Finally, I would like to mention some specific criticisms about Hofstede's research. There are in fact a number of criticisms that can be made, but I will confine myself to two main issues:
- We may not be able to generalise Hofstede's findings to other organisations because his empirical data were obtained by comparing the values of employees ‘within the subsidiaries of one large multinational corporation’ (Pugh, 2007, p. 230), even though the research was undertaken in 40 countries. Furthermore, these countries represented the world's wealthier economies in the developed and developing world. Might the struggle for resources in other economies produce different results – or even different dimensions altogether?
- Williamson (2002) highlights the danger of assuming cultural uniformity, and of seeing individuals' values and behaviour as being wholly determined by their cultural background; we cannot predict individuals' values and behaviour from data about their culture. In other words, we should use our course theme of diversity and complexity to question the notion of national cultures – does it really do justice to the cultural mix that exists in many UK cities, for example?
McSweeney (2002) questions whether nations have cultures. He criticises Hofstede's claims that he identified multiple national cultures or differences between such cultures, challenging his research approach. McSweeney also questions whether national culture determines uniform national actions and institutions.
McSweeney further argues that nations undergo change. For example, in 1997 Hong Kong integrated with China – but does this mean that Hofstede's Hong Kong findings can now be generalised to the whole of China? At the end of the twentieth century, Yugoslavia disintegrated into its constituent parts, including Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia. The logic of Hofstede's analysis would be that their national cultures are identical, which would appear absurd. However, if they are not identical then, McSweeney argues, Hofstede's measurement of Yugoslavian culture is a statistical myth.
Summing up, McSweeney argues that:
We may think about national culture, we may believe in national culture, but Hofstede has not demonstrated that national culture is how we think. If the aim is to understand, then we need to know more about the richness and diversity of national practices and institutions – rather than merely assuming their ‘uniformity’ and that they have an already known national cultural cause. Both outside and within the management disciplines there are rich considerations of the characteristics of individuals, organisations, societies, nations and regions.
(McSweeney, 2002, p. 112)
McSweeney calls for a more sophisticated analysis that accounts for the interplay of culture at different levels of analysis and between the cultural and non-cultural. In other words, we should consider the interactions between organisational, regional and national cultures – and between culture and other aspects of business and their environments – for example, the issues of politics, power and technology.