Negotiating Beyond an Essentialised Culture Model: The Use and Abuse of Cultural Distance Models in International Management Studies
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The analysis of international negotiations at bachelor and master level appears dominated by a conception of national culture (Søderberg & Holden, 2002; Shenkar et al 2008), and applies cultural distance models widely and inappropriately. Few business encounters are actually national in nature, being rather encounters between individuals or small groups with developed cultural practices and behaviours. There is a parallel tendency for users to abuse the models by failing to recognise the impact of relative power and agency; by ignoring culture as construct; by eliding small and large cultures (Holliday 1999, 2011); and by falling into the so-called ecological fallacy (Robinson 1950; Hofstede, Bond & Luk, 1993). Within the dominant neo-liberal ideological context (Read, 2009) presented in much of the business and management literature, the “othering” (Devlin 2011b, 2015) of those perceived as being outside this narrowly defined norm is a constant danger. In effect, a narrow minority is often represented as the mainstream and the vast majority as varyingly exoticized others. The aim of the paper is to investigate the theoretical and practical problems inherent in the national culture distance dominated approach before reflecting on how an approach which focuses on specific communication instances can open a pathway to understanding culture formation and cultural challenges in a more nuanced way.