A culturalist analysis of development

Max Weber was one of the first to explore the issue of the influence that cultures have on the economy in his book “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”. However, his analysis aimed at the influence that the values of a class of Protestant entrepreneurs had on the emergence of a logic of accumulation: capitalism. The principles of capitalism were subsequently disseminated around the world, by transcending cultuCulturalism-masquesral differences. At the same time, this same economic ideal materialised in forms that were specific to each cultural context. The fact of extrapolating Weber’s reasoning from the idea of social values that would be specific to capitalism is representative of the errors that can be attributed to culturalism.

More recently, some research has sought to explain underdevelopment and, conversely, the success of emerging countries, using values of their culture. In particular, the impressive achievements of the so-called “Asian tigers”, which consist of three “ethnically” Chinese entities (Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan) and a country deeply marked by Chinese culture (South Korea), have given rise to the idea of an “Asian model”, which would be amongst others based on Confucianism. However, one has recently become aware of the fact that the same values of Confucianism were cited in the past to explain the “tragedy” of Asia’s underdevelopment (Myrdal, 1968). Conversely, the case of Haiti leads some authors to explain its tragic underdevelopment to cultural reasons, blaming it on the voodoo religion and pervasive mistrust between people.
Our research, on the contrary, proceeds with the idea that each society is composed of a plurality of groups, values and behaviour, but that the latter can mobilise interpretive rationales that are specific to a country.


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