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Separating culture from institutions: the use of semantic spaces as a conceptual domain, and the case of China

Author: Redding, Gordon S. INSEAD Area: Faculty at Large Series: Working Paper ; 2006/67/EACrc Publisher: Fontainebleau : INSEAD, 2006.Language: EnglishDescription: 46 p.Type of document: INSEAD Working Paper Online Access: Click here Abstract: The analysis of societies, and of systems of business within them, has tended to be heavily influenced by institutionalist perspectives. Many scholars using this approach include culture as a subset of institutions, but often without specifying the logic of doing so. Others remove it from the account, or acknowledge it without placing it clearly in their models. Culturalists, on the other hand, tend not to venture into the details of economic coordination and action. To resolve the theoretical challenges posed by this set of contrasting views, it is necessary to specify how culture works and how it is different from institutions. Here, culture is seen, following Sorge, as meaning relevant within a series of semantic spaces, each related to a field of action, the total integrated coherently by social axioms (after Bond and Leung) binding the spaces and the meanings within them into a total societal fabric of meaning. Institutions are seen as specific enacted rule-sets applied within the spaces. The meanings within the spaces exist independently from members. The institutional scaffolding, in contrast, has members upon whom it depends. The private sector of the Chinese economy is analyzed to illustrate the use of these categories, drawing from recent extensive empirical reports as to its functioning.
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The analysis of societies, and of systems of business within them, has tended to be heavily influenced by institutionalist perspectives. Many scholars using this approach include culture as a subset of institutions, but often without specifying the logic of doing so. Others remove it from the account, or acknowledge it without placing it clearly in their models. Culturalists, on the other hand, tend not to venture into the details of economic coordination and action. To resolve the theoretical challenges posed by this set of contrasting views, it is necessary to specify how culture works and how it is different from institutions. Here, culture is seen, following Sorge, as meaning relevant within a series of semantic spaces, each related to a field of action, the total integrated coherently by social axioms (after Bond and Leung) binding the spaces and the meanings within them into a total societal fabric of meaning. Institutions are seen as specific enacted rule-sets applied within the spaces. The meanings within the spaces exist independently from members. The institutional scaffolding, in contrast, has members upon whom it depends. The private sector of the Chinese economy is analyzed to illustrate the use of these categories, drawing from recent extensive empirical reports as to its functioning.

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