Research Sunday: a mini theory about why pluralistic society’s work

It’s a boring title, but a super interesting thing I’m reading, trust me.

Since I’m in the middle of a cross-country move, I thought I would post something interesting from my research. I’m in the middle of the end-of-semester paper for one of my classes which I’m hoping I can expand into my thesis. Either way, it’s super interesting. [Context: I’m interested in how corporate culture makes collaborating with other groups easier and harder. This section of the article is discussing how the 4 types of cultures can benefit from each other and it totally reminded me of our current political and social vibe in America right now.]


Article Credit: Weare, C., Lichterman, P., Esparza, N. (2014). Collaboration and culture: Organizational culture and the dynamics of collaborative policy networks. Policy Studies Journal. 42, 4. (590-619).


First, the authors lay out Culture Theory’s 4 types of cultures in this handy graph:

Culture Types
pg. 594


Then they say:

Within collaborative relationships, cultural difference can create tension but can also offer complementary strengths and hence collaborative advantage (Huxham, 2005; Thompson et al., 1990). In an alliance between individualists and hierarchists, for example, one would expect individualists to benefit from the introduction of hierarchal order required to enforce trades, while the hierarchists benefit from the innovation provided by individualists. Egalitarians can benefit from collaborating with other organizations to help them effect change based on their critique of the status quo, change that can be difficult to achieve due to the consensual decision making and suspicion of expertise inherent in the egalitarian way of life. Individualists profit from collaborating with egalitarians or hierarchists to the extent that cultures with greater emphasis on group can provide support for collective action. Hierarchists can profit by the critique of egalitarians, which can prevent systems of authority from becoming stagnant and unresponsive (Thompson et al., 1990). (pg. 597)


There are a lot of problems in our society today that are making a lot of people really angry: rape culture/slut shaming, Ferguson, microagressions, White Privilege, etc. Americans are frustrated with Congress and/or Obama. We wish the government had more control or less control. We wonder why it’s so hard to get “the other side” to do what we want. It’s because America is made up of Egalitarians and Individualists, and Hierarchists (the government, mostly). It’s fundamentally a question of collaboration among very disperate groups. But Weare, Lichterman & Esparza point out an area of hope. We have stuff we can offer each other. Together we’re better. That’s why democracy–as frustrating as it is–works the best.


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