesting observation they put forth about moral circles is that they have a tendency to expand to include more and more people, or even non-people as members. They caution that such vast circles dilute the rights and duties of all members, concluding that “Most empires have disintegrated from the inside.” In contrast to this warning about overly inclusive moral circles, they argue in favor of cultural relativism quoting Claude Lévi-Strauss as saying: “Cultural relativism affirms that one culture has no absolute criteria for judging the activities of another culture as “low” or “noble”. However, every culture can and should apply such judgment to its own activities, because its members are actors as well as observers.” In this they mean to suggest simply that while within a culture or moral circle, a group may be subjectively critical of itself, it is not as easy to be objectively critical of another group or culture. Comparison of values and norms across cultural boundaries, if it’s...

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The Dis-United States of America – Motivation

Sep 09

In a previous article grounds were established on which an individual or state might desire to secede from the union. In that article, the basis for secession is disagreement about the character of the Constitution or an ideological shift away from its relevance given contemporary circumstances. What that article didn’t explore in detail are the differences that are likely to be sufficient to motivate secession. In other words, what differences could be so acute that they would drive a group of people to the point that they would want to sever ties with their mother country? We find a clue to that division in the wording of the Declaration of Independence, which identifies certain “unalienable Rights”, among which are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. When men feel that their ability to provide for themselves and their kindred and to live according to their conscience is in jeopardy, they are much more likely to resort to extreme measures. We see this clearly in two major conflicts in American history. First is the Revolutionary War, which was a successful secession from British authority. The second, the American Civil War, was an unsuccessful attempt to secede from the Union. The drivers in both of these conflicts were economic and ideological. It may be the case that religious and ethnic tensions played a part in both conflicts mentioned, but a careful historical review provides much more evidence pointing to economics primarily, and ideology secondarily, as the major drivers behind each war. The American Revolution In his later years, John Adam’s sent a letter to Mr. Hezekiah Niles, which letter later took on the title “What is mean by American Revolution”. In this letter he asks the question “what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American War? The Revolution was effected before the War commenced.” He goes on to argue that it is in the interest of humanity to understand how the revolution in the hearts and minds of the people was brought about: “By what means this great and important alteration in the religious, moral, political, and social character of the people of thirteen colonies, all distinct, unconnected, and independent of each other, was begun, pursued,...

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Brazil, the World Cup & the Olympics

Sep 07

Brazil will host two global events in the next few years. The first is the FIFA World Cup in 2014. The second is the summer Olympics in 2016. Geographically and economically, Brazil is the most impactful country in South America. In terms of population, currently over 200 million, and land area of 8.5 million square kilometers, it ranks number 5 globally. Economically, Brazil is a participant in the G20, with a GDP placing it eighth in the world overall. There are a few reasons it makes sense for Brazil to host these events. Brazil’s well developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing and service sectors, combined with a thoughtful approach to national debt and macroeconomic stability, make it an attractive location for both events. Both events will draw crowds in the millions, which will require and investment in infrastructure to accommodate and secure the venues used for these events. Football (American Soccer) is a national pastime, which means that most major cities already have very large stadiums to host World Cup. FIFA World Cup The FIFA World Cup, often referred to as simply World Cup, is a competition of men’s football teams from around the world. It is organized by Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the sport’s governing body. The competition last for about a month and involves 32 teams. All games take place in stadiums located in the host country. Since its founding in 1904 there have been 19 tournaments. The 2014 event in Brazil will be the 20th international tournament. Of the 19 tournaments held to date, Brazil has won five times. The 2014 World Cup will also represent the second time Brazil has hosted the event, the previous time was in 1950, following World War II. 2016 Summer Olympics The Summer Olympics, first held in 1896, have occurred every four years, except in times of war. From a starting point of 42 official events and under 300 male athletes, the games have grown to include 300 events and over 10,000 athletes from all over the world. The 2016 Summer Olympics will be the 31st time the games have been held. The City of Rio de Janeiro was selected to host this summer games. Brazil is using their preparation for the...

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The Dis-United States of America – Secession

Sep 03

It’s not uncommon that people’s views change over time, even with respect to promises they’ve made. Every day our courts of law are full of parties to contracts who haven’t satisfied the terms they agreed to fulfill. There are many arguments used to justify this breach of contract. Some of these arguments include fairness, changes in circumstances, non-conformance by the other party and even something as simple as a change of opinion. Regardless of the reason, a contract is a contract and a breach is a breach, or so say the courts of law. From an objective position it may be tempting to argue that many of these breaches are trivial, and that the contracts themselves are trivial to begin with. That doesn’t change the fact that a contract can be deeply personal and significant to the parties who originally entered into it. It’s also important to recognize that the courts are also busy from morning until night dealing with breaches of implicit contracts. These negligent claims stem from socially perceived “duties to care” which are generally accepted. This largely comes from common law. When it comes to the Constitution of the United States, a contract established and entered into by all citizens of this country, and which directs the affairs of the people, the government and the several states, is it possible to undo the contract and the obligations associated with it? Can an individual or a state argue against further need to comply with the terms imposed by the Constitution? From this standpoint it’s possible to examine the circumstances under which arguments might be made in favor of secession. A Platform for Secession Reference has already been made to some of the reasons that parties to a contract justify non-conformance, such as fairness, change in circumstance, breach by the other party, change of opinion, disagreement about the intention or meaning of the wording, ambiguity with respect to the terms, etc. It may be true that much of this confusion and disagreement could be avoided with increased clarity in the original contract. It is precisely that premise that has motivated lawyers to create contracts that are many pages long, spanning hundreds of pages in some cases. Despite these...

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Chavez and Castro are Dead

Sep 02

When considering the last four decades of American politics (speaking broadly of the American continent(s)), two extraordinarily influential figures are Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. Ideologically, many of their political inclinations were formed by the very country which they spent much of their lives, and political fortunes, attempting to undermine, namely, the United States of America (USA). Their dislike for what they perceived as United States imperialism shaped not only their personal convictions, but through them it influenced an entire region and generation. Political The preeminence of the United States economy over the past century has had an understandably profound influence on the political landscape both domestically and abroad. From this position of leverage, the US economic engine has extended its influence outward to shape many developing and emerging economies. Objectively, it would be difficult to assign a definite positive or negative to the shape the US influence has promoted, but subjectively, it has occasioned both. In the case of Fidel Castro of Cuba, he adopted a very strong anti-imperialist posture, which drove him at an early age to fight against United States involvement in Cuba. Though this initial attempt was unsuccessful, he spent the following years organizing a group that would overthrow the Cuban government, allow him to assume political and military power and align with the communist Soviet Union. His socialist agenda was a further departure from western influence and encompassed health care, education and the press. Hugo Chavez experienced similar early setbacks in his initial attempts to seize power, but eventually he succeeded in introducing a new political party referred to as the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. His political focus was more decidedly socialist, though he did align himself with the Castro regime in Cuba and Evo Morales in Bolivia. Social Socially, one possible motivation for a dislike of US influence may have to do with perceived inequality economically. Poverty, when contrasted with great power and wealth, can have an appearance of unfairness. It’s conceivable that the seemingly disparate economic circumstances of the US and Cuba, or other Central and South American countries, could promote a socialist viewpoint. It must be tempting as a leader to want to solve problems for the people rather than direct...

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