The Lewis model explains every culture ( ! )

From a blog post at Slate. Seemed ripe for dissection by the mutants.

America is cool, sticks to facts, and results-oriented, while Russia is warm, emotional, and people-oriented? Those are new for me even as stereotypes. They may not explain things that happen very well.

Edit: one of the comments points out that this is basically new terms, “multi-active” and “reactive”, in place of the usual “hot-blooded” for blacks and Latinos and “submissive” for Asians - even coded red and yellow. Very much agreed.

Whenever people try to explain everything, I get a little nervous that they will be reducing things to the point of absurdity. This is just some warmed over orientalism in a shiny new “cultural” instead of racial package. This is just Samuel P. Huntington’s late Cold War views on how the world works. It was not particularly convincing then, nor is it convincing now.

Organizing the world in such a manner is just a way to justify attempts to control it. The same people who write stuff like this, would spend hours telling you how reductive and wrong Marx was… yet they do the same thing. The only way to understand the world is to actually live in it and if you want to describe it, you can only do that by the things that actually happen. Theory is always going to be an ad hoc approach to reality. It’s never going to give you all the answers. There is no “this is the whole world”, as far as I’m concerned.


Adding to Mindysan33’s post, there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to explain why this would be true nor a way to reliably peg a currently-not-on-the-chart group of people on the chart without talking to Lewis first. This is warmed over and chartified bigotry. Not an explanation of anything.

A dispassionate examination of my own country (good ole US of A :frowning: ) shows how wrong it is on even the “truly flattering” end. How likely is it to be extremely wrong on the other ends? So wrong I don’t have a witty remark for it.

The fact that it’s been framed as a way of making sure people are happy about it when we tell them our plans for their future adds colonialism and imperialism to the orientalism.


Last words of the slate article, seems to be a quote from the authors website:

“By focusing on the cultural roots of national behavior, both in society and business, we can foresee and calculate with a surprising degree of accuracy how others will react to our plans for them, and we can make certain assumptions as to how they will approach us.”

Almost makes it seem like a parody.


“our plans FOR THEM” I think that tells you all you need to know, in one handy phrase.

I wish it was a parody.


I wonder if he has a similar chart for women?

Yeah, I was first intrigued, but then I instantly questioned where there’s a value in USING it. In each ‘culture’ there are more exceptions than rules.

One could make the argument for a statistically useful multi-factor analysis very broadly generically identifying the impact of government and schooling methods vs. social inertia,and you’d have to map it over time to get anything even vaguely useful out of that. You can’t use the current point in time when dealing with adults, most of them have histories.

The problem is that it assumes that culture are not amorphous and variable, but fixed and rigid and historically unchanging. As anyone who has even a passing familiarity with history knows, the only constant is change. Cultures are socially constructed, hence ever changing.

Yeah, the data geek in me instantly realized we had to add a time axis, and then a lag, and then variables to incorporate the actual diversities within, and variance in the time lag as well as controls for the aging and . . . many many variables. I’d need more data than anybody actually has, scores of experts optimizing it, and some pretty impressive processing power to do a first run, and then we’d have to another reality check. . . a few dozen cycles of that, and all with the likelihood that the ‘America’ vs ‘Canada’ vs ‘Korea’ (all Korea? Are Minnesota and Texas different?) are dropped because they carry no real weight in the analysis.

Too much work with no real expectation of success, let’s just focus on individual people, right? :smile:

This topic was automatically closed after 1259 days. New replies are no longer allowed.