Democracy and Cultural Diversity [4-min read]

This writing is an attempt to explain, from a cultural point of view, why Democracy is not a World Universal “thing“.

Democratic elections in Pakistan, Russia, Afghanistan, and Burma? The list is far from complete.

In the western world, we seem to be obsessed with spreading our Democracy. We deploy peace missions and other diplomatic initiatives to spread our Western contemporary “religion“.
My point here is, that that will not work. Here’s why not.

In actual fact, Democracy boils down to this: The ability/possibility for One man to cast his/her One vote.

What is (Western) Democracy?

Without trying to come up with a suitable definition or one pulled from Wikipedia, I’d like to keep it simple and view Democracy from a Cultural point of view.

In actual fact, Democracy boils down to this: The ability/possibility for One man to cast his/her One vote.
In addition what is important here is that this one man is not coerced, forced, or otherwise manipulated by anyone else in determining his/her One vote (in the broader sense of the word this is called Vote Rigging).

So fundamentally our (view and practice of) Western Democracy hinges on Individuals voting for themselves.
The word “Individuals” is important here. It emphasizes, again, One man, One vote.

Individualism and Democracydemocracy and cultural diversity

Prof. Hofstede came up with 4 dimensions defining national culture (describing general trends in societies). One of these dimensions is called Individualism (the others are Hierarchy, Goal Orientation, and Predictability).

This Individualism is crucial to making (Western) Democracy work. Because Hofstede’s dimension Individualism answers the question: “to whom are you loyal?”. On the two extremes of this dimension there are two answers possible: “my loyalty lies with me first” (= highly Individualistic) versus “my loyalty lies with the group first” (called Collectivistic). I do need to stress that individuals in Collectivistic societies do have an opinion of their own. It is just secondary to the opinion that the group holds.

High-scoring cultures on the dimension Individualism use/have a Democracy that the Western world is trying to spread so badly.

Examples of high-scoring Individualistic cultures are:

  • North America
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • And Western Europe.

That’s it! And… that’s all! All other countries in the World (!) are Collectivistic (with a score of less than 50 on Hofstede’s dimension).

This means that, to the majority of the world (about 80%), the Western concept of Democracy does not mean the same thing as in the minority of the world (the self-proclaimed “first world“).

In collectivistic societies, people are loyal to their group, more than to themselves. This means (in short) that One man, One vote, translates into “I’ll vote for the One my peers (in-group) vote for“. There is nothing good or bad about either Individualism or Collectivism. It is just different.

The Danger of Spreading Democracy and Cultural Diversity Worldwide

The danger lies in the fact that the Western world thinks it can take the blueprint of its own Democracy and simply spread (or better force) it around other parts of the world. More often than not, much to resentment among the local population.

So don’t think the following countries will ever become democracies according to Western principles:

  • Irak
  • Iran
  • Afghanistan
  • Pakistan
  • Myanmar
  • Russia
  • China
  • etc…

To summarize: Democracy in Iraq is an illusion. It always will be.

Ending it here with the, not so surprising, historical quote from Winston Churchill: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried.”

Don’t forget, Mr. Churchill was British, one of the most Individualistic countries in the World.

So, democracy and cultural diversity do not go hand in hand!

Listen to this podcast on the same subject of democracy and cultural diversity.

An article about the cultural component of the US elections can be found here.

 

Get a Taste of How Chris Presents, Watch his TEDx Talk


 

 

7 + 8 =

call culture mattersCall Direct: +32476524957

 

whatsapp culture matters directlyEuropean Office (Paris) Whatsapp: +32476524957

 

The Americas (USA; Atlanta, GA; también en Español):  +1 678 301 8369

Book Chris Smit as a Speaker

If you're looking for an Engaging, Exciting, and Interactive speaker on the subject of Intercultural Management & Awareness you came to the right place.

Chris has spoken at hundreds of events and to thousands of people on the subject of Cultural Diversity & Cultural Competence.

This is What Others Say About Chris:

  • “Very Interactive and Engaging”
  • “In little time he knew how to get the audience inspired and connected to his story”
  • His ability to make large groups of participants quickly and adequately aware of the huge impact of cultural differences is excellent”
  • Chris is a dedicated and inspirational professional”

In addition, his presentations can cover specific topics cultural topics, or generally on Cultural differences.

Presentations can vary anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours and are given World Wide.

Book Chris now by simply sending an email. Click here to do so.

Read more about what Chris can do for you.

  • Percentage of People Rating a Presentation as Excellent 86% 86%
  • Rating the Presentation as Practical 89% 89%
  • Applicability of Chris' presentation 90% 90%

About Peter van der Lende

Peter van der Lende International business development

Peter has joined forces with Culture Matters.

Because he has years and years of international business development experience joining forces therefore only seemed logical.

Being born and raised in the Netherlands, he has lived in more than 9 countries of which most were in Latin America.

He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) with his family.

You can find out more at https://expand360.com/

Or find out what Peter can do for you here.

Chris is passionate about Cultural Differences. He has been helping organizations save time and money when they work Internationally for the last 20+ years. While doing this he had the fortunate opportunity to hold lectures, workshops, and consulting projects on this subject World Wide. It has made him understand his own culture much better and appreciate the differences around the world.
His education is in Organisational Psychology and he has lived in the USA, the Netherlands, and currently lives in Belgium.

Chris Smit
Culture Matters Logo

Never Miss a Thing

Never miss an Article, Podcast, or Webinar.

Subscribe now!

You have Successfully Subscribed!