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Beyond Culture
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am 24. April 2017
It is a challenge, to say the least, for a book on Culture to stay relevant close to 40 years after it was written. This rings particular true in our era, since Globalization, Technology and Migrations have changed our world quite a bit since 1981. "Beyond Culture" holds up surprisingly well.
Many observations and ideas hold true in today's world. Hall's introductory point that people will not overcome the two major crisis (population/environment and relationships between people & between people and institutions) without understanding limitations imposed by our cultures and in turn philosophies and institutions rings dangerously true, given the contemporary crisis regarding migrations and religions (Middle East, China) and institutions (NATO, EU, UN).
Hall certainly can't escape his viewpoint as U.S. American educated writer, a fact he is not only aware of but cautions against several times throughout the book, well understood in the context of U.S. 80's attitude toward the rest of the world
What I appreciate is his caution and criticism towards simplified solutions in understanding the concept of culture :"to ignore the possibility of another pattern or to delude oneself by saying that all the patterns in the world are basically the same or that the differences don't matter or are mere conventions. This avoids the issue very nicely but creates the added difficulty of setting the two systems on a collision course." It is also worthwhile to dwell on the sheer number or areas he focuses on to understand culture: "The danger is that people will (as they've already done) attach a specific meaning to parts of unconscious nonverbal systems [...]". Unsurprisingly he concludes that "Culture is the mind"
It is downright relieving to not be presented simple solutions in the form of "When you meet a Japanese, bow and pass along your business card with both hands" yet again, but to learn how embedded and hidden culture is within our systems. A whole chapter is dedicated to "Hidden Culture" and another on "Rhythm and Body Movement".
One quickly realizes that studying Culture means studying your own value system, beliefs and behaviour, instead of using Checklists to get around. And this, in my opinion, is one of the strengths of this book: Hall understands that studying culture invariably leads to study oneself, or in the authors words "[...] the greatest separation feat of all is when one manages to gradually free oneself from the grip of unconscious culture". This book is a classic, easy to read, holistic in its approach. As communication expert I also found the links to the transactional analysis, Freud and McLean refreshing. If you haven't been exposed to lots of cross-cultural literature, this is a must. If you are acquainted with the topic, you might not find many new ideas, since Hall's concepts have been broadly discussed in various forms, and for good reason.
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am 4. Februar 1999
This book about culture, its underlying principles and theoretical connotations is surely recommendable. Hall leads us on a journey around the world, mixing theoretical thoughts with anecdotes for illustration. His dichotomies of high-context and low-context cultures as well as P-time and M-time cultures are still valid and used in today's intercultural studies. Enjoy it! For further reading, I recommend "Understanding Culture", written by Hall and his wife.
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am 14. Februar 2013
Auch nach über 25 Jahren noch lesenswert und anregend. Hall interpretiert Institutionen, Kultur und Technik als externalisierte Stützen menschlicher Funktionen - "extensions of man". Diese werden dann wieder internalisiert - aber weder mit diesen noch ohne diese Krücken funktioniert alles reibungslos; sie ersetzen nämliche körperliche und geistige menschliche Leistungen in einer hoch selektiven Form. Viele bleiben auf der Strecke.
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am 31. August 1996
Hall provides us with simple but logical comments on culture
and its influence on behavior. Leading us from his first
experiences as anthropologist to the creation of his well-
known communication theory (high- & low-context communication).
What does culture do for us in our daily-lifes? Do we have to
look at it from a neutral point of view or is it just one
more issues we should feel guilty about? His journey through
culture helps us identifying key-issues that all of us should
care about in general. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as
I did.
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am 24. August 2014
The topic is very interesting and E.T. Hall is an anthropological hero and pioneer, but the style the book is written in is a little old-fashioned and the details are very specific. Should be read in combination with more modern works on culture. If you are going to read E.T. Hall, you should read The Silent Language first.
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