Mental Images and Nation-Building

by | Jun 6, 2022 | 0 comments

Huib Wursten, Public speaker, Author, and Consultant


It’s still fresh in our memory. The chaos of the hasty withdrawal of the U.S. and NATO allies from Afghanistan and the earlier failure of nation-building in Iraq.

In both cases, the necessity to intervene was partly legitimized by the argument that the states in question were a threat to the international order and safety and the consequent need for regime change.

Nation-building is notoriously difficult. Even more difficult if another nation is involved. A report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace looking at U.S. attempts at nation-building counted more than 200 interventions. The conclusion was that only two could be seen as a success—Nation-building in Germany and Japan after the second world war. ( Pei Minxin, Kasper Sara, 2003)

In this paper, it will be shown that Cultural values, as defined by the most quoted scholar in the empirical approach in this field, Geert Hofstede, help to understand the difficulties. Furthermore, it will be shown that the 7 “Mental Images,” the combinations of these values developed by the author of this article, are crucial for the sustainability of all policy development in general, specifically for nation-building.

Most of the failures of the interventions in nation-building can be explained by

  1. A failure to understand the cultural requirements of the desired situation.
  2. A mismatch between the “rules of the game” used to manage change and the attributes of the culture at hand.


Nation-building,  Culture, Hofstede, Mental Images,  Imagined communities, Diversity.

Some definitions


In this paper, we refer to nation-states in the following meaning:  Nation: people sharing a specific territory and having a shared national consciousness, who, in principle, accept the authority, legitimacy, and power of their political administration (= state).

Nation-building is constructing or structuring a national identity using the state’s power. Nation-building aims to unify the people within the state so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run. The “shared consciousness” in the definition above is essential. Anderson (1991 and Norton (2003)) argue that what we aim at are “imagined communities.” Imagined, “because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.” In “imagining ourselves bonded with our fellow compatriots across space and time, we can feel a sense of community with people we have not yet met, but perhaps hope to meet one day.”

Imagined communities and dimensions of culture                                                           

Constructing and structuring an imagined community must address the value preferences of such an imagined community and the consequences for functional structures and the rule of law. Additionally, it must also provide a way for people to be heard and to be able to influence the imagined community. Finally, it should be clear how citizens can participate in shaping policy decisions.

We need some verifiable research about the game’s specific rules to analyze the requirements. Unfortunately, too much in the sometimes-overly aggressive- discussions about these issues are related to anecdotic and emotional storytelling. This is where the research of Hofstede comes into the picture. He focused his research on the value dimensions of national culture.(Hofstede 2001, Hofstede et al.2010)

The value dimensions of Hofstede

Geert Hofstede found and explained value differences on the most fundamental level among nation-states. The four confirmed value differences describe preferences per Nation-state about how to deal with the outside world and each other. Research by others (Beugelsdijk et al.2015) found that the differences Hofstede found are stable over time and are not disappearing because of globalization. This finding is relevant because some “globalists” believe that the world is turning into a global village with shared values and where differences only exist on an individual level.

The confirmed four dimensions of national culture identified by Hofstede are:

Power Distance (PDI) The way people accept hierarchy as an existential fact of life

or as just a matter of convenience in organizing a group or community.  

Individualism/Collectivism (IDV) The way people deal with the relationship between the individual and the group. In collectivist cultures, people prioritize loyalty to the ‘in-group’ they belong to (extended family, tribe, ethnic group, religious group, etc.), whereas, in Individualistic cultures, people put the rights of the individual first.

Masculinity/Femininity (MAS) The way people deal with motivation: a preference for competition (masculine cultures) or a preference for cooperation and consensus-seeking (feminine cultures).

Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) The way people deal with unfamiliar risks. This concerns the need for predictability. The continuum goes from a weak appetite for predictability to a strong need for predictability.

These are not binary divisions but a continuum. It describes the central tendency of a bell curve per nation. It concerns the majority culture. Minority cultures need to define themselves in relation to the majority culture. Individuals can have other preferences than the majority. However, the majority culture decides the criteria for proper behavior in that culture and defines what is and what is not acceptable.

The majority frequently see being different as “deviant” and tend to neglect or even punish minority behavior. This explains why minorities though different in their preferences, tend to conform to the norms of the majority culture.

The position of about 180 countries on this continuum is charted. A meta-analysis shows that the repeat results are consistent over the +/- 50 years since Hofstede’s first conclusions. However, the latest significant research found that two ‘Dimensions’ scores are slowly changing. Everywhere the scores for power-distance are getting lower, and the scores for Individualism are getting higher. The relative distances between countries are however not evolving. That is, worldwide, we are moving in a cohort.

The scores describe the majority values of nation-states. The idea of nation-states is relatively recent. It is often associated with the treaty of Westphalia in 1648. In this treaty, the sovereign legal status of the nation-state was “cemented” (Spark notes: Nations and states).   Sovereign nation-states are vital because they shape their citizens’ values by their educational policies, the influence of institutions, and the national media.

Mental Images and the gravitational influence of culture

Wursten shows that country cultures cannot be understood by the separate value dimensions one by one. “The whole is more than the sum of parts. 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.

Every Mental Image has a specific approach to the ‘rules of the game'”. (Wursten 2019). These ‘rules of the game’ influence almost everything relating to societal issues, including the shape of Governance and the st up of institutions in a culture.

To fully appreciate the seven different Mental Images, it is essential to understand that the countries belonging to a particular Mental Image have a similar mix of values. But 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 in all cultures of conservatives and progressives. Issues like size, location, and geography all play a role. Even the personality of leaders can play a role.

The need for nation-building

The need for nation-building is nowadays felt mostly in Collectivist value systems with a high score for Power-distance, a combination that complicates one of the critical goals for nation-building: creating a broader identity, the feeling of belonging to a shared “imagined community,” Achieving this shared Imagined community proves to be very difficult in multi-ethnical, multi-tribal multi-religious environments. This is the challenge for new nation-states that have their origin in political decisions from the past. Decisions that were not taking cultural diversity into account and created artificial borders.

Short overview of the seven Mental Images

  • The arrows indicate a low, middle, or high score

 The Pyramid. Important issues.

Most cases of recent nation-building are in the Pyramid Mental Image. The Pyramid includes the combination of large Power distance, Collectivism, and High UAI. MAS is of a lesser consequence, mainly manifesting itself by the assertiveness in people’s behavior and their willingness for consensus-seeking.

Analysis of the value combination of the Pyramid will show that it complicates one of the essential goals for nation-building: creating a broader identity, the feeling of belonging to a shared “imagined community,” This is very difficult in multi-ethnical, multi-tribal multi-religious new nation-states. Unfortunately, it is precisely the situation of many new nation-states that have their origin in political decisions from the past. These decisions created rather artificial borders and did not consider cultural diversity.

Two historical examples

  1. Africa and the influence of colonial powers (Faal 2009) The African borders were drawn during the late 19th century, from 1870-to 1900. This was when imperialism dominated European foreign policy. This was the time when Europe conquered most of Africa. At the congress of Berlin in 1888, headed by German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the rules for drawing up borders in Africa were determined, mandating that countries could only draw out their respective zones by military occupation, and if other countries were to control Europeans have already occupied areas what which, it would be seen as an act of war. There have been numerous other changes – with quite a few in the 1930s and further in the run-up to independence. For example, the border between Nigeria and Cameroon was modified as recently as 2008 following the resolution of the Bakassi dispute, while a new border appeared when Sudan split into two countries in 2011. After WWII, in the wave of decolonization, countries were granted independence to their respective control zones; thus, the previous borders were retained.
  2. 2. The Ottoman empire and the development of nation-states (Aviv 2016)

Nationalism as an ideology was alien to the Middle East. It first emerged within intellectual circles as a reaction to Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, demonstrating the economic, military, and political development gap between the Muslim Middle East and Christian Europe. The Turkish elite of the Ottoman Empire shifted towards nationalism to close this gap and started a reform period known as the transmat. Until then, the empire had been divided into millets, comprising religious communities granted autonomy for internal affairs to pay taxes to the Sultan and keep local order. While the primary feature of identity was religion, local rulers struggling for independence, such as Mohammad Ali of Egypt, wanted to keep the money they had to transfer to the Sultan. This scenario changed fundamentally with the transmat. All inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire officially became citizens with the same rights and duties. The autonomy of the millets ended, but partly in contradiction to the reform, the Turkish elite pictured itself as the ruling millet, which meant discrimination against all non-Turkish citizens. This became most apparent in public administration as non-Turkish civil servants lost their posts while the share and influence of Turks grew. As a reaction to Turkish nationalism, the Arabs emphasized their ethnicity—Arab nationalism was thus a reaction to Turkish nationalism. Arab nationalism, however, remained a marginal phenomenon until the First World War. Michel Aflaq, a founding member and leading intellectual of the Ba’ath Party, defined an Arab first by his language

Nation-building and the attributes of the Pyramid.

Loyalty to the in-group and particularism.

One common attribute of all Pyramid countries is Collectivism. In the Hofstede framework, this is the opposite of Individualism. In Individualistic societies, people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only, whereas, in Collectivist cultures, people belong to “in-groups” that take care of them in exchange for loyalty.

In collectivist cultures, people are supposed to be loyal to, and in harmony with, the thinking and the interest of their own in-group (tribe, ethnic group, region, clan, religious group). In return, the in-group will take care of them. In these cultures, it can be dangerous to have ideas and behavior, not in line with the in-group. It can be seen as disloyalty which is punished by exclusion from the in-group. One is expected to adhere to the set of values for the in-group. For outsiders, different values apply. This is called particularism.

The consequence for nation-building: because the values don’t necessarily apply to other in-groups, it is more challenging to develop a nation with “shared national consciousness” in collectivist cultures.

Identity In a previous paper, I analyzed the difference between individualistic and collectivist cultures in the context of self-concept, a central element in our mental programming. 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. Consequently, identity is in collectivist cultures to a substantial extent derived from Group/category membership. In collectivist cultures, a 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. (Hofstede,2001) In collectivist cultures, gender and religion are essential for 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) This cultural issue strongly influences the discussion on Nation-building in collectivist cultures. In collectivist cultures, in-group identity is an existential issue.

Trust and relationship: A condition for cooperation with others.

The rational or “functional” reasons for a joint effort in policy development or a project are secondary to the need to trust each other. This takes time but is a necessary condition for the sustainability of an endeavor.

Hierarchy: In the Pyramid, it is accepted that hierarchy is an existential part of life. People are raised to accept and respect power inequality. Superiors are viewed from a different stratum of society. As a result, subsequent to the acceptance of hierarchy, there is also latent mistrust between the levels. This has consequences for communication and feedback. To avoid disharmony and conflict, communication tends to be indirect. There is a real need to read between the lines.

Feedback: Upwards criticism is very uneasy. It can provoke the ire of the superior and it can create disharmony or loss of face for the superior or employee. This also applies to giving negative feedback to the superior. In small PDI cultures, the superior expects the employee to report immediately if something is not happening as expected. Because of this emphasis on equality, there is basic trust between the levels. Superiors can expect subordinates to volunteer direct feedback if things develop in an unexpected direction. If no such feedback is given within limits, a superior can rely on the expectation that things are developing as foreseen. “No news is good news.” In large Power Distance countries, the approach to this issue is different. In these countries, people are raised to respect inequality. However, the fear of creating disharmony and loss of face and the latent mistrust make people will not volunteer to give negative feedback to their superiors. Therefore, the superior needs to look for negative developments actively. The saying is:” People respect what you inspect.” Reviews of the work take place continuously. The inspection is done physically on location. Phone calls or Zoom meetings are inadequate. In small PDI cultures, the lack of visible inspection from the superior is perceived as positive. The perception is that the superior trust you in your competence and empowerment. In large PDI cultures, however, lack of visible inspection is frequently perceived as bad leadership: It is perceived as disinterest of the superior in what you are doing.

Leadership:  A power holder in the Pyramid functions like a family’s strict but caring father (or mother). In return for the loyalty of employees or citizens, the boss is supposed to take care of them. This is very effective on the local level where the boss and the subordinate ‘know” each other and are from the same in-group. This, however, is difficult if the superior and subordinate are not in close contact and are not from the same in-group. In such a situation, it is a must for the superior to overcome mistrust and show that the “caring” behavior is also happening to people who are more remote, literary in terms of distance, and belonging to another in-group. This is where it frequently goes wrong in nation-building. The need to develop and maintain trust with members of other in-groups tends to be neglected by the people in power. In the Pyramid, the leader is supposed to be a strict but fair fatherlike/motherlike person, rewarding the loyalty of the subordinates by taking care of them. People in his in-group expect preferential behavior and protection. This is the essence of mutual trust. The top person in the Pyramid feels entitlement for all kinds of privileges. This is accepted by the less powerful. This trust is valid inside the in-group. A superior from another in-group is not automatically trusted as he is also supposed to be loyal to the people of his in-group and not to outsiders.

A few micro examples from my practice as a consultant.

–  The Western CEO of a company active in Nigeria was married to a Yoruba woman.

In private talks, Nigerian employees from other tribes confessed that they mistrusted all his actions because of his affiliation to the Yoruba community

  • Recruiting people for the same company was a balancing act. Recruiting from the same tribe had one advantage: accepting (informal) leadership was clear-cut. Trusted locals warned me about one disadvantage: the employees were loyal in the first place to their in-group and not to the company. There was no reluctance to help others with extra money or even tools. Hiring people from different tribes had the advantage that people were watching each other in terms of favors and privileges. The disadvantage is that informal leadership was unclear. Age was respected, especially inside the in-group. Conflicts between people from different tribes were more difficult to solve Decision making and the “common good” The superior has the prerogative of decision-making and is supposed to make clear-cut decisions. Others wait for the powerholder to decide before they can act. 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 thing to do. This means that the top person has the “right” to define the common good in the political environment.
  • Delegation: When the decision has been made, it is the task of the boss to delegate downwards by giving people clear instructions about what to do, how to do it, and with what level of authority. When things are happening that were not foreseen in the instructions, the subordinates are not supposed to act first and explain it afterward. They are supposed to go back to the boss for further instructions before taking action.                                                                                  
  • Meetings are meant to give the superior a platform to inform others about decisions and ensure in-group harmony. The superior can invite participants to a meeting to discuss. The superior will end the discussion by concluding: I heard what you said. This is my decision. If such a conclusion did not happen, no decision was made in the eyes of the participants.
  •  Rules: In-group rules are important and rules set by the system or boss. The rule of law is to be understood in this way. A distinction should be made between a broad and narrow definition of the rule of law
Broad (or formal) definition Narrow definition
  • Attributes of the broad definition are:
  • The rules should be clear
  • No retroactive action
  • Not too many changes
  • Consistency
  • Independent judges
  • Fair trials
The rule of law also encompasses:

  • a chosen parliament
  • a democratic system
  • human rights are recognized and respected

Many Pyramid countries adhere to a broad definition of the rule of law. The narrow definition is found mainly in individualistic countries. It includes human rights. Including human rights in the Pyramid is possible in the context of nation-building. It requires, however, a strong commitment by the powerholders to defend these rights. For example, to protect the equal rights of men and women against the possible resistance of the “tribal” cultures involved.

Reflections on nation-building in multi-ethnic countries.

Governance in Pyramid countries is not an issue, if the tribes, religious entities, ethnic groups, and language groups are independent with their own leadership rituals (law system), heroes, and Symbols. The challenge starts when multi-ethnic nation-states are supposed to accept a centralized power structure with a unified legal structure and often with a dominant in-group. As we already discussed above, initially, nation-building referred to the efforts of newly independent nations to reshape colonial territories that colonial powers had carved out without regard to ethnic or other boundaries. These reformed states would become viable and coherent national entities (Opio, 2000). This required constructing or structuring a national identity using the state’s power to unify the people. Building and structuring a shared national identity or imagined community should be based on generally accepted rules, norms, principles, and common citizenship. Institutions such as the judiciary, universities, civil service, and an army are created to symbolize the political entity. To be effective, it must address value preferences and the consequences for democracy, functional structures, and the rule of law

The separation of powers, as proposed by Montesquieu in 1748, is always difficult in Pyramid cultures. One lesson that emerges is the aversion many parties in power and their leaders show to the principle of coalitions and power-sharing. Yet, for producing political stability and democracy, it is a necessity. These have their downside, but, on balance, coalitions fare better than the elusive single-party majorities many parties in Africa continue to seek. There is a crying need for parties, leaders, and governments to appreciate this.

Political unity and dominant groups. After independence, new nation-states were frequently expected to develop political systems styled after Western democracies. It was assumed that ideology and class alliances would counter the potentially harmful effects of tribalism. However, voting behavior in the new Pyramid countries follows ethnic lines. Political parties rarely represent more than one or two cultural groups. As different parties came to power, they ruled with their own group’s interests coming first. As a result, plural societies did rarely develop. To create the appearance of political unity, dominant groups in countries in transition sometimes begin to ban other political parties. As a result, one-party states and military governments are sometimes the norms. (Batty 2011; Bratton et al.2012))

Democracy and in-group identity. There is little evidence that tribal identity is disappearing. On the contrary, many elections in the new nation-states are marked by ethnic voting. Voters choose their co-ethnic candidate before candidates from other ethnic groups. As an example: Cho (2012) found across Africa strong support for patterns of voting along ethnic lines, confirming an earlier analysis of Horowitz’s (1985), who described African elections as mere censuses for ethnic support, where ethnic groups maintain homogeneous preferences and compete for scarce resources in a zero-sum game.

Traditional democracy in multi-ethnic societies. The big tent ‘democracy.’

The aim of the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan was, as President George W. Bush put it in October 2001, “to bring al-Qaeda to justice.” Nation-building was not part of the original strategic plan. What happened was that the intervention took the shape of a transfer of power to local clans and power holders. Tragically it ended up in a transfer of power to corrupt warlords.                                                                                                                                             It is interesting to analyze the function of a long-existing instrument for involving different “clans” and power groups in decision making: the Loya Jirga. It can be seen as an attempt to create democracy in a multi-ethnic, tribal society. It combines elements of the tribal political culture with the Afghan court’s ceremonial ideals of Western parliamentary democracy.                                                                                                                          Continuous research by the Afghanistan Analyst Network (AAN 2020) gives an insight into the functioning of the Loya Jirga. They write: “The Loya jirga – or grand assembly – has been used as a political instrument by almost every Afghan king and president for the last century, with the first held arguably in 1915 and the last, for now, in August 2020. These jirgas typically bring together hundreds, sometimes thousands of delegates from the various ethnic and social groups from across the country. King Habibullah convened the first such gathering in 1915, “when he ‘invited 540 delegates from all parts of the country to Kabul to explain[!] the reasons for Afghanistan’s neutrality during the First World War,” as one of our reports says.                                                                                                                                          The Loya jirgas were then institutionalized by the reformer-king Amanullah, who, in 1921, for example, convened a jirga that led to the country’s first quasi-constitution. Later on, the Loya jirga became a quasi-parliamentary body. Today, it is enshrined in the constitution as “the highest manifestation of the [will of the] people of Afghanistan,” convened to “take decisions on the issues related to independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and supreme interests of the country.                                                                                                                                     The question is: what authority did they have?  The research by Afganisthan Analyst Network (AAN 2020) provides some answers. The greatest focus of their reporting is on Loya jirgas held after 2001, following the fall of the Taliban regime. The conclusion is that, to some degree, leadership in Afghanistan acknowledged that involving at least Afghan elders or elites through Loya jirgas could help secure and legitimize their power. But participants had little room for decisionmaking. AAN authors have pointed out that critics have regularly criticized Loya jirgas, including some of those held since 2001, as undermining the democratic institutions of the country. Looking back, one author concluded that:

1. All too often, the outcome of jirgas is “designed in advance, making them essentially rubber-stamp bodies with a bit of (tribal-)democratic window-dressing.”

2. Another analyst takes a different argument: governments since 2001 have “undermined the institution of the Loya jirga.” It could, he said, play a much stronger role in times of national crisis, were it held properly.

3. AAN writes: “Actually, all the Loya jirgas convened since the introduction of the constitution in 2004 have been unconstitutional. The constitution prescribes who must attend a Loya jirga and they include members of district councils, elections for which have never been held.

4. All the gatherings held since 2010 have been called ‘consultative,’ ‘peace’ or ‘traditional’ Loya jirgas – another indication of their actual lack of authority. One analyst wrote, “For the time being, the government… must limit itself to convening quasi-Loya jirgas.” Often, these gatherings have provided the Government with political cover for difficult decisions. Occasionally, delegates have come to a different conclusion than the president had planned. Either way, however, their resolutions can be heeded or ignored by the president at will”.


Identifying the characteristics of the Pyramid countries and stating the purpose for Nation building, it is evident that the Pyramid Mental Image with large Power-distance and specifically Collectivism creates a real challenge for the unification of heterogeneous in-groups.

Particularism and the clash of clans.

In his famous book, Samuel Huntington predicted a “Clash of Civilizations” (Huntington1996). In his opinion, religion is the dominant cultural issue. Increasingly, there will be a power struggle between religions, especially between Christianity and Islam. The problem with his approach is it is difficult to explain in this way that in Muslim countries in the Middle East, Sunnites are fighting Shiites and visa-versa, and both are fighting Kurds. Indeed, a better explanation is found on the level of cultural dimensions. The cultural dimension “collectivism” explains why this fighting is happening. Collectivism makes people, in the first place, “loyal to their “in-group” (clan, religious faction, region, ethnic group), and in return, expect help and support from this in-group. Collectivist people put the interests of their in-group first, and some rules and values are valid for dealing with your in-group. But these rules and values are not automatically applied to outsiders. This “clash of clans” is making nation-building in Pyramid cultures difficult.

Consequences of high acceptance of unequal distribution of power.

Significant in the internal characteristic of states is the organizational effectiveness and discipline of the military bureaucracy and the judiciary (Pei and Kasper, 2003). Where these institutions are strong, nation-building becomes a less difficult task, but where they are weaker than the individuals, nation-building becomes extremely difficult. In ethnically fragmented and heterogeneous societies, the distribution of political power often assumes a rational arrangement among the ethnic group. With the conviction of non-exclusion in the power equation by the ethnic groups, the tension would be lessened, and nation-building gradually begins.

 Building and maintaining trust is an ultimate priority.

A few years ago, the American author Fukuyama (1996.) wrote a book on trust as a crucial element for development. He made a distinction between high and low trust cultures. The criticism was that the distinction was too general. Trust is taking different shapes in the various cultural dimensions (Wursten 1999;  Finuras 2013)

High-power distance: In Large PDI cultures, trust relates that superiors take their moral competence seriously. The superior will take care of you like the father/mother of a family in return for the loyalty of the subordinate. In Multi-ethnic societies, leaders must continuously show their moral competence for other in-groups than their own.

Implications of the individualism/collectivism dimension for trust

In collective cultures, people derive their identity by belonging to the in-group. The expectation is that the in-group will support the members of the in-group. This frequently leads to particularism: the core values apply to a specific in-group.  In multi-ethnic nation-states, trust must be established and maintained that all in-groups are treated the same way by the law. This means a consistent “broad rule of law” as defined above. If the restricted rule of law is adopted for nation-building, including equal rights for women, the Government should also be trusted to defend these rights if a regime changes.

Implications of the masculinity/femininity dimension for trust

In “masculine” societies, the emphasis is on being competitive. The system is orientated to accepting the attitude of “winner takes all.” In principle, one can speak of a reward system that focuses on materialistic things. Trust is based on the feeling people should have in a fair system of winners and losers. Meritocracy is expected.

In “feminine” societies, the keyword is consensus. Trust is gained if the in-groups involved feel that they are “seen” and can participate in decision-making processes focusing on “shared interest.” Conversely, mistrust in society grows if governments appear to act from a one-sided view of what is important for only one segment of society and fail to consider the needs of diverse other groups.

Trust and Uncertainty avoidance “. It is a dimension that indicates people’s need for predictability and shows the extent to which they are willing to take risks. Countries that score high on uncertainty avoidance have a strong need for formality in social interaction. Clear rules are expected. High value is again given to a consistent application of the rule of law.

Understanding History is important.

William Faulkner (1950) once said: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,”. It is usually interpreted as a reflection on how the evils of our history continue to shape the present. Faulkner also added that the past is “not even past” because what happens in the present changes how we remember the past.

At an intercultural workshop for U.N. peacekeepers, one of the participants told me the following cruel joke: During the Balkan war, a Croat asked a Serb: why are you doing this to us? Killing our men and raping our women? Says the Serb: but you did the same to us. You killed our men and raped our women. But, the Croat says that was 200 years ago. The Serb replies, yes, but I only heard about it yesterday.

Understanding the historical sensitivities is utterly important for building the “Imagined communities.” What never should be acceptable is what happened in 2001. Richard Armitage, then the U.S.  deputy secretary of state, by his own account, cut off General Mahmood Ahmed, the head of the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence, who was trying to explain to him who the Taliban were: “I said, “No, the history begins today.”(Fintan O’Tool 2021)


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



Huib Wursten is specialized in Intercultural management. Since 1989 he has been working in this field with Fortune’s top 1000 companies, and private and public organizations in 85 countries on all continents.

He has experience in translating global strategies and policies into practical consequences for management.  In his work with complex worldwide organizations  Huib Wursten developed a tool to differentiate fundamentally different value systems,  leading to 7 “culture clusters” These clusters can be seen as cultural “grammar systems” with different approaches to political behavior, societal arrangements,  educational systems, leadership styles, business approaches, and even sports. He recently published a highly rated book: “The 7 Mental Images of national Culture. Leading and managing in a globalized world.” Huib also authored 26 papers on the impact of culture. Ranging from customer service and Marketing to recruitment and outsourcing.

He is fluent in English, German, and Dutch. He has also run courses in French (with a little bit of help)



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