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National Culture as a Myth


Today, attention is paid to different methods of exploration of national culture in business, social sciences, politics, and management. On the one hand, national culture could influence the way of how organizations develop their cultures, visions, and practices, following the already established standards and regulations. On the other hand, there is an assertion that national culture is a myth constructed by a nation, organizations, or individuals in an attempt to underline and falsify a collective sense of identity. Regarding the promotion of personal freedoms and democratic values in many developed and developing countries, the foundations of culture, as well as attitudes and expectations of people change, depending on the offered concepts and theories. In this paper, the analysis of culture will be conducted from several points of view, including social psychology, anthropological perspectives, and philosophical statements. It is not enough to prove that national culture is something illogical; it is more important to understand the reasons why nations are eager to impose it regularly. Being of the common ways to construct meanings in human life, national culture remains a discourse with poorly defined arguments, which makes this concept a myth.

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Definition of Culture

Intercultural interactions depend on several factors, and the awareness of communication standards, human sociality, and foundations play a crucial role. According to Mason and Evers (2010), national culture is defined as something arbitrary or even a myth due to the impact of globalization. In the investigation by Spencer-Oatey and Franklin (2009), the definition of culture is explained as a difficult process because of the existence of multiple approaches and variables. To comprehend the essence of cultural importance in modern society, there are several perspectives to be considered: an anthropological point of view, a social psychological view, and philosophical aspects.


As well as many specialized scientists and researchers, anthropologists make certain contributions to an understanding of human relationships and the development of concepts and theories. The distinctive feature of an anthropological point of view is that culture is explained as a shared set of values, rules, ideas, and behaviors of social groups that predetermine their functioning and expectations (Hudelson, 2004). Culture is understood as several patterns that are used for manipulation, as well as may be manipulated, through interventions, the purpose of which is to achieve organizational purposes (Hudelson, 2004). Spencer-Oatey and Franklin (2009) compare culture to society as memory to a person. Following these definitions, national culture is the property of a nation with the help of which people are involved in making meaning for their actions and resources (Anderson-Levitt, 2012). At the same time, the concept of human behavior is rarely applied in anthropological definitions, giving way to the importance of acquiring knowledge and interpreting experiences.

Social Psychology

In social psychology, studies focus on the distinctions that exist between national cultures. Using the discussion of Hofstede in the 1980s, Smith and Bond (2019) explain national culture as a unitary state or a “collective programming of the mind”. It is a collection of basic assumptions about life, behaviors, and beliefs that have to be properly shared and influence communication and social relationships. The concept of culture gains several characteristics, including the interaction between individuals, social groups (not several individuals) sharing similar cultural ideas, and explicit regularities for manifestation. To learn the culture and its impact, as well as dependency, on people, several theories were offered through time. For example, there is social exchange theory according to which people establish relationships and bonds to find out new opportunities. It proves that sociality needs the exchange of knowledge, actions, emotions, or other patterns that lead to development.

There is also the field that exists between social psychology and anthropology and known as evolutionary psychology. Its goal is to analyze psychological and mental traits through the prism of natural selection and functioning. In this area, the social brain hypothesis was developed by Dunbar at the end of the 20th century. This anthropologist suggested that the cognitive demands of human sociality provoke brain evolution (Dunbar, 2009). The idea of this hypothesis is that the more people are involved in social relationships, the exchange of information, and an understanding of facts, the bigger brain is required, or, in other words, the relation between brain and group size was observed (Dunbar, 1998). However, as well as any substances, the brain has its limits, and social interactions can be limited, as well as the size of the brain, questioning the appropriateness of national culture.


From the point of view of philosophy, culture is used to explain the relationships people from different classes have to develop. There are specific structural forces and regulations under which experiences, powers, and dialogues are organized. As soon as the exchange of information or attitudes occurs, social contrasts are promoted. According to Beller and Bender (2017), evolutionary approaches are shaped by culture because cooperation and coordination should correspond to social norms. People share different religious beliefs, organizational approaches, spiritual norms, and team-building rules. Following this diversity, national culture has to be interpreted as a multilayered concept, with several determinants to be considered.

Reasons for Mythicising National Culture

Some people may wonder why so much attention is paid to considering national culture as a myth. They pose many questions about why it is necessary to investigate this aspect and offer their own subjective opinions. However, one of the crucial points is that national culture makes people dependent on national stereotypes. These stereotypes are shared by society and passed from one individual to another (Wigboldus et al., 2005). Still, many stereotypes come from the outside, questioning the worth of cultural and social variables imposed by local politicians, businesspeople, or church representatives. Fiske (2012) offers two models to address the process of social categorization: the stereotype content model and the continuum model. According to the continuum model, people depend on the impressions of each other and try to respond quickly and find adequate information and motivation (Fiske, 2012). The stereotype content model states that people like to use categories and dimensions because of the intentions of different individuals to solve universal human problems (Fiske, 2012). These theories and approaches confuse and question the true essence of national culture and the role of stereotypes in human life.

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Other reasons for asserting national culture as a myth lie in the impossibility to come to one definite explanation of what all these norms, behaviors, and issues mean particularly in human life. To meet their basic needs, people have to stick to certain rules. They can borrow them from other cultures or develop on their own, but, again, the examples of other nations cannot be ignored. Therefore, the uniqueness of a particular national culture is hard to identify, proving the myth of the chosen concept. Another strong point is that the concept of culture never acts (Anderson-Levitt, 2012). The author explains that culture does not do things that can influence people but focuses on meanings or the principles according to which principles are introduced (Anderson-Levitt, 2012). People perform the role of actors (doers) who do everything possible to find out the meaning. Thus, national culture is something that has to be proved and established by organizations or individuals, which questions its power and importance for society.

Human Sociality and Communication

Human sociality is a concept that defines human interactions in a co-productive way. It means that people cooperate, share their experiences, build up theories, and strengthen their positions to expand their awareness of the world and find out the meaning. They communicate either within an organization or within a social group, which makes cooperation one of the primary conditions for culture. Besides, despite the history of previous contacts, a person remains confident that some background information can be obtained even about a total stranger. Wigboldus et al. (2005) explain that communication is a credible source of information about a person’s gender, (approximate) age, social group, and origin. Even though these characteristics are minor, they set the tone of communication and influence the way of how a recipient is accepted by other people. It is hard to understand if these expectations and attitudes are developed based on national culture, or these attitudes formulate the idea of national culture. As a result, human sociality and communication also create additional concerns about the role of culture in human relationships.

Age of Globalisation

Finally, the impact of globalization and technological progress has to be underlined in the discussion of national culture as a myth. Mason and Evers (2010) state that increasing rates of globalization question the main idea of nation-state culture. The point is that globalization presupposes the necessity for business organizations to support and promote international influence in their activities and not to follow some limited boundaries but to expand their services and attitudes to the widest possible measures. Instead of recognizing one nation as a powerful international body, there is a tendency to connect different words, beliefs, and views and create one global nation with its unique but generally accepted culture. The Internet makes it possible to communicate from different parts of the world, and globalization promotes freedoms and interaction. National culture loses its value and becomes less significant because of the necessity to find out new global standards. If today, national culture is recognizable and thoroughly studies, with time, this concept may disappear in front of globalization.


In general, the analysis developed in this paper shows that national culture is a complex concept, with multiple definitions that can be given from anthropological, philosophical, and social psychological points of view. People need to believe in something and follow a list of norms and regulations to understand the worth of order and law. However, as soon as people are doers and have to define the essence of national culture before considering it, its worthiness remains questionable. At this moment, there are many arguments to prove national culture as a myth introduced by nations, organizations, and individuals in their intention to control and set boundaries. The impact of globalization grows, removing the existing barriers and challenges and making national culture invisible.


Anderson-Levitt, K. M. (2012). Complicating the concept of culture. Comparative Education, 48(4), 441–454. doi:10.1080/03050068.2011.634285

Beller, S., & Bender, A. (2017). Speech act of promising across cultures. In Y.Y. Kim & K. L. McKay-Semmler (Eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Intercultural Communication. John Wiley & Sons.

Dunbar, R. I. (1998). The social brain hypothesis. Evolutionary Anthropology, 6(5), 178-190.

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Dunbar, R. I. M. (2009). The social brain hypothesis and its implications for social evolution. Annals of Human Biology, 36(5), 562-572. doi:10.1080/03014460902960289.

Fiske, S. T. (2012). The continuum model and the stereotype content model. In P. A. M. Van Lange, A. W. Kruglanski, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of theories of social psychology (pp. 267–288). Sage Publications Ltd.

Hudelson, P. M. (2004). Culture and quality: An anthropological perspective. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 16(5), 345-346.

Mason, M., & Evers, C. W. (2010). Comparative education: Philosophical issues and concepts. In P. Peterson, E. Baker, & B. McGaw (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Education (pp. 257–265). Elsevier Science. doi:10.1016/b978-0-08-044894-7.01453-6

Smith, P. B., & Bond, M. H. (2019). Cultures and persons: Characterizing national and other types of cultural difference can also aid our understanding and prediction of individual variability. Frontiers in Psychology, 10.

Spencer-Oatey, H., & Franklin, P. (2009). Intercultural interaction: A multidisciplinary approach to intercultural communication. Springer.

Wigboldus, D. H., Spears, R., & Semin, G. R. (2005). When do we communicate stereotypes? Influence of the social context on the linguistic expectancy bias. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 8(3), 215-230. doi: 10.1177/1368430205053939.

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