Geir Helgesen & Soren Risbjerg Thomsen (eds)
Globalization may be undermining Kipling’s assertion that “East is East and West is West” but arguably this is more in the realms of technological advances and consumer behaviour than in political culture. In the latter arena, much is still made of the contrasts between Eastern culture (characterized by collectivism and belief in authority) and Western culture (characterized by individualism and belief in democracy). Such comfortable assumptions will be shattered for readers of Politics, Culture and Self.
This volume indeed confirms that differences between East Asia and Northern Europe do exist. Provocatively, however, it also points to major similarities (e.g. regarding social harmony and the role of the family in society) as well as significant contrasts mirrored within the two regions (e.g. concerning interpersonal and institutional trust).
These results are of special interest because of the care taken to reduce “cultural contamination”. The data is derived from extensive and in-depth surveys conducted by a cross-cultural research team in East Asia and Northern Europe. Here, methodological techniques were used to control for non-cultural differences as well as cultural variation in how people respond to questionnaires. This survey data is augmented by a wealth of historical and analytical contexts that will make the book an essential item in the library of anyone concerned with issues relating to political behaviour at all levels.