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The presentation of culture in international business textbooks


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To find out the role of culture in international business, Frank B. Tipton reviewed 19 books used in the international business courses. He find out all those books have critical inaccuracy in their interpretation and there was huge irregularity in their definitions and even most of them had weaknesses in the use of theory about the concept of culture.

He find out that not many of those authors used any references or sources from others academic disciplines which caused a professional isolation and biases in the international business as the same time most of those authors centred of their attention on the American style of thinking “us VS them” and even when it come to globalization all of them associated it to the increase of positive effect of American culture on other cultures. However Tipton believe that those authors did not even describe American and western business as the way they really are, but more likely the way the authors wish them to be or presented.

Further Tipton mentions that the harmful effect with the facts presented by most of those authors was that many of them used incorrect statement and most often generalized it to the situation. Especially he mentions the example of the thumbs-up gesture in Australia which many of those authors had stated it wrongly as a rude gesture (Ball et al., 2004, p. 331; Ball et al., 2006, p. 213). Some other problem that Tipton find out was that many of those authors misstated words and phrases from other languages and were even some times confuse about its terminology.

The other problem was that some of authors not only have error in their interpretations but also they did not given the sources of their facts so it made it almost impossible for student and the reader to see how the authors had come to their conclusions. Tipton give an example of South Korean business practice which Wild, Wild and Han had said because Korean follow Confucian thought so as the result employees do not question firm orders which is not true referring many Koreans worker even though the government and some employers will say that. Here there were not even the description Wild, Wild and Han’s claim about the Confucian ethics and its relation to economic growth in China was completely correct and they wrongly assumed cultural homogeneity.

However the problems were not only when authors discussed non-western culture they were even insufficient when it come to the western culture. For example when talking about the success of the west most of them related this to the religion, modern capitalism, hard work and self-discipline and not many of them almost none of them said anything about effect of colonialism, slavery, and imperialism on west and the rest of the world (Westwood, 2004, p. 65; see Hobson, 2004) and none of the work even refers to cultural changes in USA.

Referring to Tipton even it did appear that most of text books had very fussy definition of the terms culture itself. As they did used various sources again without to citing the sources and it did look like that not many of them had read the criticism of those theory or understood the theory itself correctly when they referring to them as some of them was very old theories and was not appropriate at the time. Example when some referred to Hofstede (Hofstede, 1980; Hofstede, 1991; Hofstede, 2001; Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005) it was actually to his earlier work and not to his changed and updated later work.

Tipton mention that the danger of foreignness and educational nationalism is that firstly most of them rely on old and outdated works and secondly many of those authors purely rely on their personal experiences and most often their text is based on newspaper and magazine articles which are not much scientific and one other major problem is most of those authors do not even speak the local language fluently which cause misunderstanding at many points. Finally as most of those authors based their work and compare it with their competitors it has caused inadequately in their research and caused a professional bias in their work. However with all those inadequately trying to highlighting the differences between cultures it ends up that it actually defines and reinforcing a preferred version of national identity (Greenfeld, 1992; Billig, 1995; McVeigh, 2004) and it has in fact become that American mangers emphasizes on the differences of themselves and other cultures, rather to emphasize on the similarity and things they have in common.


Review, Conceptual paper, original article title: “Thumbs-up is a rude gesture in Australia”: The presentation of culture in international business textbooks



  • Ball, D.A., McCulloch, W.H., Frantz, P.L., Geringer, J.M. and Minor, M.S. (2004), International Business: The Challenge of Global Competition, 9th ed., McGraw Hill/Irwin, Boston, MA.
  • Ball, D.A., McCulloch, W.H., Frantz, P.L., Geringer, J.M. and Minor, M.S. (2006), International Business: The Challenge of Global Competition, 10th ed., McGraw Hill/Irwin, Boston, MA.
  • Hobson, J.M. (2004), The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Westwood, R. (2004), “Towards a postcolonial research paradigm in international business and comparative management”, in Marschan-Piekkari, R. and Welch, C. (Eds), Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods for International Business, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham and Northampton, pp. 56-83.

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