Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

The Melting Pot vs. the Salad Bowl: A Call to Explore Regional Cross-Cultural Differences and Similarities within the U.S.A

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

The Melting Pot vs. the Salad Bowl: A Call to Explore Regional Cross-Cultural Differences and Similarities within the U.S.A

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Culture impacts nearly every aspect of business, including managerial decision making, planning, organizing, leadership, human resource management, marketing, and consumer behavior to name only a few. Researchers within the field of management have made significant contributions in terms of inter-national cross-cultural studies (Adler 2008; Hofstede 1980a, 2001; Hofstede and Hofstede 2005; House, et al. 2004; Kirkman, et al. 2006; Trompenaars 1993a; Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner 1998). These same researchers have called for intra-national or regional studies based on validated models used in cross-cultural research. Despite this call, little research has been performed on regional or intra-national cultural comparisons within countries.

This call for intra-country cultural research recognizes that the vast size of some countries, along with immigration patterns, and varying sources of cultural influence can result in regional cultures. Alesina (2003) states that geographic borders that define nations are a manmade institution and, as such, should not be taken as part of the natural landscape. In fact, even the geographic nature of a country is man-made. Alesina goes on to discuss how borders change with relative frequency. In 1946 there were 76 independent countries in the world. At the time of Alesina's article in 2003, there were 193. Is it reasonable to assume that the cultural impact of a Russian child growing up in Moscow (which, according to Figes (2002), has received much of its cultural heritage from the West) would be the same as the cultural impact of a Russian child growing up in a region influenced by the Buriats or the Tatars? The significant size of Russia would likely result in regional cultures or national subcultures. Similarly, would a French Canadian school-aged child growing up in Quebec have the same cultural nurturing as a Canadian school-aged child growing up on the other side of Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia? There have been several critics of past research that treats larger societies as one single homogeneous culture (Kirkman, et al. 2006; Lenartowicz, et al. 2003; Sivakumar and Nakata 2001). It is easy to see the validity of such critiques. Huntington (1993) and Schwartz (1999) are two examples of how the international management literature has treated national cultures. Collectively, it has been offered that political boundaries do not necessarily correspond to the shared cultural boundaries of societies. National cultures seldom reach 100% homogeneity (Holt 2007).

Regional Cultures in the U.S.A.

Within the U.S., Garreau (1982) offers the concept that the U.S. culture is not homogeneous but that the North American continent is actually segmented into distinctly different regions. It stands to reason that Scandinavians and Germans who settled the upper Great Plains of Garreau's "Breadbasket" may very well have had a cultural impact, transcending the generations from settlement to contemporary times, that is significantly different from the ethnic makeup and history of the regional culture of Garreau's mid-Atlantic "Foundry" or southern "Dixie" states. Borders, at least as they define the collective nature of the United States, may very well be arbitrary when it comes to the impact (or at the very least, the existence) of local or regional cultures. Why is this relevant? As Garreau (1982) stated concerning sub-nations of North America: "Each nation has a distinct prism through which it views the world."

Much of the published research treats the cultures within an entire nation homogeneously. One would be hard pressed to believe that the vast size of the United States, along with immigration patterns, settlement, dates of statehood and the like would lead to one homogeneous culture. Yet, the literature seems to suggest that there is, indeed, only one collective American culture (e.g. the melting pot) that has been studied in the management literature. …

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