A World of Many Cultures
There are books like Culture Matters by Huntington and Harrison about the importance of culture in determining the degree of material success of different peoples and nations. While these books provide many interesting insights and provocative ideas, it strikes me as dangerous – like relying on stereotypes – to assume that cultural differences are the make-or-break factors in determining whether people are wealthy or poor. For example, to imply that Brazil will not succeed in realizing its potential because of its Catholic heritage seems to me to underestimate the potential of its people.
Nevertheless, it is important to look at cultures and know how they differ in order to understand the role that your enterprise can play in the world. Perhaps the most basic aspects of culture are religion and language. The next table shows the 1999 estimates of total global religious adherents in the major world faiths (adapted from the Encyclopedia Britannica).
Major Religions – Millions of Adherents 1999
Learning More about Cultures and Religions
Two interesting books are The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington and a book of readings by different authors, Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, edited by Lawrence E. Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington. Another very interesting book is When Cultures Collide: Managing Successfully Across Cultures by Richard D. Lewis – a very practical but highly opinionated guide to doing business in the cultures of the world. For a better understanding of world religion, try The World’s Religions by Huston Smith, the best introduction to the world’s major faiths, told story-style, or The Eliade Guide to World Religions, by Mircea Eliade and Ioan P. Couliano, an alphabetical guide to the beliefs of the world, including secondary groups.