Attributes of the Dutch culture

Attributes of the Dutch culture


Huib Wursten,


Findings of (preliminary) research.

The trigger for this research was the observation that there is a big difference between the Anglo-Saxon countries, with their dominant masculine culture, and the more feminine Scandinavian-Dutch cultures.

1. Motivation

The following question was put to large groups of Dutch, Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, and, for verification purposes, groups of Germans, Americans, and French in work organizations: How can you best motivate yourself and the people around you to work hard?

Four possible answers to the question were presented:

-By stimulating leadership

-By instituting a bonus system

-By promising a promotion as a reward for good performance

– By permitting autonomy within an individual field of tasks (i.e., permitting people their own “shop”).Note: The Dutch frequently use the word Toko, the Indonesian word for shop.

The vast majority (82%) of participants belonging to the Scandinavian-Dutch group immediately chose option 4, autonomy and the toko. Only 54% of those in the Anglo-Saxon control group chose option 4.

2. Managerial interferences

The second question posed was: What would you do if you had a boss who is looking over your shoulder and interferes frequently in your running of the toko? The answer was a resounding “I would stand my ground”. If managerial interference cannot otherwise be discouraged, or in the event of a personality clash, fiefdoms develop and the autonomous toko is defended at all costs.

3 When autonomy is granted within the toko

The third question posed was: How would you react if, contrary to the previous scenario, your boss accepted you at face value, allowed you to achieve within your own toko and awarded you full responsibility?

Three possible answers were presented:

a) By building a fiefdom and walling off the toko

b) By fostering competition between toko’s

c) By meeting with other toko-holders, finding common ground, and reaching consensus in order to make the entire toko complex function effectively

In the preliminary investigation, 89% of the participants immediately chose the third answer. The countless meetings that take place in organisations are evidence of the popularity of this strategy. The objective of these meetings is often gathering the support of others; the main toko-holders must reach a consensus on the strategy to be pursued. Consequently, decisions take the shape of an agreement based on the shared interests of all the relevant toko-holders. For that reason, one criterion for good policy is toko-holder satisfaction with respect to the manner in which decisions taken relate to their interests. The Dutch word is draagvlak. This principle allows for the retraction of decisions that have already been made. Theoretically, if one of the toko-holders party to a given agreement leaves a meeting and later that day has second thoughts, he may return the following day and say, ‘yesterday we took that particular decision, but I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and decided that it’s not a good idea. Can we work something else out?’ This tendency indicates that in a country like the Netherlands, decisions are not written in stone. An agreement made one day may be re-examined and altered the next. The Dutch word for the driving force behind this tendency is voortschrijdend inzicht. This takes place on the macro-level in politics (think of the Betuwe railway line affair) and the meso-level (the negotiations between Fokker and Dasa), as well as in micro-organisations. An important issue here is the manner in which control is exercised in each of the various models. According to the network model, verification occurs by means of the progress discussions in meetings and by respect for consensus reached by joint decision-making. The question is: is everybody still happy? In the contest cluster, the ideal verification is to settle with people on the basis of targets via formal assessment procedures. According to the well-oiled machine models, the ideal verification is to check whether everyone is following the system of formal rules. Practical issues are important: for instance, are all participants up to date with respect to the planning system? Inspection by the boss is the verification principle in the pyramid. In those societies there is a saying: “people respect what you inspect”. According to family models, the verification system consists of inspections performed by the boss and emphasis on harmony within the group. The various models also determine coordination instruments in societies and in organisations. The market model favors mutual adjustment in the form of ad-hoc negotiations based on supply and demand, while the network model favors mutual adjustment on the basis of mutual dependency between crucial tokos. The machine model accentuates the standardization of skills (such as the apprentice system in Germany), while the pyramid model highlights the standardization of work processes and direct supervision (such as the manner in which the French government works). Finally, the family model favors direct supervision. By way of comparison, the schematic differences between the five models on a number of interesting criteria for organisations are given.


Attributes of the network culture                                       


The toko as core concept                                                                

Autonomy in the individual work field is the most important drive for the majority of people.   (In politics, this is indicated as autonomy in own circle)


The need to be autonomous inside the toko is the starting point for motivation. In principle, the toko owners resist the interference of others.

One of the consequences of this is that toko owners often have no formal job description. If they do have one,  the majority admit that their job description is in the bottom drawer, so to speak. It is a sense of personal responsibility, and not a job description, that drives them. Result: it’s not the job description that determines whether somebody is invited to a given meeting, but rather the extent to which his/her toko is affected by the decisions made. It is seen as better to let all the potentially affected toko-holders participate and involve them all in the same process. The toko-holders may be reluctant to accept and enforce decisions in their area of responsibility if they were not involved in the decision making to begin with.


5.2 The starting point of the normative system in the Netherlands: position and rights of the individual.

The Dutch tend to see everyone as equal in the eyes of the law, with the weak viewed as a bit “more equal” than the strong. A number of features of Dutch “toko society” can best be understood when viewed through this lens.

  • The individual’s primary priorities, in terms of loyalty, are his own objectives and the development of his own talents. These priorities can be interpreted in a strict financial sense (i.e. salary) as well as in pragmatic terms (the thought is, “if I don’t defend the interest of my toko, then who will? My boss? My colleagues?”).
  • The Dutch legal system and national constitution were both strongly influenced by the spirit of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, a legacy shared with many other Western nations whose societies, like that of the Netherlands, are characterized by a strong emphasis on individualism. The Renaissance led to the discovery of the Individual, while the Enlightenment led to the development of a scientific, rational way of reasoning. Together these produced the school of thought we call positivism. Positivism makes a distinction between statements about reality that can be proven (or disproven) and those that cannot. As one positivist philosopher scholar stated, “the very meaning of a proposition is its method of verification”. As far as norms and values are concerned, the positivist point of view states that there is no way to verify the truth of a norm or value statement. For instance, the statement “this hammer is good” is a meaningful statement because it is possible to find an agreed upon tool to verify this. On the contrary, the statement “god is good” is not meaningful, simply because it is impossible to find an agreed upon tool of verification, as would be the case with a hammer or any other object. The source of a particular set of norms or values is key: if a statement (or, for that matter, an act) has its source in a holy book, such as the Bible or the Koran, there exists no agreed upon way to refute or verify it. One product of this paradigm is the theory of cultural relativism.

As a result of the rise of cultural relativism, the majority position in the norms and values debate in the Netherlands is a post-modern one. The majority school of thought defends the idea that values are relative and that there exist no methods for proving that one value system is better or “more true” than another. It all depends on point of view: if one group claims that its belief system dictates that men are essentially superior to women, no other group or individual may label that belief as essentially wrong.

  • The Polish philosopher Kolokowski expressed this dilemma by stating that “all cultures are equal, but the culture which holds that to be its most leading principle, has achieved a higher level of development”.
  • In Western, individualistic societies, one common way to escape this dilemma has been to adopt a view of the rights of the individual as they can be found in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” as a reference point. The focus of the Declaration is the belief that all humans are entitled to equal rights and obligations, regardless of class, race, gender or social position.
  • The Dutch, “feminine” interpretation of the above has produced the view that society should protect the weak more than the strong. For instance, it is acceptable in the Netherlands that in traffic accidents involving a car and a bicycle, the driver of the car be considered the guilty party, even if the bicycle rider was clearly at fault.


5.3 Mondigheid

This is a difficult concept to translate. It could be interpreted as “the skill and the urge to speak up in an explicit way to express one’s opinions”

Mondigheid is viewed by the Dutch as an essential skill– you must be able to defend the interest of your toko. If nobody speaks up, leadership expects that everyone agrees with, or at least accepts, decisions made. Being viewed by others as mondig is central to the development of a healthy self-esteem.

A telling example: some time ago, the Dutch soccer magazine Voetbal International published an interview with Paolo Maldini, the one-time captain of an Italian team. He told the reporter about his experience with the Dutch in his own club team in Milan. In talking about the coach-captain dynamic within his team, he said that as captain, he would never initiate a discussion about game tactics with his coach. “He decides: when he is asks for my advice, I give my opinion. But if he doesn’t ask, I don’t speak up. We are different from Dutch players. They talk a lot more, about how to approach the game and about how they’d like to play football. An Italian just does his job…(but) that’s the Dutch mentality. There’s always got to be a discussion, and that can be a problem. We’re just not used to that.”

Another revealing example: (taken from correspondence with Mexican colleague.

Leo Beenhakker, a world famous Dutch soccer coach, was hired to direct one of the most prestious soccer teams in México, El América. The team was owned by the most powerful media and communications empire in México, Televisa. Televisa’s President and CEO was Emilio Azcarraga, known as “El Tigre”. Leo managed the team so well that it became the national leader in the Mexican major league. Everything seemed to be going fantastically for the team when Beenhakker was suddenly fired, to his own personal and to Mexican public surprise. He was astonished, as he thought he’d been doing a great job. As it turns out, Leo wasn’t in the habit of accepting anyone’s advice, and had miscalculated some disagreements with El Tigre, thinking that good results were the only thing that mattered. Wrong! In México, the boss’s satisfaction is priority #1, and this was particularly true with Azcarraga, who had even managed to intimidate the Mexican President. How dare the Dutch newcomer try to take him on?

 In a country like Mexico, results are not enough. Hierarchy and obedience are crucial factors, with the potential to outrank general job performance results in some cases.

Mondigheid implies that everybody feels he has the right to defend his interest in a verbally direct way. Many other cultures simply interpret this as bluntness. However, this is a necessary step to:

5.4 Consensus decisions

 Decisions are made by looking for the shared interest of all toko-holders and by creating draagvlak(consensus). Two elements are important here:

  • There is a clear notion of interdependence. The common idea is that the important toko-holders will not carry out decisions if they are one-sided (if they are based on hierarchy, for instance). Consensus seeking makes this system very different from the Anglo-Saxon one. Cynthia P. Schneider, the American ambassador in the Netherlands, said in an interview: “We believe in governing by majority. If the minority wants something else, too bad! You [Dutch] always want to make everybody happy. To me that is very problematic. I would become very frustrated working in such a system. But until now it has worked, apparently.”
  • “All (important) toko- holders”. When someone is recognized as a toko-holder, he is invited to the table to discuss policy development with the others. It would be unthinkable not to invite every toko-holder. But this leads now and then to big surprises.

Example: a lead article from the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant from June 5 2000:

“Prime Minister Kok forgotten by NATO at Kosovo discussion”. The article described the frustration of the Dutch PM at not being invited to the meeting in London. “How could that be?” the article wonders, with the Netherlands “having a leading military role, but not being rewarded with a political position in the ‘contact group’ or the G7?”


5.5 Coordination as the preferred leadership style within a network

The ideal boss is a competent colleague, willing and able to negotiate on decisions with other toko-holders.

According to the Dutch constitution, the Prime Minister is not the “boss” of the government, but rather the chairman of the council of independent ministers. He acts as a coordinator, nothing more and nothing less. In this system, it is impossible to steer from a distance. The leader, the manager, is not external to the network, but is an integral part of the network of toko-holders.

An example from the Volkskrant September 5 1994:

“The ministers of the Kok administration are hesitant to appoint the Minister of the Interior to lead the management development system for high-level civil servants. That proposal is part of a plan to organize a general civil service organ. The council of ministers met last Friday to discuss the proposal. The plan proposes the regular rotation of top civil servants through the 14 government ministries, in order to avoid bureaucracy and silo development…The prime minister himself is not very happy with the proposal. He is resistant to the idea of playing referee in cases of differences of opinion between the coordinating Minister of the Interior and the minister involved.”

This kind of leadership is particular to the network and is not always appreciated elsewhere.

From an article in Business Week about the first president of the European Central Bank, the Dutchman Wim Duisenberg, comes another example:

“The ECB conveys the impression of confused- and thus weak- leadership under its president, Wim Duisenberg. He employs a consensual management style, and as a result the ECB appears to have far too many bosses”.


This does not mean that in the network cluster, no one ever calls for strong leadership. Because it is not viewed as usual, politicians and mayors are only seldom called on to show strong leadership in order to solve problems. The fear of being viewed as “too authoritarian” is real, and those who do implement strong-handed tactics, or even a strong-handed tone, risk a damaged reputation and negative press coverage.

A telling comment was made by Job Cohen, mayor of Amsterdam. In reaction to a discussion on the crime rate among immigrants, in which some were calling for strong leadership on his part, he reacted by saying, “I just want to keep things together”. This kind of reply can sometimes lead to furious reactions from political adversaries.


5.6  E= Q * A

This is the formula for optimal success in (change) management: the Effectiveness of a given board, management team, or project team decision is equal to the technical Quality of the proposal, multiplied by Acceptance (by the other toko-holders).

The secret of success, then, is the creation of consensus (again defined as the feeling of common interest shared by all the relevant toko-holders). The Dutch key formula for success is developing draagvlak. Again, the implicit meaning of this word is difficult to translate, but it implies “full support from almost all of the important toko holders”.


5.7 Consensus decisions are never fixed.

The autonomous toko-holders constantly re-evaluate the implications of decisions for their toko and the consequences for the organization as a whole. This leads to a tendency for individual toko-holders to mull over decisions and to approach colleagues (including the boss) later in informal settings, in order to share proposed improvements. This then evolves into a new, informal consensus decision. This is a continuous process. This is also voortschrijdend inzicht (emerging insight), as described in Chapter 4. As a result, there exists a strong tendency to make everything in management (statement of objectives, target setting, planning, etc.) tentative. Even in national legislation, this tendency can be found in the preference for contracting voluntary agreements between important social stakeholders for a limited time. Beter ten halve gekeerd dan ten hele gedwaald is an old Dutch saying meaning “it’s better to turn around at the halfway point than to follow the wrong road and become completely lost”.


5.8  An important management steering principle: coordinating “emerging insight.”

One crucial managerial skill is the ability to continuously identify the visible (and not-so-visible) important toko-holders with a role in a certain policy decision and involve them in this dynamic process. The boss/leader is himself part of that process. He must make himself available for discussions about emerging insights that take place in informal settings. An open-door policy is crucial. Of course, the toko-holders accept that the boss is also an important toko-holder, and that it’s necessary to involve him. This can all be quite a challenge for a boss, because several times a day a subordinate can, without knocking, come into his office to ask his opinion about a new idea. It would be wrong to misinterpret this as asking for permission or for the boss’s approval: they are simply involving an important fellow toko-holder. The danger is that some managers (even Dutch ones) may find the constant interruptions irritating, and that leads them to keep their office doors closed. The symbolic value of this is not lost on employees, who continue crucial discussions among themselves, excluding the boss. Sometimes, after it’s too late, managers discover that the emerging insight did its work and that they were not involved. For management, a considerable gap develops between what was expected and what really happened.


5.9 The system works by involving all important toko holders.

If you profile yourself as a visible toko-holder with an interest overall policy, you can be sure to be invited to participate in discussions.

When toko-holders are not so visible, problems can arise.

From time to time, the things that go wrong in the Netherlands result from the fact that in the consensus approach, no role exists for a stakeholder with the explicit task of guarding established norms. One example was the heated conflict over the implementation of a new national unemployment policy. The most important stakeholders were employers and trade unions. The government, the only stakeholder with a conflicting interest, was not represented.


5.10 Checking the system: Is everybody still happy?

Frequent checks of toko-holder satisfaction take place during frequent meetings, in order to make sure that everyone is still happy. If one of the toko-holders with a strong interest is not satisfied, he is supposed to speak up. The tone is frequently critical. This is sometimes perceived by outsiders as a blunt and/or negative way of communicating. Nevertheless, it is a necessary component of the check, and when it doesn’t take place, usually something is terribly wrong. The Dutch refer to the frequent checks and sharing of criticism as elkaar scherp houden (keeping each other sharp). Ernest Stewart, soccer international from the USA, said in an interview that he would probably never get used to the negative communication style within his team. When asked if American players were different, he replied:

“Americans players have a much more positive attitude; they say “good try!” instead of “hey jerk, what the hell are you doing?!”.


5.11 Enforcement is strongly disliked

All stakeholders try to avoid the position of enforcer, since they prefer to neutralize conflict, rather than seek it. There is a tendency to tolerate deviant behavior, rather than stamp it out. The Dutch word (yet another that does not lend itself easily to translation) is gedogen. It means something like  “making an exception for minority behavior rather than strongly enforcing majority decisions”.

This is reflected everywhere, even in the armed forces. An article in the New York Times discussed the reaction to an incident involving Dutch troops in Bosnia in July 1995. The heading was “Dutch Conscience Stung by Troops’ Bosnia Failure”:

 “Some critics are questioning not only the conduct of the Dutch Battalion in Srebrenica, but also the relevance of Holland’s traditionally peaceful, consensus-oriented approach to world affairs”.


A Dutch diplomat is then quoted as saying that “we don’t back up our diplomacy with a big stick”. Historians trace the roots of this approach as far back as the 15th century.


This dislike of and resistance to enforcement of decisions has resulted in two important features of Dutch culture:

  • The majority tolerates a given (minority) behavior because of a firm believe that enforcement would lead to even more negative consequences. Some examples include the Dutch attitude towards soft drugs, euthanasia and abortion. The Dutch like to cite the Prohibition period in the USA as an example in support of tolerance: if authorities outlaw something that is seen as desirable by (a segment of) society, the forbidden practice will carry on, but in secret. There is a good chance that the secrecy surrounding the forbidden practice will lead to crime, such as gang wars. The Dutch attitude favors decriminalization of controversial practices through an official policy of tolerance. By tolerating the practice, the government can control it (by means of taxation or regulation, for instance).
  • These unofficial agreements are the logical consequence of an official policy of tolerance. They consist of agreements between all relevant stakeholders, for a limited amount of time.


5.12 Preference for solidarity, not “winner takes all”.

Sympathy for the underdog

The feminine values in Scandinavia and in the Netherlands produce sympathy for the underdogs in society, rather than admiration of the ones who have “made it”. Those who profile themselves as winners are labeled uitslovers (show-offs). Thus, there exists a tendency to protect the weak with social security and various safety nets.



5.13 The Dutch political system: four C’s

The four C’s that characterize the system are: Consensus seeking, Coalition politics, Collegial administration and Co-opting (compromising with the opposition).

Coordination on a horizontal level is the key to understanding the Dutch political system. This is not new. In a book about the 19th century by Joost Kloek & Wijnand Mijnhard, 1800 Blauwdrukken voor een samenleving, the authors conclude that much in Dutch society, more then people expect, has remained the same over time, despite three centuries of major political, economic, technological and religious changes. In their work on the year 1650, Willem Frijhoff en Marijke Spies sum up the ideal conditions after the Peace of Westphalia in which a period of enormous growth began in the Netherlands (then known as the “Verenigde Nederlanden”). The Netherlands was ”in short, a society where the horizontal connections and division of power were more important then the vertical, the monopolizing of power…where not commanding but negotiating was the stakeholders’ dominant way of relating”. In other words, there existed a “meeting” or “discussion” culture. This characterization is very similar to the model now used to describe Dutch society and economy, the poldermodel.

The following example is particularly illustrative:

In a paper on crisis management, Dutch experts came to the conclusion that even when it comes to the management of unexpected disasters (like the plane crash over Amsterdam’s Bijlmer neighborhood), it is wrong to attribute too much blame to the “centralization reflex”. The parliamentary hearing regarding the Bijlmer disaster concluded that ”for management of future disaster situations, regardless of the nature of the disaster itself or its extent, the post of Coordinating Minister should be created”. Essentially, the parliamentary committee claimed that if disaster management was centralized, slowness, bureaucracy, and information gaps would be history.

According to the authors of the report, this is a big mistake. They maintain that whoever claims the support of an absolute majority in this country of consensus and coalitions is horribly mistaken. Any attempts to send commands from “the Hague” to lower levels of authority will fail miserably.

There exists, they conclude, a historical and deeply rooted resistance against force and “majority tyranny”.

5.14 Examples over time

The effect of these key concepts on the reality of leadership and management in macro-organizations, government/politics, as well as micro-organizations should not be underestimated.

By way of illustration and to demonstrate that these are very consistent cultural features, four examples over time are given below:


1996: The battle between France and the Netherlands over drug policy

It may appear that this was a rational discussion concerning a joint social problem. Actually, it was nothing less than a confrontation between two culturally different management models. In France, policy is created centrally. The government, at the top of the pyramid, may make decisions in the name of the public interest. The government subsequently formulates regulations that must be respected by those at all other levels of society. In order to be sure the rules are implemented, systematic verification on the part of the government takes place. Drugs are viewed as a social problem, something that must be controlled by government authorities. In line with this thinking, strict prohibitory provisions exist, which must be enforced hard-handedly if necessary.

In the Netherlands, the thinking on this issue is diametrically different. A social phenomenon like drugs is viewed from a consensus standpoint. Drugs are essentially a social phenomenon, with roots in the behavior and personal choices of citizens. Consequently, the relevant question according to the Dutch network model is: how can we confine this phenomenon in way that acknowledges this social reality of drug use, while keeping the interests of non-user stakeholders intact? The central issue is finding solutions in which the interests of all parties involved are addressed. The focus is not on a general, public interest, but on the shared interest of all separate parties involved. This subsequently leads to voluntary agreements between the parties involved, along with voluntary and agreed-upon sanctioning methods. Harsh, one-sided enforcement is fundamentally wrong. Regulations take on the form of voluntary agreements. In this context, it was perfectly possible for the Christian-Democratic mayor of a provincial city like Tilburg to reach a voluntary agreement with the coffee shops in town, stipulating that soft-drugs could be sold, under the conditions that there would be no noise disturbances, selling of hard-drugs or sale to minors.


1960 “New Babylon under development” – the Netherlands in the sixties.

Though many believe that the drugs debate in the nineties is an isolated phenomenon, it actually goes back much further than that. The title of this section is a reference to a book by the American historian C. Kennedy. In that work, he describes the course of major changes and processes in the sixties (such as student revolution).

He compares these processes with the student protests in Paris and anti-war demonstrations in the USA, among others. Kennedy demonstrates that social changes processes in the Netherlands proceeded smoothly, in contrast to the United States, which experienced considerable social upheaval in a number of domains. According to Kennedy, the central explanation for this was consensus thinking. While many American authorities actively opposed the new developments, Dutch leaders did not do much to maintain the status quo. Kennedy claims that this reaction was not rooted in the progressive nature of the Dutch leaders of the time, but in the conviction that the changes could no longer be stopped; “going with the flow of the times” seemed to be the only sensible option. “The belief in the inevitability of changes has always been a crucial factor in the Dutch culture”.

The Dutch political elites were and are characterized by inclusion and incorporation, and not exclusion, of differing ideas and minority groups. Kennedy states that the Dutch counterculture “could benefit from the conviction of many Dutch clergymen, intellectuals and politicians that ‘that’s the way it is’.

Kennedy concludes that “the counterculture thus made use of the self-criticism of the dominant culture and developed itself from that point. In this context, young counter-cultural rebels were little more than the radical incarnations of conventional self-criticism”.


17th century

How consistently does consensus-focused “network thinking” appear if we go back 300 years instead of 30?

J.L. Price of Hull University examined this question in a study entitled “Holland and the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century”. Even as far back as that time, the political system in the Netherlands differed significantly from the more feudal systems of neighboring countries. At that time, municipal self-rule was an established tradition in Holland and the Netherlands as a whole. Municipal political institutions may originally have been founded on the basis of charters awarded by the central authorities. However, says Price, “by the sixteenth century at least, they had come to be regarded as fundamental rights. Thus it can be argued that in a very real sense sovereignty lay not so much with the States of Holland themselves, but with the governments of the voting towns collectively. Although the towns were not individually sovereign, their collective governments were”. This power and the privileges of the towns were consistently supported by the States of Holland, “because their body was effectively controlled by the votes of town delegations. Thus, although the States of Holland were the supreme political authority in the provinces, in practice they acted as the expression of urban power”.

Even towns that found themselves politically isolated on a given occasion were, to a very large degree, protected from coercion by the majority, as no town wanted to set a precedent that could have been used against it on some future occasion; no town could be certain that it might not some day be in a vulnerable minority”.

And we’re talking about the seventeenth century here!


1990  Back to current practice: Rotterdam.

In 1992, G.R. Teisman wrote his doctoral dissertation on decision-making processes related to environmental investments, with a focus on Rotterdam in particular. Issues that were discussed included the Rotterdam railway tunnel, the Capelle a/d Ijssel express train, development of Zestienhoven airport, North Rotterdam District plan and, in particular, the ‘Kop van Zuid’ project. Teisman describes the reality of decision-making in the projects he examined. He claims that progress was demonstrably hindered in the projects he examined when it was assumed that decisions could be taken on the basis of formal hierarchic authority. Empirical evidence was found for the following points:

1. Policy systems consist of both centralized and decentralized units.

2. The relationship between these systems is one of mutual dependence, not hierarchy or autonomy.

3. Neither one-sided central- nor one-sided local power decisions  will result in satisfactory policy.

4. Shared interest is the touchstone for policy, not general interest or self-interest.


What Teisman has described is network thinking. He includes practical tips on how this can be maintained. It is remarkable that he links this reality to contemporary Dutch society, without offering a cultural explanation. He distinguishes two additional thinking patterns that can be converted into the cultural perspective using the pyramid model and the market model. In his analyses, he assumes that choosing to implement a particular model is a matter of choice, made independently of the basic values of a given culture. It is clear that he believes that the network model is really a more developed stage in the evolution of policy models.  So, the American and French models are actually preliminary versions of the consensus model. Let’s hope Bush and Chirac never read this!


5.15 Strengths and weaknesses of the network model

If we take culture and mind-set as the basis for the way in which solutions are found, we see that differences of opinion are reconciled in the Netherlands by acknowledging their existence and significance. There is an attempt to reach agreement with all parties involved, and enforcing things on others from above, out of obstinacy or powerlessness, is simply not done. Things that have gone wrong in Dutch society as a result of consensus thinking or that have been translated into network models in accordance with policy, can all be blamed on the fact that no place had been made for a stakeholder whose task it was to monitor standards. For instance, the main parties involved in developing the national pension system were the employees and the employers. The government, the only party that had an interest in monitoring the standards, was not part of the network. A big danger related to aiming for government efficiency and effectiveness is that an important task, monitoring the equality of rights, legal certainty and justice, may be forgotten, with no place reserved for it in the network. The same applies to smaller organizations. Though managers often realize that hierarchical handling is outdated, employees forget that the real task of the boss within the network is to act as monitor. While the Dutch find it unpleasant if a supervisor constantly looks over their shoulder, that should not be interpreted as a sign that he should not interact with the network. A clear place for that is reserved in the network, resulting from the importance of standard-monitoring and legitimization of participation in the network. On a horizontal level (and not by means of hierarchical interference), the discussion of the interests of the toko-holders constantly competes with the established standards. Toko-holders should feel free to discuss the feasibility of the standards, and modify or even scrap them if necessary. If conflicts arise, there should be a willingness to think in terms of win-win strategies.


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  • Vree, W. van ( 1999) Meetings, Manners and Civilization. Leicester University Press, London/New York.
































    Putin against the decadent West? A discussion between Huib Wursten and Fernando Lanzer. (An open invitation to contribute to others)

    Do we have a metaphysical clash between Western democracies and traditional authoritarian societies?

    Talking about western democracies Vyacheslav Nikonov, chairman of the Russian Duma’s Committee on Education and Dean of the Public Administration Faculty of the Moscow State University, recently said “in reality, we embody the forces of good in the modern world because this clash is metaphysical…. We (the Russians) are on the side of good against the forces of absolute evil…. This is truly a holy war that we’re waging, and we have to win it and of course, we will because our cause is just.  We have no other choice.  Our cause is not only just, but our cause is also righteous and victory will certainly be ours.”

    Sergey Karaganov, connected to Russian president Vladimir Putin, predicted that democracy is failing and authoritarianism is rising because of democracy’s flawed moral foundations.  As he put it: “Western civilization has brought all of us great benefits, but now people like myself and others are questioning the moral foundation of Western civilization.”

    What Nikonov and Karaganov discuss is the difference between traditional authoritarian societies and open,  secular societies in which all people are equal before the law and have the right to have a say in their government.

    From a cultural point of view, they describe the difference between individualistic and Collectivist cultures.

    In Collectivist cultures, the in-group people belong to (tribe, ethnic group, religious group, etc.) is the reference and starting point for morality.  Key element: in return for loyalty to the in-group, the in-group takes care of the group members.  Group convictions determine the preferences of the individuals.  Individuals are supposed to be in harmony with the thinking and the interest of the in-group.

    In individualistic cultures, not the ingroup but the individual is the starting point of morality.  Equal rights for every human being, regardless of where people are coming from, their skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.  In short, this value system leads to a strong belief in “Human Rights” for everyone on an individual level.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights addresses moral behavior in individualistic cultures.  This morality developed under the influence of the Enlightenment.  Defending the right of individual human beings to control their own lives and to have a say in their government is a moral position.  Democracy is the logical consequence. Treating everyone equally before the law is a moral position.

    Democracy and human rights are the consequence of the Enlightenment.

    Spinoza and the Enlightenment

    More and more people see the Dutch philosopher Spinoza as the most influential thinker of the Radical Enlightenment.  Like Descartes, Spinoza promoted Monism in which Matter and Spirit are two sides of the same substance, Nature.  Nature encompasses everything.  All transcendence or supernatural was rejected radically by Spinoza.  Therefore, belief systems like Christianity and connected political institutions lost legitimacy because they are based on supernatural revelations and miracles.  The logical result is that there should be a different arrangement between the State and Religion.  Spinoza promoted a new secular arrangement where the state and church are separated.  In this arrangement, freedom of opinion prevails above religious freedom.  In this new setup, morality is no longer based on the Bible.  Spinoza formulated a distinction between belief and knowledge.  Spinoza states that “true” belief is thus only good insofar as it is the way to true knowledge, awakening us to those things that are truly worth loving.  This comes after he demonstrates the differences between opinion [waan], belief [geloof], and knowledge [weeten].

    After the Enlightenment, the dominant thinkers in the affected countries argued that there are no valid methodologies to decide whether one value system is better or more valid than another.  It is all relative and depends on where you are coming from in your reasoning: revelations in holy books, the teachings of enlightened people, trying to find explanations in human Nature, etc.  That, however, could lead to absolute relativism and bring society to the brink of anarchy.  The solution for individualist cultures is to adopt “Human Rights” as the point of reference.  This is reflected in the definition of the rule of law in Individualistic countries because the rule of law also encompasses a chosen parliament, a democratic system, plus recognition, and respect for human rights.  Almost 200 countries now signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The United Nations tries to hold these nations accountable, especially by naming and shaming.  However, reality shows that the influence of enforcement is limited.  One known trick is to call the rights “Western” and reject them as a “White, Colonial” value system.

    It is essential to understand that “Human Rights” attempts to address moral behavior in secular countries after the Enlightenment.

    Two examples from my practice show how this works in real-life situations.

    1. Female mutilation. Working in some African cultures, I was made aware of the cruel tradition of female mutilation applied to young women.  Seeing my anger, it was defended by the locals as an Islamic practice prescribed by holy scriptures.  Some Islamic scholars, of course, deny this.  But:  Who am I that I can refute religious arguments or references from a local to a holy book?
    2. Working in some rural, religious communities in Europe and the USA, it was explained to me that black people were considered inferior with reference to a story from the Bible. During the deluge, Noah was found drunk by his children. The story goes that his children tried to help Noah.  The exception was a son called Cham.  Cham ridiculed Noah.  Cham happened to have black skin.  As a result, according to the story, the black race is damned.

    In both cases, the reference to holy books makes it very difficult to criticize the people for what they are doing.

    The Universal Declaration of Human rights as a morality touchstone makes it possible to have judgments about what is right and wrong.  Again: the individual is the focus of all thinking about morality in this Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  All Individuals have equal rights.  This also extends to minority groups.  The formulation explicitly says that the rights are for everybody, not regarding color, race, gender, religious affiliation, and sexual preference.

    Universal values?

    The critical question is: “is there a worldwide shared morality, and are the values of this morality identical to the values as formulated in the UN declaration?” There is some empirical support for the idea of shared morality.  The research of Frans de Waal, a Dutch ethologist, is worth mentioning here.  He found in his research that This sometimes creates challenging situations for members of the democratic secular societies when they are confronted with, what they consider, immoral behavior in other (sub) cultures. He found two fundamental pillars of morality and also found that these pillars are not limited to human beings.  He showed that they are even found in the behavior of primates like Chimpanzees and Bonobos.

    The two pillars of morality De Waal found are:

    1. Empathy: The ability to understand and to share the feelings of others.” It is safe to say that, in general, higher primates and humans everywhere share the ability to be empathetic and to understand that you should not do to others what you wouldn’t want to be done to you. This is important because it enables us all to enjoy music, books, paintings, and dance, originating from areas of the world very remote from where we were raised and where we live.  However, evidence also shows that the rules of morality in both the animal Kingdom and human communities apply mostly within your own community.  If monkey tribes meet other monkeys from a rival tribe, the rules don’t apply!
    2. Reciprocity: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! This is related to a sense of fairness and a sense of justice.  This means, among other things, that morality even predates religion.

    Religious positioning

    In 2013 Putin implemented antigay laws that were justified as a defense of conservative values against an assault of “genderless and fruitless so-called tolerance,” which “equals good and evil.” Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary, openly defended his determination to replace the multiculturalism at the heart of democracy with Christian culture and to reject “adaptable family models” for “the Christian family model.”

    To achieve such control in a country, they promote a one-party government overseen by a strongman, insisting that his opponents are immoral.

    Empirical research on culture

    Next to his findings on Individualism versus Collectivism Hofstede’s research can explain the emphasis on religion and “morality” in Eastern European countries by the consequences of his value dimension Uncertainty  Hofstede explains that in these cultures avoid ambiguity in rules for behavior. As a result, there is a need for a more rigid social code. Consequently, there is a resistance to accepting the equal rights of individuals in terms of sexual preference or alternative lifestyles.  They call this decadency and see themselves as bulwarks of traditional Christian values.

    A second more practical reason for the tendency of politicians to speak on behalf of religion is that a state that claims to represent the laws of heaven has unlimited power on earth.  A long repressive regime can best be based on heavenly powers.  It is easy to persecute and suppress people with God on your side.

    The reaction by Fernando Lanzer

    I have no objections to what you have written, I agree with practically all of it. Yet I find that your text does not address the issues raised by the Russians quoted in the beginning.

    Perhaps you have just begun writing and intend to continue and address those issues further down the line.

    I want to add that I think the issue regarding the universal application of the law is not only about Individualism and Collectivism, but it is also combined with high and low PDI, plus low LTO.

    Similarly, the attitude towards religion involves not only Uncertainty Avoidance, but also again PDI and IDV.

    Regarding LTO, it plays a role as well. The Americans and British are religious fundamentalists to a great extent, despite scoring low on UAI, low on PDI, and scoring high on IDV. This righteousness of the US/UK culture seems supported by a normative (low LTO) aspect of those cultures, combined with the individualistic attitude of believing in a single truth, rather than “many truths.” According to this normative and individualistic perspective, relativism is perceived as dangerous and tantamount to total chaos.

    When we talk about empathy, we should try to understand what the basis of those Russian statements about the decadent morality of the West actually is.

    By the way, very similar statements were made by the Nazis in the 1930s… It’s ironic that Putin talks about the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine while his rhetoric is very similar to what the Nazis said about “the Western decadence” in the 1930s. In those days, Nazi ideology spoke of returning to the true values of the original German culture, that had been corrupted by the Western progressive ideas of miscegenation and commercialism. The Nazis were fighting globalization (although the term had not yet been coined) and advocating conservatism.

    Where does this notion of Western decadence come from now, in the 21st Century? Why do the Russians embrace this idea? And it’s not only Putin, by the way; one might add that many diplomats and intellectuals in China, India, and Indonesia have also often expressed similar criticism, as well as several pundits in other parts of the Western world itself.

    It seems to me that from Russia’s point of view the liberal ideology has failed to deliver on its promises of equal opportunity, freedom, and justice for all. From their perspective, as Democracy prospers it brings along “Jungle Capitalism” where we see the rule of money above all else. They see this as a “moneytocracy” rather than a meritocracy.

    Inequality has increased and so has the concentration of income in the so-called “top one percent.” The idea of a self-regulating free market is perceived as a scam engendered by the very rich to become even richer by exploiting the working poor. Marx must be laughing in his grave.

    The attitude of these (Russian) critics has become to throw away the whole Liberal ideology as being corrupted beyond repair. They offer enlightened despotism as a substitute. And that is the crux of the issue, in my opinion.

    I can agree that the Liberal ideology has become corrupted, but it would be a mistake to throw away the baby with the bathwater. Just like Communism has turned out to be unfeasible in practice, so has the notion of “pure” Capitalism.

    No one believes in Neo-liberalism these days, but the truth is that the neo-liberal movement was exactly that: an attempt to temper the chaos of a totally free market with interventions from the State to regulate the market and stave off abuse. In practice, these neoliberal ideals of moderation have also become corrupted, and we see now a kind of return to the unhindered exploitation of the masses that was prevalent in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. History repeats itself when we do not learn from it. We flunked the grade and now we have to repeat it until we eventually do learn the lesson and are able to move on.

    The solution is to break away from the polarization between Autocracy and Democracy, East and West, Capitalism versus Communism, Individualism and Collectivism.

    Breaking away from this is difficult; especially in the Contest cultures that dominate the English speaking media, for confrontation between two antagonistic forces is at the core of those cultural values.

    Yet we are moving toward a multilateral world, rather than a bilateral one. We are moving from Contest cultures in the direction of Network cultures. I am not saying that the world will become one huge Denmark; just that we are becoming more aware of the world’s cultural diversity and complexity. Therefore, black or white solutions are not applicable nor sustainable.

    The New Narrative must contemplate this complexity. It must describe how our reality goes beyond polarization. Sure, we can use dialectics as a way of exploring alternatives; but the synthesis is not simply about choosing between two extremes. It’s not even just about compromising between two poles; rather it is more about dilemma reconciliation by viewing issues as more than just bidimensional or even tridimensional. We need to look at issues as multidimensional.

    According to this perspective, we should not simply reject Liberalism nor Autocracy. We need to dive deep into the underlying values of these political, sociological, and economic ideas to come up with better models to guide our interactions and ensure sustainability.

    Identity and the gravitational influence of national culture

    Identity and the gravitational influence of national culture

    Huib Wursten, Public speaker, Author, and Consultant


    We are in an identity crisis as a result of globalization. As a result of the frequent confrontation with other cultures, we ask ourselves: where do I come from, who am I, what role has my culture.

    Many of the answers go back to national identity. This is not strange because most people feel a special connection with the immediate concrete environment: the place of birth, the language spoken, and the food.  Usually, this gives a positive emotion of feeling at home. Moreover, it also creates a positive sense of “mastering” the surrounding community’s expectations and frequently subconscious “rules of the game.”

    What is underestimated is the influence of national culture on other aspects of human life.  According to Appiah 5C’s are influencing Identity: Creed, Country, Culture, Class, Color. .In this paper it will be shown that Country culture has a gravitational influence on all other C’s

    Keywords:  Identity politics, self-determination, individual rights, self-definition, the rhetoric of “differences.”

    Introduction: Culture, Identity and “Identity wars”

    In an earlier paper ( Wursten.H.2021), identity was explored in the context of the development of Individualism as one of the four fundamental cultural dimensions discovered by Geert Hofstede: Individualism  (Hofstede 2001)

    Six defining steps were mentioned.

    The first three, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Reformation, are shown to emphasize the individual as a critical autonomous actor. Who, as a result, was encouraged to investigate the world independently and look critically at what worldly and religious authorities were saying.

    The fourth step is described as the big turning point that came about during the time of disruptive ideas—roughly between 1850 and 1930. People like Freud showed that the unconscious had an enormous impact on so-called conscious and rational behavior. Einstein made concepts of reality even more questionable by the relativity theory. As a result, people turned their interest from objective realism to the way individuals are subjectively experiencing reality. The 5th step in the development of Individualism is the ‘legalization’ of independent thinking and the legitimate right for all to demand equal treatment. as formulated in the “Universal Declaration of Human rights.” Repressed individuals realized that their condition was associated with the specific minority group they belong to and identified with the identity struggle of (for example) women, people of color, LGBTQ. communities, etc. As “identity groups,” they started to claim their right to be seen and recognized. The 6th step is therefore, the focus on “diversity” and “inclusion” of all repressed minority groups and their right to express themselves. This paper analyzes the consequences of this focus on identity leading to the consequent “identity wars”..

    Diversity,  Inclusion and identity wars. 

    Some years ago, Mark Lilla (Lilla.2016) wrote a thought-provoking op-ed article in the New York Times called “The End of Identity Liberalism.” He analyzed the current understanding of democracy. He asserted that instead of focusing on an expansive vision of how to create a shared future, politicians “slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, LGBTQ, and women voters at every stop. “He warns about this approach: “If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions.                                         The New York Times (10-03-21) recently wrote about another example:                                            “The first time California’s Department of Education published a draft of an ethnic studies “model curriculum” for high school students, in 2019, it managed the neat trick of omitting anti-Semitism while committing it. More than a million Jews live in California. They are also among the state’s leading victims of hate crimes.  Yet, in a lengthy draft otherwise rich with references to various forms of bigotry, there was no mention of bigotry toward Jews. There was, however, an endorsement of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, which essentially asks for the elimination of the Jewish state. There was also a positive mention of a Palestinian singer rapping that Israelis “use the press so they can manufacture” — the old refrain that lying Jews control the media. The draft outraged many Jews. And they were joined by Armenian, Assyrian, Hellenic, Hindu, and Korean civic groups in a statement urging the California Department of Education to “completely redraft the curriculum.” In its original form, they said, the document was “replete with mischaracterizations and omissions of major California ethnoreligious groups.”

    Lilla: “This fixation on diversity in our schools and the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age, our children are encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college, many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part, this is because in educational institutions it is a full-time job for all concerned” to deal with — and heighten the significance of — “diversity issues.”

    The underlying identity discussions lead to a polarized atmosphere, according to Lilla.  In “healthy periods,” the debate should not be “about “difference,” but about communality.

    Lilla blames the liberals in the USA fornot recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored.”

    The way out is to focus on commonalities and the notion that people are “part of a nation of citizens who are in this together. A post-identity liberalism would also emphasize that democracy is not only about rights; it also confers duties on its citizens, such as the duties to keep informed and vote.” 

    The Dutch political commentator Martin Sommer (Sommer 2017) remarks: “We are experiencing a reversal from the slogan from an earlier time of feminism “everything personal is political.” Now it is: “everything political is personal.”  Politics must appeal to you at the level of your authentic self; otherwise, it does not count. Radical politics evolves directly from your identity.

    Identity-driven politics is  nowadays a “movement.” The attributes of unique groups policies shape a struggle for recognition of increasingly smaller and aggressively determined groups. The focus is less and less on shared destinies but following self-defined autonomous choices.”

    1. Identifying the playing field


    To analyze the influence of Identity issues, we first must define it.

    Identity is defined in the dictionary as “the state of being the same in substance, nature, qualities, etc. Absolute sameness.

    How to reconcile this absolute sameness with a song on a recent album of Nobel prize-winning songwriter Bob Dylan (Dylan 2020):

    “I contain a multitude.”

    He is referring to the multitude of identities making the person we know as Bob Dylan. He sings:

    I’m just like Anne Frank, like Indiana Jones

    And them British bad boys, the Rolling Stones

    I go right to the edge, I go right to the end

    I go right where all things lost are made good again

    I sing the songs of experience like William Blake

    I have no apologies to make

    Everything flowing all at the same time

    I live on a boulevard of crime

    I drive fast cars, and I eat fast foods

    I contain multitudes

    Listening to Bob Dylan I recognized this attitude towards identity as shared by many highly educated people worldwide. They vehemently deny that they can be put in “boxes” by a fixed identity. Especially if identity is related to nationality, they claim to be “a citizen of the world” and cosmopolitan in their thinking. “We are autonomous and authentic beings,” they say. “We make up our own opinions and independently make decisions.” They claim to be at home everywhere and to be able to relate to people everywhere. Like Bob Dylan, they point out that they have different identities because of the various roles they have in life. In the same person, they combine being a parent, partner, consumer, co-worker, belonging to a belief system, having sexual preferences, etc.

    These arguments refer to their conviction that one aspect of an individual’s identity does not necessarily determine other categories of membership. Delgado and Stefancic explain, “Everyone has potentially conflicting, overlapping identities, loyalties, and allegiances. In other words, we cannot predict an individual’s identity, beliefs, or values based on categories like race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc.; instead, we must recognize that individuals are capable of claiming membership to a variety of different (and often seemingly contradictory) categories and belief systems regardless of the identities outsiders attempt to impose upon them.” (Delgado, Stefancic 2017)

    This point of view raises the question: what about the “absolute sameness” of the definition. Is there no consistency in the different roles?

    A reflection on the unified concept of self

    Identity is a multi-faceted issue.  It makes it difficult to grasp the “unified concept of self.” A critical point here is if there is an essence that defines us apart from what we do.

    The medieval church fathers already struggled with this question. Is essence preceding existence, or is existence preceding essence. Later a philosopher like Sartre was convinced that existence, our choices, show our essence. It is easy to have incredibly positive ideas yourself in theory. But only by looking at actions and choices is it possible to see the real identity of somebody. Kwame Anthony Appiah says: Identity is revealed as an activity, not a thing.  (Appiah 2019)

    Freud offers a creative solution for finding the essence of somebody: projection. If we let people react to an ambiguous situation, they project their own personal “hang-ups” rather than saying something objective. Nice test: ask someone at a dinner party to say something about “the women of today,” and it is incredible what they reveal about their personality.

    Kwame Anthony Appiah: The five C’s

     What we learned from the above is that we are talking about a unified concept of self. Several elements influence that concept. According to Kwame Anthony Appiah (Appiah 2019), identity is shaped by five c’s Creed, Country, Culture, Class, Color.  However, based on the analysis here above, one can say that all 5 Cs are influenced by the programming system called culture.  Earlier, we showed that country culture strongly influences the expression of the first C, Creed. A Dutch Catholic is different in the expression of his/her values and religion than a Bolivian one.(Wursten 2017) Country culture is defined by the dimensions and the 7 Mental Images. And class consciousness is a fundamental economic significant issue but also influenced by the values of national culture.  Color does not predict the value system of people. Many people looking for the roots of their immigrant parents discover that they have more in common with their compatriots with a different color of skin than with people of their own color but from another programming system.

    The same can be said about professional culture.

    A strong example of a specific professional culture is the Military.

    The influence of national culture is apparent in a reaction on the drama in Srebrenica of the “ New York Times”. The heading on the first page says:

    “ Dutch conscience Stung by Troops’ Bosnia Failure’ (New York Times 1997) Citation:

    “ Some critics are questioning not only the conduct of the Dutch Battalion in Srebrenica but also the relevance of Hollands’ traditionally peaceful “ consensus oriented” approach to world affairs” A Dutch diplomat is quoted comparing Dutch and American attitudes “We don’t back up our diplomacy with a big stick”.

    Conclusion: even in military interventions the Dutch mindset is prominent.

    Let’s go back for a moment and look at some other  roles Bob Dylan was referring to.


    Is the role of the parent apart from other identities? Is it the same everywhere? Or might it be something related to national culture?

    In a recent article in the New York Times (Barry Allen 2019), there was astonishment about a ritual in The Netherlands.  The Dutch scouting tradition  “dropping,” in which groups of children, pre-teenagers, are deposited in a forest and expected to find their way back to base. It is meant to be challenging, and they often stagger in at 2 or 3 in the morning. To make it more difficult, adult organizers may blindfold the children on their way to the dropping. The journalist compares this with the parenting style in the US: “Far from the land of helicopter parenting, getting ‘dropped’ in the forest is a beloved scouting tradition.

    ‘If this sounds a little crazy to you,’ the New York Times says, ‘it is because you are not Dutch.’

    “The Dutch — it is fair to say — do childhood differently. Children are taught not to depend too much on adults; adults are taught to allow children to solve their own problems. Droppings distill these principles into extreme form, banking on the idea that even for children who are tired, hungry, and disoriented, there is a compensatory thrill to being in charge. Droppings are such a normal part of Dutch childhood that many there are surprised to be asked about it, assuming it is common to every country. ”



    .In preparing for a speech for UNESCO on “Women’s day,” I looked at the keywords used in personal ads describing the qualities of a prospected partner. I compared the keywords in newspapers in a masculine culture like the US with those in feminine cultures like Denmark and The Netherlands. The surprising finding was that the keywords were different and the opposite of what might be expected. In the USA, the keywords were “Warm and Supportive,” while the keywords in The Netherlands and Denmark were “Companion” and “Honesty.”

    Apparently, in the USA where the outside world is competitive, people want to have a partner who is not competing at home, but a partner where one can find relaxation. On the other hand, in feminine societies where the outside world is not that competitive, people are looking for “a sparring partner.”

    Seemingly this is in contrast with the value preferences around MAS/FEM but can only be understood by the consequences of this dimension.


    The hard way, the manufacturers’ world discovered that consumer needs are not the same everywhere.

    As an example, the marketing of expensive watches and Mineral water. I used this example before in a paper on Culture and Art. (Wursten2021)

    A decisive cultural element is the importance of status symbols. In large power distance cultures, status is important to show how important you are in the hierarchy. For example, in comparing Finland and Portugal, the first country is far more prosperous based on GDP per capita. And yet, because of the large power-distance culture of Portugal, the penetration of expensive watches is twice as high in Portugal than in Finland.

    In mineral water, the determining factor is Uncertainty Avoidance, an indicator of how comfortable a culture is in dealing with unfamiliar risks. The higher the score, the more certainty that culture requires. Drinking tap water is considered risky, also in advanced, rich high UAI cultures. A comparison between Germany, Belgium, and Spain scoring high on Uncertainty Avoidance and the UK and Sweden scoring low showed that more mineral water was sold in the three first mentioned countries by a factor ten and higher.

    But what we can learn from these examples is that national culture is an important explanatory factor.

    National Culture as a source of priorities and preferences.

    The Hofstede dimensions of culture (Hofstede2001, Hofstede et al. 2010) represents a well-validated operationalization of differences between the cultures of present-day nations as manifested in dominant value systems.

    The definition of culture: it is about the collective “programming” of the mind that distinguishes one group or category of people from another.”

    This definition stresses that culture is (1) a collective, not an individual attribute; (2) not directly visible but manifested in behaviors; and (3) common to some, but not all people. We are talking about the preferences of most people most of the time.

    The dimensions are not a random collection of factors that emerged from particular items; instead, they reflect the basic dimensions of culture from value systems.

    In repeated research, validated over more than 50 years, Hofstede identified fundamental issues every society must cope with.

    What we call cultural difference is determined by how the dominant majority in a country addresses those issues.

    The first four dimensions in Hofstede’s model (power distance, individualism versus collectivism, masculinity versus femininity, and uncertainty avoidance) reflect those issues.

    Each country has a ‘score’ on each dimension. These scores, in turn, provide a ‘picture of a country’s culture. Hofstede’s approach is clear, simple, and statistically valid.

    Layers of identity

    While each Dimension is independent of the others (each explains something distinct about a country), the most important questions are answered by analyzing how each country’s scores on each dimension interact with each other.

    There are over 200 countries in the world. But, happily, we do not have to understand 200 distinct cultural types.

    The 50 years of research by Geert Hofstede with regular repeats trying to falsify the outcomes show that nations differ on fundamental independent dimensions.

    Applying these findings resulted in the insight that though the dimensions of culture are independent in real life, they interact. They constitute a “Gestalt,” The sum of parts is something new.

    Happily, this diversity in “Gestalts” is not endless. Constant confrontation with real-life consequences showed that it is possible to describe seven combinations. We call this the seven grammar systems of culture. These grammar systems have a tremendous influence on (political and societal) issues. For example, to understand the differences in how leadership and democracy work out, go back to these seven grammar systems.  I call these seven mental images because even the “picture” people have in their minds if they think and talk about their society is different.

    Each of the seven has a different procedure for decision making, control, etc.

    But we are not talking about everybody. We are talking about the preferences of most people most of the time.

    In all cultures, one can find segments of the population that are different motivations and preferences. As a result, they can be interested in products ignored or even disliked by the majority.

    Again, exploring the “sameness” the conclusion it is not the role that is creating identity. Instead, the majority values of the nation of origin have a significant role in defining the “content” of the roles.

    Identity and emotions

    Meet someone for the first time. We usually ask questions about where they come from and what they do. In such situations, we are trying to find out what makes up this person and what makes them the same as us – what we have in common – and what makes them different.

    Identity is related to the emotional choice of groups you identify with. Therefore, it is a vital marker of identity

    . Sharing an identity is emotional and can happen on various levels:

    It can be on the level of seeing somebody wearing the logo of their favorite sports club. It can happen on the train seeing somebody reading a preferred newspaper or book. In all these cases, you feel both a sense of recognition and belonging.

    I will illustrate this with some soccer examples. For several reasons:

    1. Because I am a sports fan
    2. Because soccer is the most popular sport in the world
    3. Because the media highly cover it. If a coach or a player is making a mistake, it is highly publicized
    4. Because most people think they are an expert and have an opinion

    about the game

    A few soccer examples:

    1. Coming from the same environment

    Some years ago, at a sports conference, I met a famous Dutch soccer coach. We talked to each other, discovering that we came from the same quarter of The Hague in the Netherlands. We discussed that in a small town like The Hague, you can identify by the accent people have from which part of The Hague they come from. There are sharp differences between “posh” accents of the higher class and very aggressive sounding accents from people from the working class. People coming from our own quarter can be easily identified by how they emphasize the second part of the word “Moerwijk” (Moer-Quarter), in contrast to everybody else. We discovered that this created an immediate sense of shared identity by understanding words completely unknown by other Dutch people outside The Hague. Words like “freedikeetje” and “klaks” (friendly game and sperm). Also, the immediate understanding of the word “landje” (a small meadow in our neighborhood where we played soccer games) made it very easy to connect.

    1. logos

    This is the logo of my favorite soccer club Ajax Amsterdam.

    In 1991 it was introduced replacing an older one. The fanatic supporters did not like it. They created an action “give Ajax his face back.” They emotionally identified with what they called the classic logo, radiating warmth and strength. It was a symbol of the successful history of the club. However, the new logo was too cold and intellectual. It contains only eleven lines representing the eleven men team in soccer.

    Below: old and new

    1. Club identity.

    In recent years, the soccer world slowly accepted the idea that defining and optimizing organizational culture matters. Club owners and managers who adhere to a philosophy, a particular set of beliefs, like Louis van Gaal did as Manchester United coach, are not anymore seen as “wimps.” It was the New York Times (Smith Rory 2021) making this analysis. They wrote:  “It is understood, on some level, that possessing a clear sense of what you want your team to be, offers a competitive edge: It helps recruit the right players, it makes coaching them more effective, it offers a barometer of success and purpose that is not reliant on individual results. At an executive level, it can even, at times, ease the transition between one manager and the next.

    Fans, increasingly, no longer see a manager talking about a philosophy and a vision as marketing jargon or corporate bunk. It is, instead, something to cling to and believe in, a reason to be proud.”

    The notion of “difference.”

    A central element in our mental programming is self-concept. Especially the Individualism dimension has a substantial impact. In collectivist countries, the in-group is the primary source of one’s identity and the only secure protection one has against the hardships of life. Thus, collectivist identity is to a substantial extent derived from Group/category membership.

    The tradition-directed person hardly thinks about himself as an individual. Hsu (Hsu1971) argued that the Chinese word for “Man” (ren) includes the person’s intimate societal and cultural environment., which makes that person’s existence meaningful.

    In a broad review of literature, Markus and Kitayama (1991) argued that our cognition, emotion, and motivation all differ depending on whether our culture has provided us with an independent or an interdependent” self-construal.”

    Children in cultures with an Individualistic culture” learn to think of themselves as I. This I is an individual’s identity and is distinct from other people’s I’s, and these others are classified not according to group membership but individual characteristics. Playmates are chosen primarily based on personal preferences. (Hofstede2001)

    In collectivist cultures, gender and religion are essential for their identity. Not so much in IDV cultures.

    As an interesting example: In Individualistic cultures, the generic goal of psychotherapy has often been defined as “self-integration or “self-actualization.”  Such goals would be condemned in Arabic societies, where collectivist identity is given precedence over the self. (Hofstede 2001)

    Hofstede: “The in-group is the major source of one’s identity, and the only secure protection one has against the hardships of life.”

    In communities before enlightenment, the question of who I am was not raised.

    Identity and social status

    Identity becomes a real issue in individualistic cultures because social status is essential for identity, says Prof Joel Walters (Walters 2005). The brain has a kind of thermostat constantly comparing your inner norms with the demands from the environment. Thus, it keeps you in equilibrium.

    Gilman (Gilman 2000) also writes about this comparison. He focuses on how human beings construct images of others to define themselves. “All of us,” he writes, “man and women, poor and rich, black and white, spend a great deal of our psychic energy constantly defining and redefining who we are.”  Gilman adds that one way people define themselves is by measuring themselves against those they perceive as different. And sometimes, he says, “people create a difference where there is none to throw their self-definition into relief.”

    The question of difference is emotive; we start to hear ideas about ‘us’ and ‘them’, friend and foe, belonging and not belonging in-groups and out-groups, which define ‘us’ in relation to others, or the Other. He argues that the crux of cultural identity is that it is shaped not just regarding some other but also to another culture.

    Identity, authenticity and expressive individualism.”

    In a recent article in America, Ronald E. Osborn described Donald Trump as “the president of expressive individualism” and a master at playing the “ethics of authenticity.” (Osborn2020)

    In his latest book, Fukuyama pictures the history of concepts like “expressive individualism” and “authenticity to show how they have come to dominate today’s politics. (Fukuyama 2018)

    The desire to authentically express oneself is at the heart of today’s identity politics. Identity is a “powerful moral idea” because it presupposes a conflict of values. It “tells us that we have authentic inner selves that are not being recognized and suggest that the whole of external society may be false and repressive.” In other words, modern identity privileges the individual’s capacity to express himself over the demands of tradition or society at large. The contemporary notion is that one must break free from tradition and convention to discover one’s true identity.

    However, with the collapse of a shared religious horizon, the burden of constructing one’s identity based on one’s chosen values falls entirely on the individual. The main consequence of this has been the proliferation of unstable, fluid identities and an increased nostalgia for the community. With the freedom of constructing one’s identity without traditional constraints comes paralyzing anxiety: figuring out how to do this all by yourself. Again, this goes back to the assumption of a unified concept of self.

    Core issue: (lack of) recognition

    Identity politics stems from the tension between individual expression and longing for community. It does this by mobilizing a particular identity’s struggle for social recognition.

    Two different factors can create the feeling that this recognition is out of balance.

    1. In international communities, if people have the feeling others do not recognize their (subconscious) rules of the game.

    An example is the reaction of the Dutch on the Belgian politician Verhofstadt. Peter Vandermeersch, a Belgian national, previous Editor in Chief of the Dutch newspaper NRC was interviewed in De Morgen, a Belgian equivalent (Vandermeersch,2019). He analyzed the differences in attitudes of top-down Belgians and consensus-driven Dutch in attitudes towards the EU. His observation was: “The Dutch think that Verhofstadt is the devil. And Rightly so.”

    1. If competition is happening as perceived between the different identity groups and the feeling is that other groups are too much in the spotlights.

    This is of course, something specifically happening in individualistic cultures with the focus on equal rights. However, a difference can be observed between Individualistic, Masculine cultures on one hand and Individualistic, Feminine cultures on the other hand. In the more Masculine cultures, one can see resistance in accepting that compensating is sometimes needed for certain deprived groups. This is a minor issue in Feminine countries. We will come back to this difference in the chapter on meritocracy.

    The need for recognition

    People want to be themselves and to be recognized in the eyes of others.

    Identity politics stems from this desire. It does this by mobilizing a particular identity’s struggle for social recognition.

    Taylor (Taylor 1994) points out that one’s inner self is not just a matter of inward contemplation; it must be intersubjectively recognized if it is to have value. Increasingly, however, universal recognition based on shared humanity is not enough, particularly for groups that have been and are discriminated against. Hence modern identity politics revolves around demands for recognition of group identities—that is, public affirmations of the equal dignity of the formerly marginalized groups.

    Michael Ignatieff (Ignatieff 2018) identifies an additional tension. On the one hand, we want to be recognized as equals, but we also want to be valued as individuals with unique selves. On the other hand, we want our group identities — as women, as gay people, as ethnic minorities — acknowledged as equal. Still, we also want them uniquely entitled to reparation and redress. As Ignatieff says: “It’s not obvious how a modern democracy can meet all these demands at once — in which individuals are accepted as equals, their unique selves respected as special, and their group claims all receive equal recognition.”

    Fukuyama (Fukuyama 2018) explains the consequences by going back to the Greek concept of Thymos. According to Plato, the soul contains three parts:

    1. the seat of desires. Desire is the emotional need of a man who blindly drives human lust. If desire were the only component of the soul, inevitably, a man lacking opinions and driven only by his desires wouldn’t make much progress. 2. another part is rational. Thanks to reason, one can control or regulate one’s emotions to some extent. Therefore, the emotional need in the form of desire is complemented by reason, which seems to be behind human progress. 3. But the third part, Thymos, is independent of the other two and is the “seat of both anger and pride. Thymos, as a desire for recognition. Thymos is central to Fukuyama in his thinking about society’s political decision-making. According to Fukuyama, Thymos was behind the birth and spread of democracy in the 19th and 20th centuries. The French Revolution and its related events have increased the feeling of importance in the broad masses of the population. Ordinary citizens have ceased to think of themselves as subjects who were passively accepting this role

    It also causes the current problems that democracies are facing worldwide. For “every person recognized as superior, far more people are seen as inferior and do not receive any public recognition. The problem is that Thymos can take two different shapes.:                                 The first one is defined as Isothymia. It occurs in individuals whose need is to be recognized as equal to other members of society. It is associated with concepts such as solidarity, belonging, humanism, consensus, etc. Isothymia is not radical and is found in most societies.                                                                                                The second component is Megalothymia. Unlike Isothymia, it is present in individuals whose need is to be superior to others. Groups compete about who needs the most attention. Or they present themselves as superior to other groups. This is especially problematic when they describe themselves with closed categories like Race, ethnicity, or gender. “White supremacy” is an example.

    White supremacy as a reaction

    Identity manifests itself especially if it is creating a problem. The problem often begins with stigmatizing, mainly because the people involved belong to a group that others see as inferior because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. In that case, ascription can be hurtful because it does not align with how people want to present themselves.

    But not only minorities are stigmatized.

    As a result of the “identity wars,” members of the dominant white majority group in “Western” countries can feel threatened. This is happening because they think that their trusted “way of life” is under fire with the arguments of the Universal Declaration.

    Visible minorities in the Contest, Network, Machine and Solar system countries are rightly claiming their rights, sometimes taking the shape of accusing the majority culture of “crimes” committed in the past.  Crimes like colonialization and slavery.

    The confusing thing is that, in principle, these crimes might be recognized by the majority culture. But at the same time, they feel uncomfortable being held accountable for events that happened in a distant past driven by a separate set of convictions from that time. Some of their memories of the visible reflections from that past are positively charged. Black Peter in The Netherlands is connected to memories of the family being together in a warm room, drinking hot cocoa, singing, and exchanging gifts. In their memory, the celebration taking place in an environment where neighbors were called Uncle and Aunt, in streets named after Naval Heroes from a perceived glorious past.

    Suddenly being accused of racism and celebrating heroes that in hindsight are called mass murderers is uneasy.

    The problem is the unease for many people of the majority group to be forced to change Symbols, Heroes and Rituals rapidly and to be held accountable for wrongdoing in the past without consideration for the positive emotional associations. Also, without recognition that ideas from the past should be seen in the context of that past. The culture of white majorities in nation-states is rooted in history. The Symbols, Heroes and Rituals originate in history and are highly emotional: the “mores” are ways of thinking, doing, and feeling. They precede laws, are unwritten and are difficult to “catch,” but not any less important. The mores are rooted in the past and have an emotional context: “This is how we do things here.” If core values conflict with the mores, it is correct and legal to criticize them, but the emotional context should be considered. “Tradition is the democracy of the dead,” as G. K. Chesterton formulated it. The world was not invented yesterday. Why close your eye for this? (Chesterton 2008)

    It is a matter of empathy to be careful with the historical background of the symbols, heroes, and rituals at hand. Change is difficult to achieve by force or aggression.

    But the layers of the onion are not hammered in stone. The values are consistent over time but not static. The more remote from this core, the more superficial the elements of culture are. Status symbols for the younger generations change because of worldwide “youth culture” Soccer players can be heroes for fans in the entire world. Rituals are closer to the core and are more resistant. That is why traditional celebrations are more sensitive and emotional. Here all known advice around the management of change should apply.


    For some politicians, the way out is a meritocracy. They are trying carefully to ignore every identity marker — race, class, gender, credentials. and value only individuals separately from their group identities —

    In The Contest countries, this is an important concept. The belief in the value of free competition is a fundamental issue as a result of their Masculine score. The expectation is that if there is a level playing field for everybody, the market’s invisible hand will make everything balanced. This belief is a powerful force in Contest cultures where there is a tendency to be reluctant to compensate for inequality in starting positions. It is even experienced as unfair and in contrast to equal treatment. In this way, the dominant elite group is defending their position. They claim that their success is all due to their individual effort and that everybody if they put their mind to it as they did, they could have achieved the same. Therefore, they tend to ignore the disadvantaged starting position of some minority groups and are very much against compensation programs.

    This is, of course, a lesser problem in for instance, Network cultures where the sympathy is not so much for the winners but the underdog.

    Again, there is something contradictory about the identity discussion taking place. On the one hand, there is the recognition we demand for our identities these days. But. we also want to be valued as individuals with unique selves. We want our group identities — as women, as gay people, as ethnic minorities — acknowledged as equal, but we also want them uniquely entitled to reparation and redress. It is not obvious how to reconcile these demands. How to create a society in which individuals are valued as equals, their unique selves respected as special, and still respect their group claims.

    To reconcile these sometimes contradictory demands two coping strategies can be identified:

    Coping mechanisms:

    • Adaptive strategy-development.

    A Norwegian scholar, Jon Elstar (Elster 1989), explains a mechanism for better understanding the adaptation of ambitions to maintain self-respect. He calls this “adaptive strategy development.”

    Explaining this mechanism, he refers to the fox from the fable of Aesop.

    “Driven by hunger, a fox tries to reap some nice grapes hanging high on the vine, but the grapes are out of reach, although he leaped as high as he could. Disappointed, he goes away. The fox says, ‘Oh, the grapes aren’t even ripe anyhow, to accommodate his self-respect positively. I don’t need any sour grapes.'”

    On the positive side, one could argue this is a healthy pragmatic solution to impossible challenges. However, on the negative side, it creates an alibi to position negative choices positively.

    This adaptive strategy can take different shapes. However, the shapes have in common that it makes the minority groups less vulnerable to the esteem of the majority culture. The “esteem” issue is neutralized and even turned around by claiming: your criteria are not ours, and our criteria are superior to yours. This attitude satisfies the need for “respect,” a frequently used word in this context.

    The respect they claim results from saying that they are not interested in the “esteem” ranking of the dominant culture. They have a different, not-related ranking for esteem. They create identity by claiming not to be interested in academic subjects, schooling, a career, reading, etc. because those are the criteria of the mainstream group, the Caucasians.

    In this context, two strategies are most common:

    -Acting conform to the ranking of respect by the street culture: muscles, tattoos, times in prison, possession of weapons.

    -Affiliation to (sometimes extreme) religious groups.

    In both cases, this new identity is attractive because it satisfies the need for respect; and they get extra attention because many mainstream people see them as threatening.

    Elster observes that this adaptive strategy can be helpful to the extent that it reduces the pain of failing to get what we once wanted. However, on the negative side, “sour grapes” may stop us from trying to get the grapes when they are within reach, while refusing to adapt may spur us to effort and (if the trait is general) make for social progress.

    • Narcissism of the small difference

    One way people define themselves is by comparing themselves with the ones in their immediate environment. But, unfortunately, sometimes people create a difference where there is none to create their self-definition. This can lead to the “narcissism of the small difference.”, a concept introduced by Freud. (Freud 1930) Especially people that are very much alike tend to create identity by emphasizing minor differences. Mostly it is a matter of style, musical preference, cooking and dressing. Of course, this is superficial and can sometimes lead to style surfing, wearing a suit and tie during working weeks, and wearing leather biking suits during the weekend.

    Solution: broader and more integrative identities

    Identity politics thus divides “societies into ever smaller, self-regarding groups.” But, by that very same token, the fluidity of modern identity makes it possible “to create identities that are broader and more integrative.” This is Fukuyama’s thesis: We need broader identities rather than narrow ones. “We need to promote creedal national identities built around the foundational ideas of modern liberal democracy and use public policies to assimilate newcomers to those identities deliberately.”

    The populists have been inciting the resentments of minorities while doing nothing to bring together a coalition. The celebration of diversity cannot get a society together polarized in the rhetoric of victimization. Diversity may be a fact of life but only becomes a value in common if diverse peoples actually live together. A new inclusive definition is necessary of “Shared” Identity.

    To do so, we need to balance Individual needs and rights with a feeling of a shared future.

    In a second article on Identity this idea of a shared future will be discussed


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    A shared future. A need for broader and more integrative identities

    Huib Wursten, Public speaker, Author, and Consultant


    In a previous paper on identity (Wursten 2022), the conclusion was that: Identity politics divides “societies into ever smaller, self-regarding groups.” This has led to a tendency to incite the resentments of minorities while doing nothing to build a feeling of urgency for cooperation to cope with the challenges of a shared future. Diversity as a societal issue can be a constructive force only if diverse peoples focus on a rightful fight for equal rights and on a  motivation to cope with all societal challenges together. A new inclusive definition of “shared” identity is necessary to do so. We need to balance individual needs and rights to focus on a shared future.

    We need broader identities rather than narrow ones. Fukuyama (2018)  says: “We need to promote creedal national identities built around the foundational ideas of modern liberal democracy and use public policies to assimilate newcomers to those identities deliberately.”

    In this second article on identity, I will discuss this idea of a shared future.

    Keywords: Identity, diversity, Nation-state, Culture, Mental Images, European Union

    Calls for the need for a shared identity

    The call for broader identities was getting attention when voiced recently by two different sources:

    1. Amanda Gorman at the Biden inauguration:

    ‘We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside, (Gorman 2021)

    1. Barack Obama said something that echo’s this need. Together with Bruce Springsteen, he launched a new podcast series entitled Renegades. He said: “Bruce and I have been on parallel journeys, looking for a way to connect our individual searches for meaning, truth, and community with the larger story of America..”

    “We still share a fundamental belief in the American idea. Not as an act of nostalgia, but as a compass for the hard work that lies before us.” (Guardian 25 -02-12) Like Fukuyama, Obama and Springsteen see the solution on the level of the Nation-State: the USA.

    Option one: the Nation-state: Gnothi Seauton:  Know thyself

    The oracle of Delphi already advised that the base of all wisdom is to “know thyself .” This is very difficult without comparison.” A fish is not aware of the water.”

    In this paper, we will compare national cultures based on empirical evidence and show how national culture  has a  “gravitational” influence on behavior ( see: Wursten 2022)

    A “cultural layer model” will be used, including the four fundamental differential values found by Geert Hofstede (Hofstede 2001, Hofstede et al. 2010)and a systematic comparison between seven combinations that can be distinguished.

    Hofstede charted empirically the four value dimensions that make up for the difference in the culture of the Nation-States in the world. Combining the four fundamental value dimensions leads to a “Gestalt”, something new. Seven of these Gestalts are identified (Wursten 2019). The word “mental images” is used in this paper to differentiate between the Gestalts. The term reflects an essential consequence of the seven combinations: they lead to seven different  “pictures” in the mind of people of what society and organizations look like.

    The different layers of culture

    Culture has several “layers” The deepest layer of culture consists of the basic dimensions found empirically by Hofstede (Hofstede et al. 2010). The other layers are the rituals, heroes and symbols of a nation-state. The more outside the layer is, the more superficial the consequence.

    Understanding how the different layers are connected and how this leads to shared rules of the game create an understanding of “we are into this together.” In other words, a shared sense of identity.

    Because research shows that the values of a nation-state are consistent (Beugelsdijk et al., 2015), the specific history of a Nation-State is reflected in Symbols, Heroes, and Rituals.

    This history is emotional and is “rooting people.” Sometimes people are willing to die for the symbols, national heroes and rituals of their country.

    But not necessarily all groups agree on the meaning and importance of the symbols, heroes and rituals of their home country. Times change. People discover that in the past, the symbols, heroes, and rituals were shaped by the dominant groups of that time and can later be experienced as oppressive by other groups striving for equal recognition.

    Visible symbols, heroes and rituals and the need for emotional security

    Emotional unease can happen because of the visibility of the different layers of the onion. By nature, the deepest layer, values, is invisible. For example, freedom of religion and freedom of speech are part of the values of open societies giving minority groups the same rights. However, the expression of these rights, such as headscarves and places of worship, is highly visible. If minorities claim their rights in this way, it can be experienced by people from traditional dominant cultures as de-rooting and loss of identity. They have been used to the symbols, heroes, and rituals of their dominant culture throughout their lives; it creates emotional safety for them. Emotional safety is one of the primary layers of the Maslow pyramid. Only if this need is fulfilled can individuals be open to other experiences. Unfortunately, rapid changes are frequently making people feel unsafe. Unsafe feelings might lead to “cramped” reactions and polarization.

    Some solutions

    In case of a need to change symbols, heroes and rituals because of the sensitivity for other identity groups, it makes sense to use change management strategies. Examples for contemporary societal issues in this sense are the need to change in rituals (black peter), Heroes (statues) and Symbols (crucifixes in public schools)

    Forcefield analysis

    Of course, there are many theories and models about change management. But one of the clearest and simplest is Lewin’s three-step model (Lewin 1964). The first step in this model is to ‘unfreeze’ people; i.e., people need to understand why they should do things differently. This first step, the process of unfreezing, is culturally sensitive. This means that explaining why something should be done differently should refer to emphatic abilities: put yourself in the shoes of somebody else. The second step in the model is ‘moving’; i.e., after making people aware that they need to do things differently, they need to develop new insights, attitudes, and skills. Finally, the third step is ‘freezing’; i.e., the newly acquired insights and agreements should be developed into a new routine. Even though this is one of the most basic models, in most situations, the tendency is to concentrate only on step two, moving, and to forget about steps one and three. This is a big mistake, especially since the very essence of change management is to understand how humans behave.                                                                                                                              The secret to understanding effective change management is to realize that two forces are at work constantly: the force of change and the force of resistance for all individuals and groups. These forces push and pull at each other and maintain a dynamic equilibrium. We all like to do new things and improve what we are doing. This is the nature of human beings. However, we also want to do something we are good at, which gives us a feeling of emotional security. Applying our ‘routine’ gives us a positive sense of mastering our environment. It also saves energy; it would be exhausting to invent the wheel every day. It is easy to see that the resistance force will push back if one pushes the change force in this dynamic equilibrium. Moreover, the stronger the push, the stronger the resistance will be. So to make change successful, it is essential to start doing something about the resistance force. The way to do this is culturally sensitive. So when considering rolling out a change program, one needs to understand the dynamics of change and resistance and how one needs to vary motivation styles due to cultural differences.

    An example of this approach:

    The Economist of 21-1-2015 printed an article with the title: “The fly Dutchman. The rapper Ali B has charmed the Netherlands. Can he stay above the fray?”

    The writer, Charlemagne, says:  “Contrary to popular belief, the most interesting figure in Dutch ethnic relations is not the Islam-bashing politician Geert Wilders. Rather, it is a 34-year-old rapper, comedian and reality-television host named Ali Bouali, better known by his stage name Ali B. In the mid-2000s, after Mr. B had a string of hip-hop hits, talk shows began inviting him to represent Moroccan-Dutch youth. He turned out to be not only funny but an absolute sweetheart. Mr. B’s best work does not involve his music at all. In 2011 he produced a reality-TV series in which he paired hip-hop artists with white performers from the classic era of Dutch kitsch pop in the 1960s and 1970s. The result was a fusion of two musical cultures, one white and mostly working-class, the other ethnically mixed. In the most often-cited episode, the rapper Kleine Viezerik (“Dirty Little Man”) collaborated with a former white Eurovision contestant, Willeke Alberti. At the end of her performance, he removed his sunglasses to show tears streaming down his face”.

    The program was a hit for both ethnic groups. Ali B was, in this way, able to bridge the previous mistrust and misunderstandings.

    Comparisons with similar value systems

    Above it was already said that understanding yourself is only possible by comparing with others. Almost all Nation-States in the world belong to one of the seven value combinations distinguished worldwide. It is helpful to understand and appreciate the shared “mental image” of nation-states with a similar combination. Example: The new safety pact between Anglo-Saxon countries  “Aukus” (2021) is attractive for the nation-states concerned because of  sharing the same “rules of the game”

    For a full appreciation of the other nation-states in a “Cluster,” it is essential to understand that if countries have a similar mix of values, that does not mean they are identical. Sharing the same rules of the game does not always lead to the same decisions! In every culture, different forces are at work. For instance: you’ll find different mixes of in every culture conservatives and progressives. Issues like size, location and geography all play a role. Even the personality of leaders can play a role.

    Short description of the seven combinations. The Mental Images

    Contest: Australia, UK, Ireland, New- Zealand, USA

    Decision-making: Decisions are made by majority vote. Half + one decides. The minority accepts that “the winner takes all.’

    Leadership: as these are cultures with a weak Uncertainty Avoidance, you have to act as a generalist, to be able to think on your feet and to make quick decisions. No need to get an expert profile. It is harmful to be seen as “academic” The most important competence for a leader in these cultures is “strategical thinking.”  An important issue in these cultures is accountability. As a leader, you get relative freedom of action for an agreed-upon time frame with operationalized targets. Then the leader is held accountable and, if needed, replaced.

    Motivation: the key is to be able to relate to well-understood self-interest. People’s work motivation: competing, next career step, or a material reward. In these cultures, people can be willing to overcome resistance to change if one can create the image of a ‘burning platform,’ e.g., “if we do not jump now, we will burn.” The reference point is the individual employee and his definition of self-interest.

    Thinking style: Pragmatism. Inductive and action orientated. Keywords: whatever works, best practices, just do it. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. “Proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

    Important concepts: empowerment, autonomy, decentralization, risk-taking,  enterprising, level playing field, fairness, liability, constructive, open feedback expected: no news is good news.

    Network: Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and the Baltic states.

    Decision-making: Decisions are made by involving all important stakeholders and ensuring that all relevant stakeholders support the decision.

    Leadership: the “Boss” is supposed to act as a coordinator of independent stakeholders. There is a reluctance to believe that leaders or managers can define what is suitable for the organization from a ‘higher’ position. Peoples’ work motivation is very much connected to a feeling of autonomy inside their own work field. In general, people believe that they, more than others, know what is going on in their ‘shop’ and can take all necessary steps to improve the situation. People believe that the only good decisions are decisions where all the stakeholders are consulted from the beginning and participate in the decision-making process.

    Motivation: recognition as autonomous stakeholder (running your own “shop”) The key in such cultures is defining “shared interest.” A supportive environment with friendly colleagues is vital for work motivation.

    Thinking style: a combination of inductive and deductive thinking. The need for a leading conceptional framework leads room for “shared interest” Focus on what is “doable” to reach consensus.

    Important concepts: empowerment, Autonomy, consensus, incrementalism, Interdependence, cooperation, nobody owns the truth, co-optation (trying to get the opponent aboard), open feedback is the norm:  “no news is good news.”


    Well Oiled Machine: Germany, Austria, Hungary, German-speaking Switzerland

    Decision-making: “planmäßig handeln”: scheduled, planned, and structural approach. “Experts ” play an essential role. To be credible and taken into account, it is necessary to be seen as an expert in the subject matter at hand. Procedures are Important. Beforehand it should be decided how decisions are made: half + one, majority vote, or consensus. It’s all acceptable as long this is agreed upon before the issues are discussed.

               Leadership: the most crucial issue is that perceived and recognized experts are the ones who are believed to be in the position to define new directions. Therefore, it is imperative to build credibility to be recognized as an expert before defining a new direction. The key in these cultures is agreed upon balanced interest by experts.

    Motivation: Recognition as an expert, career access to status symbols (Type of Car, amount of windows in the office, privileges in the organization like access to special restaurants, etc.

    Thinking style: deductive. First, gathering information about a subject and identifying what experts already said about the issue in the past and present. And then formulating the principles of what was learned,  actions can be discussed.

    Important concepts: empowerment, Autonomy, Decentralization, order,  open feedback:  “no news is good news.”


    Solar System: France, Belgium, N. Italy, Switzerland (French-speaking), Spain, Poland,     Czech. Rep.

              Decision-making: Top-down. The top person has the “privilege” for decision-making. Others can be invited by the top to discuss a particular issue. In the end,  the message is and should be: I heard what you said: but this is my decision.

    Leadership: Highly visible intellectual playing the system. The implicit belief is that people at the top have an overview of everything that is taking place, and as a result, they are in the position to decide on the “Common good” and new directions. The countries in the Solar cluster are individualistic, and therefore mutual loyalty between Superior and Subordinate is not an issue. Impersonal standardized rules are essential. Inspection to see if people are following up on decisions is necessary. But a leader who controls too obviously and involves him or herself in the details of the work is utterly de-motivating to people who take pride and honor in their work.

    Motivation: The logic of honor. Career

    Thinking style: deductive. First, gather information about a subject before action is taken. Then, after formulating the Philosophy behind a specific issue, action is taken. Saying about the truth: The truth comes out by the clash of opinions. Reflection of this style: “I think, so I exist!”

    Important concepts: centralization, system D (not openly opposing leadership but doing your own thing if they are not competent or not visible in inspecting) Tension exists between accepting the top-down approach and the sensitivity of individual rights. People respect what you inspect.


    The Pyramid:  Latin America, Greece, S. Italy, Iraq, Iran, South Korea, Portugal, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, African countries.

    Decision-making: Decisions are made top-down. The top person should unambiguously make the decision. One should be sure that the top person is committed before taking action.

    Leadership: The implicit expectation in these cultures is that the person at the top has a complete overview of what is happening and can decide the right decision from such a position. Having decided, this person should be straightforward in cascading down the new mandates giving explicit directions. In Pyramid Cultures, it is also necessary to do this formally through written documents and instructions. In addition, the Boss is supposed to have a “Moral Competence”: in return for the loyalty of subordinates, he/she should take care of them.

    Motivation: Career, status, managing others, being “connected.”

    Thinking Style: Deductive

    Important concepts: Hierarchy,  Centralization. Implicit order,  Formality,  Procedures, Awareness of In-groups/outgroups in the context of central power. Upwards criticism is not rewarded. The Boss needs to look for negative developments actively. People respect what you inspect. Sensitivity for Indirect (high context) communication

    Family system:  China,  Hong Kong, India, Indonesia,  Malaysia, Singapore,

    Decision-making: Decisions are made top-down. One should be sure that the top person is committed before others take action. After a decision, clear mandates are given downwards.

    Leadership: The implicit expectation in these cultures is that the person at the top has a complete overview of what is happening and can decide the right decision from such a position. After a decision, this person should be straightforward in cascading down the new mandates giving explicit directions. In addition, the Boss is supposed to have a “Moral Competence”: in return for the loyalty of subordinates, he/she should take care of them.

    Motivation: status, career, managing others, being “connected.”

    Thinking style: inductive focusing on problem-solving

    Important concepts: relationships, Hierarchy,  Centralization. Loyalty, Awareness of In-groups/outgroups in the context of central power. Upwards criticism is not rewarded. The Boss needs to look for negative developments actively. People respect what you inspect. Sensitivity for Indirect (high context) communication.

    Japan (standing alone)

    Decision-making: intensive consultations top-down and bottom-up. HoRenSo,


    Leadership: a strict but fair parentlike style is appreciated.

    Motivation: Constant improvements, loyalty to the organization

    Thinking style: Deductive

    Important concepts: Dynamic Equilibrium. Constant improvement, Perseverance, Read between the lines. Upwards criticism is not rewarded. The Boss needs to look for negative developments actively. People respect what you inspect. Sensitivity is required for Indirect (high context) communication.

    Broader identity, option 2:  Open democratic societies and a community of values.

    Nation-states and globalization

    The reality is that Nation-States are not isolated. More and more, the world is dealing with global trends and forces. This globalization creates an emotional crisis:  John Micklethwait (Micklethwait 2016) says: “One thing unifying an unhappy West is a profound sense of mystery. Across Europe and North America, people have an acute feeling that their world is accelerating away from them, but they can’t understand why. There is no narrative to explain it.” Rapid changes are frequently making people feel unsafe. Unsafe feelings might lead to “cramped” reactions. .” The consequence can be that polarization might occur. This is counterproductive because It is evident right away that all nation-states are confronted with six central problems that are highly interrelated.

    (a) To help organizations in their country remain competitive in increasingly globalized markets.

    (b) To ensure that social cohesion in their society remains intact.

    (c) To build a stable political climate where elementary democratic freedoms are maintained, even in tough times.

    (d) Provide safety and security for their citizens

    (e) Balancing the consequences of globalization. These are especially three accelerating changes:  digitalization, market globalization (without a specific government’s control), and climate change.

    (f) the need to find solutions for ever-increasing Inequality

    To solve these problems,  two options are available:

    The first is to understand how to bridge the differences between the seven mental images without (perceived) winners and losers. The way to do this is, is described in a four-step approach in The seven Mental Images of National Culture (Wursten 2016)

    The second one is by identifying nation-states willing to create the broader identity as:

    A community of open democratic societies.

    An open democratic society is a society whose laws, customs and institutions are open to correction by the continuous and free exchange of arguments and counterarguments among the societal stakeholders. This contrasts with a closed society based on revelations or a protected doctrine against falsification, rejection, or discussion.

    Charles Mills, quoted by Anne Applebaum (Applebaum,2021), says about these societies that the enormous advantage compared to other systems is that “leadership is constantly adapting, changes and moves to adapt to new people and new ideas.” Open democratic societies:” don’t try to force people to have consensus about everything all the time.”

    An example of such a community of open democratic societies is the European Union.

    To illustrate the complexity of this community: after Brexit, the European Union encompasses  4 of the 7 Mental Images the Well Oiled Machine, the Solar System, the Network, and the Pyramid. All four have different rules of the game for democracy, decision making, leadership, delegation, control, etc. Still, they could formulate the broader identity as a “community of values.”

    This identity was emphasized by Von der Leyen, the European Commission Chair, in her speech to the European parliament in her 2020 State of the Union address about the European Union.

    What Is this community of values?

    -Everybody, with whatever identity, can participate if they adhere to the attributes of the open democratic society.

    -The rule of law is a crucial part of the system of open democratic societies. To have a morality touchstone, open democratic adhere to the narrow interpretation of the rule of law.

    This narrow interpretation implies that Human Rights are recognized and that all individuals (and minority groups) have equal rights.

    Because of human rights, such societies cannot be culturally neutral regarding equal worth and dignity. To put it explicitly in the intercultural context: open democratic societies have a value system in which the individual is at the core of moral thinking and behavior.

    Value diversity in this thinking is something to be practiced so that it would not lead to any severe violations of the individual rights of others. Therefore, defining boundaries is a vital issue.

    Boundaries and the different layers of culture.

    Open societies have difficulty defining boundaries and determining what is acceptable and not in the societal discourse. How to explain that in a multicultural society?

    This is especially true for the more superficial layers of culture.

    Examples are for instance:

    Symbols: the use of Swastikas by some right-wing groups.

    Heroes: using Breivik, the Norwegian ultra-right mass murderer, as a positive role model.

    Rituals: lawyers not willing to follow the “rules of the game.” For instance, refusing to stand up if the judge enters the court. Men who refuse to shake hands with women. “Zwarte Piet” (Black Peter) as a ritual for children in the Netherlands and Belgium

    To analyze this further, we can see how laws about face-covering clothes are discussed. One of the indisputable rights in open societies is freedom of religion. The question is if this includes all related rituals? For instance, the covering of faces by women? If not, how can this be formulated so that it is not contrary to Universal rights? The solution is found provisionally in some open democratic societies by referring to the need to look each other into the eyes.

    The E.U., as a community of values, decided this issue (see: Alderman and Melissa, 2021). The European Court of Justice upheld a ruling that companies can ban headscarves or other religious symbols in the workplace in the interest of “a neutral image.” A verdict that holds consequences for the balance between the freedom of religion and the rights of employers to apply policies requiring religious neutrality. The court said company policies barring workers from wearing any “visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace” did not constitute direct discrimination, so long as they applied to religious garb and symbols of all faiths. But employers must present evidence that such policies were necessary to meet a “genuine need” to conduct business, including  “a neutral image toward customers or to prevent social disputes.”

    A different take is seen in the United States. In the USA, federal labor Laws require employers “to permit applicants and employees to observe religious dress and grooming practices,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

    Religion and state.

    This is one example of how the morality issue can be solved in open democratic societies. Many of these differences go back to how religion and state were dealing with the need to separate powers.

    Is freedom of religion a defense of religion against the state or protection of the state against religion?

    The example of France and the USA

    Two different approaches can be identified in trying to create a shared identity. The American way is basically to promote the coexistence of different ethnic groups and religions; This approach emphasizes protecting the rights of minorities. The criticism is that this approach leads to a dangerous social and cultural fragmentation where the groups withdraw inside their bubble. Heinich (Heinich 2018) states that the French Republican model is on the other side color blind and universalist. Everybody can be French as long as the fundamental values of the Republic are supported. People of all races, religions, and backgrounds are treated as citizens with equal rights without differentiation. France maintains no register of people’s ethnicity or religion. A critical element of that model is the French concept of secularism, laïcité, a legacy of the French struggle against the power of the Roman Catholic Church. Whereas freedom of religion in the United States began as a defense of religion against the state, France’s started with a defense of the state against religion. So French policies such as banning Muslim headscarves in school, perceived by many French as combating religious coercion, are often criticized in the USA to impose French identity on immigrants forcibly. To its critics, the French model does too little to improve the lot of Arab and African Muslims living in suburban public housing, the “banlieues” where youth unemployment runs sky-high, and many of the Islamist radicals are incubated. Conditions there have only worsened with the coronavirus pandemic.

    This all is sensitive and requires a balancing act. As already discussed above, one element in this balancing is understanding the importance of emotional security.

    What is to be learned from the history of the European Union as a community of values?

    The need to emphasize reciprocity.

    Recent research has shown that on the level of what is common to all humankind, morality predates religion. Frans de Waal, a Dutch ethologist, found that this is not limited to human beings in his animal research (De Waal 2006). He discovered that primates like Chimpanzees and Bonobos even share morality. He found two essential pillars of morality: –

    Empathy: The ability to understand and to share the feelings of others.” –  It is safe to say that, in general, humans everywhere share the ability to be empathetic.

    Reciprocity: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!” –  This relates to a sense of fairness and a sense of justice.

    Consequently, this means that nation-states must constantly feed their citizens with the awareness that they get back something in return for their membership of the community of values. Unfortunately, the spin doctors in the U.K. successfully convinced the population that they were only giving up their autonomy and got nothing back in return. Even worse, they were part of a Kafkian bureaucracy in return for their membership.

    Politicians in the member-states tend to blame the E.U. for everything going wrong in society. So it is not a surprise then those citizens develop a negative view of the E.U.

    This is dangerous. To make it work, active information about what is in it for them should be part of politicians’ policy in the E.U.

    There needs to be awareness that sharing values do not mean that consequential practices are the same.

    Ongoing discussion is needed about the way values are translated in real life.

    Geert Mak (Mak 2018) talks about different possible interpretations of solidarity and the policy towards refugees. According to his observations, the emphasis In Denmark is solidarity with the people who make social security in Denmark sustainable. The middle class is paying the necessary taxes. Nobody is helped if the social security is overloaded and, consequently, destroyed.

    The emphasis in the Netherlands is more on solidarity to the global fate of people fleeing their own country

    This difference within one Mental Image might be explained on a micro-level by the very low score of Denmark on Uncertainty Avoidance in Denmark, leading to a general acceptance of a practical analysis of consequences. On the other hand, the Netherlands is scoring in the middle, leading to a more principled approach.

    To make productive use of some problems with broader identities in integrating countries from the former Soviet satellite states in the European Union.

    –           Religion and morality

    Some people are convinced that without religion, no morality is possible. In secular Western European countries, this is seen as doubtful. Frequently they refer to recent research showing that morality predates religion. For example, they point at Frans de Waal, the Dutch ethologist we discussed before, and his research finding that morality is not limited to human beings.

    Taking this into account, the Hofstede research can explain the position on religion and “morality” in Eastern/Middle European countries by looking at the consequences of strong UAI. Hofstede states that in cultures with a strong UAI score, there is a need for a more rigid social code. As a result, there is a resistance in the strong UAI cultures (especially in combination with collectivism) to accept that morality can be found outside religion. Consequently, they resist the freedom of sexual preference or alternative lifestyles. They call this decadency and see themselves as bulwarks of traditional Christian values.

    A second reason for the position of politicians in these countries is to understand the power element. A state that says to represent the laws of heaven has unlimited power on earth. A long repressive regime can best be based on heavenly powers. It is easy to deny human rights and persecute and suppress people with God on your side.

    For example, in Warsaw on 7 May 2019, a Polish psychotherapist and civil rights activist was arrested because she was not adhering to article 196, ‘Insulting religious feelings’. After her arrest, the Interior Minister said: “We thank the police for the successful detection and arrest of a person who is held responsible for the desecration of the image of the Holy Maria, one of the most sacred icons of the Polish population.”

    –           Resistance Against the Elite

    The liberal metropolitan elites who took advantage of the unregulated transition together with the former communists created a strong feeling of resentment by the people left out. This resentment is now also directed at the Western type of liberal market economy.

    “Central European populists combine somewhat left-wing economic and social policies with a right-wing, even reactionary, nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric. So disaffected voters are invited to escape the atomization of a superficial, Western-style consumer society, back into the bosom of the most traditional sources of community and identity: the family, the church, and the nation. The populists fulminate against “decadent, feminized, LGBT+-supporting Western European societies” They create the image of a fight between Western European nations addressing:  “the problem of an aging and shrinking population by importing Muslim migrants. While traditional societies like Hungary and Poland “will solve that problem the old-fashioned Christian way, by having more children.” (Ash, 2019)

    –           “Redistribution of dignity.” giving back to people a sense of dignity.

    Politicians sensing the dissatisfaction in large parts of the population understand that it is not just an economic issue. It is a matter of giving back to people a sense of dignity.

    This is also behind the recent actions of the Polish Law and Justice party to hand out more cash to families. Some observers see it as “an expression of concern.” Law and Justice ideologists actually talk about “the redistribution of dignity.”

    Ashford says: “Especially in Poland and Hungary, the ruling parties also play off the sense of historical injustice, arguing that what happened in 1989 was not a true revolution. The real anti-communist revolution, they claim, only began when they came to power”.

    Democracy and the Need for Autonomy.

    Another factor for the uneasiness in finding new rules for democracy in Eastern European countries is that there is still not enough accurate understanding that democracy doesn’t take the same shape in every country. A paper on the E.U. (Wursten & Lanzer, 2012) showed how democracy in the U.K. is different from democracy in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and France. The value configuration of each country can explain these differences. It also showed that it could be explained systematically by the Seven Mental Images.

    To analyze the confusion in the discussions about the shape of democracy, a conclusion from a paper on Happiness (Wursten, 2018) is applicable: What is very important for the well-being of people is the perception of autonomy. This autonomy is defined as the freedom to make your own decisions and determine your future as the basic needs of adult human beings. The decline in support of democracy can be explained (to a great extent) by many people’s perception that they do not have a say in the decisions shaping their lives due to globalization of businesses and internationalization of decision-making, for instance, in the E.U. Reports show a general feeling in Middle and Eastern European countries of a lack of control over people’s lives. Citizens of these countries complain that they expected to be freer after the fall of the dominating Soviet Empire. What happened instead is that in their perception, the ideology changed, but many of the people in power during Communism are still in positions of power nowadays.

    Moreover, they feel that they were freed from the coercion by the Soviet Union and voluntarily joined the European Union. But now they discover that the rules of the E.U. are strongly limiting their freedom of decision-making. It is frustrating because, in their minds, it amounts to a perceived feeling of again lacking control over their own lives.

    –           Reciprocity as an important principle

    The community of values integrating the different identity groups should emphasize that creating a broader identity is not a zero-sum equation—more attention and information about what identity groups get in return for accepting to be in it together.                                           Eastern European cultures see the E.U. as a positive means of keeping their politicians at bay and preventing possible corruption by their leaders. Even if the country’s culture is making it complicated, it is interesting to look at the connection between culture and corruption in this sense. Take Power Distance: the saying is “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Or take collectivism. Analysis of the rule of law shows that human rights as part of the law system are “natural” for Individualistic cultures where the starting point of morality is the individual. In collectivist cultures, morality is first for the in-group people as Lanzer formulates it: ‘”Everything for my friends. For others the rigor of the law.” (Lanzer, 2019) In this sense, it can show that enforcement of the E.U. laws is a positive influence in the eyes of the citizens. Pew Research Center’s recent research confirms this (Pew Research Center, 2019a).

    –           Striking a balance between autonomy and centralization

    At the same time, the E.U. should understand that it is imperative that the single states in Eastern Europe must further develop the perception of autonomy. In this sense, it is a warning signal not to force these countries into a process of increased centralization. This is, of course, equally true for the Western E.U. members. Brexit should be a warning sign. Cummings formulated the successful slogan: “take back control.”

    It is a matter of survival to go back to the original formula: “subsidiarity.” The higher level should only do what the lower level cannot do. A warning for leading politicians like Verhofstadt and Macron (Wursten, 2019; Wursten & Lanzer, 2012).

    The E.U. citizens perceive now and then that the people at the top are not interested in what they think. One of the dangers of a globalized world is the increased emotional reaction of the citizens of nation-states. The cosmopolitan elite, in their eyes, too quickly decides about moral and economic issues without taking the interests of those who have to live the consequences into account. This leads to support for populist propaganda. What needs further attention is that data show that most people in Central and Eastern Europe say that the post-communist era has been good for education, living standards, national pride, and even spiritual values. They, however, showed doubts about law and order but were pessimistic about health care and family values.


    Because of the need to cope with worldwide challenges, after ensuring equal rights for individuals and minorities, a necessary step is to formulate a feeling we are in this together.

    An awareness of the shared values could develop this in a Nation-state. In addition, this creates an understanding of the shared rules of the game.

    A second possibility is to join forces in identifying open democratic societies. Society whose laws, customs and institutions are open to correction by the continuous and free exchange of arguments and counterarguments among the societal stakeholders.

    The European Union is such a community of open democratic societies.

    Sharing this idea does imply that the Nation-States involved are aware that their national cultures lead to different rules of the game and that joining forces does not mean that one system of rules is dominant in developing policies.

    Happily, this diversity in “mental Images’ is limited. Only seven fundamentally different systems can be distinguished.

    The technique of creating win-win solutions to go beyond the seven different approaches are debated in “The seven mental Images of National Culture. Leading and Managing in a globalized world” by the author of this paper.


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    Wursten H. (2018) Culture and happiness. Some reflections

    Wursten H. (2019) Democracy and the need for Autonomy

    Wursten H. (2020) Central and Eastern Europe in a cultural perspective. In: Understanding Culture and Ethics in Organizations; A Study of Eastern and Central Europe. Emerald Publishing Limited 2020. ISBN: 978-1-83867-023-8. Page 47-63

    Wursten H. Identity and the gravitational influence of culture. Culture&Impact 2022

    Wursten. H. (2022)  Identity and the gravitational influence of national culture. In Special edition: Culture and identity. Culture&Impact

    Wursten Huib. The 7 Mental Images of National Culture Leading and managing in a globalized world  Amazon (2019)ISBN-10: 1687633347 ISBN-13: 978-1687633347