Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Part 8: Autism and Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions Theory - Indulgence v Restraint

->Part 7<-

The last of Hofstede's dichotomies, Indulgence v Restraint (IVR) was introduced via a study performed by Michael Minkov in 2010. It is the least studied of the dimensions and I only include it here because Hofstede does so on his site. At times dimensions are introduced and removed or changed later so this analysis is bound by the uncertainty of the dimension.

Generally Hofstede defines the two parts as:

  • Indulgence: a tendency to allow relatively free gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun.
  • Restraint: a conviction that such gratification needs to be curbed or regulated by strict social norms

[p232 - 232 Cultures and Organizations: Software for the Mind, Third Edition]

While Kwintessential does not have a map for this dimension (yet) I did find this map of scores corresponding to the Minkov study results. Venezuela comes out at the top of the chart with a score of 100 (this study used a 100 point scale rather than the 120 Hofstede had originally introduced). Pakistan came in at the other end of the spectrum with zero. The English speaking cluster all came in at the high 60's to low 70's indicating a fairly permissive society.

From a theoretical perspective this is the hardest for me to place in regards to the Autism subculture. Many forms of stimming for the longest time was looked down upon as unacceptable regardless of the society and certainly our general behavior has been identified as outside the norm. In the Hofstede book mentioned above there is a quote about IVR that "In loose societies norms are expressed with a wide range of alternative channels, and deviant behavior is easily is easily tolerated (p.233). I imagine a poll of most ASD in the loose English speaking cluster societies would not find them all that accepting. True Autism is not punished by death (for the most part) in these societies but when that is the measure of acceptance I think we lose any fine analysis.

On the flip side the adherence to routine and internally defined norms would indicate that as a subculture we are more on the restraint side. However each of these are defined individually and while there might be some similarities it is unlikely that ASD folk share a majority of routines/norms. Additionally the difficulties in forming relationships would pose a pseudo-caste system where everyone is broken down into degrees of how much we can communicate and relate to them.

I think it is safe to say that this debate will continue on for some time and there is no satisfying conclusion for-- or from-- me here. In the meantime I suggest we consider our parent culture's leanings in thinking about our own and then refine our thoughts on a case by case basis. In my own case I am in the United States which tolerates, and even encourages the accumulation of wealth, yet personally I have an antipathy towards people I perceive as greedy. Therefore when encountering a situation along these lines I might scale my response more along the lines of me dealing with a 'more indulgent than I' person.

And while Kwintessential does not have tips specific to the IVR dimension they provide guides on specific countries that will help. Consider Pakistan, which scored a zero, and Venezuela-- a 100-- and the tips provided there. Unlike the previous dimension (Long Term Orientation) where China could serve as a proxy for a tip sheet I think each country should be taken on a case by case basis. As an example much of Pakistan's rigidity might be attributed to the influence of fundamentalist religious views and certainly certain parts of the US could be found just as rigid. In these cases the difference is simply in which is more institutionalized at the moment.

Helpful Resources:

Target map on Indulgence v Restraint - 100 point scale rather than the 120 used elsewhere

Cultures and Organizations: Software for the Mind, Third Edition

Tips on Countries from Kwintessential

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