The Cultures Beyond the Global Western and Eastern Societies

For a very long time, scholars interested in cultures and their comparison have focused on Western and Eastern societies as distinctively different types of cultures. Such a cultural dichotomy was simple and easy to understand and explain in terms of philosophical, social, and psychological phenomena of culture.

The Categories of Western and Eastern Cultures

The concepts of West and East were quite vague and mainly exemplified with Western European and Northern American countries as typical instances of Western cultures and India, China, and Japan as typical examples of Eastern cultures.

The discovery of individualism and collectivism (Hofstede, 1980/1984), as the cultural characteristics that are different in those societies, became a widespread explanatory framework that overshadowed multiple other cultural differences between those countries.

Individualistic Western and Collectivistic Eastern Cultures

Individualistic Western societies are those located in North America and Western Europe, while collectivistic Eastern societies are those located in India, China, and Japan. All other countries in the world presumably fit into one of these global groups.

See more on Western versus Eastern cultures and on Western individualistic cultures and Eastern collectivistic cultures in other blog articles.

Further studies, however, indicate that several other cultural concepts can be useful in explaining social and psychological differences between countries. Several cross-cultural studies have also demonstrated the diversity of both Western and Eastern societies that extends far beyond the United States, Great Britain, the Netherlands, China, India, and Japan (Schwartz, 2014; Schwartz & Ros, 1995).

Researchers also found that many other countries and cultures don’t fit into either the Eastern or Western groups. They are more distinctive than the simple East-West dichotomy (Karandashev, 2021).

See more on the 5 differences between Western and Eastern cultures and on the Diversity of Western and Eastern cultures in other blog articles.

The time has come to look at the diverse societies of the world beyond the global West and East. Researchers revealed the complex, multifaceted, and multilayered natures of individualism and collectivism. They uncovered and identified the diversity of social and cultural factors beyond collectivism and individualism. Besides, societies and their cultural dimensions change, evolve, and transform over time (see review in Karandashev, 2021).

All these factors require an open-minded and flexible approach to modern cultural and cross-cultural studies.

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions

Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede identified and explored six cultural dimensions (Hofstede, 2011). These are

  • Individualism-Collectivism,
  • Power Distance,
  • Masculinity vs. Femininity,
  • Uncertainty Avoidance,
  • Long-Term Orientation vs. Short-Term Orientation,
  • Indulgence vs. Restraint.

Extensive cross-cultural studies have demonstrated the explanatory power of these dimensions that extends beyond individualism-collectivism and the West-East divide (see Karandashev, 2021).

Trompenaars’ Cultural Values

Another Dutch cross-cultural researcher, Alfonsus Trompenaars, proposed two country-level groups of values:

(1) egalitarian commitment versus conservatism,

(2) utilitarian involvement versus loyal involvement.

The author and his colleagues extensively investigated these values across many societies (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1998; see for review, Karandashev, 2021).

Schwartz Cultural Value Orientations

Social psychologist Shalom Schwartz created the theories of personal and cultural value orientations and extensively explored them across many countries in the world. Cultural values that characterize societies are in focus here.

His theory included seven country-level types of values. The author organizes these cultural values into three dimensions:

  • embeddedness versus autonomy,
  • hierarchy versus egalitarianism,
  • mastery versus harmony

The author depicts these seven cultural value orientations in a quasi-circumplex structure (Schwartz, 2014; see for review, Karandashev, 2021).

The Diversity of World Cultures

In recent years, researchers have delved deeper into the global cultural variation of societies beyond the traditional East-West cross-cultural dichotomy. The extensive exploration of various cultural factors and dimensions, which I noted above, allowed researchers to construct a more diverse cultural classification of world societies.

For example, cross-cultural studies found significant variations within West and East societies in terms of six of Schwartz’s cultural value orientations (Schwartz, 2014; Schwartz & Ros, 1995).

The data collected across many countries revealed eight global transnational cultural regions of the world that are distinctively different in terms of their cultural value orientations. These are

(1) English-speaking,

(2) West European,

(3) East Central and Baltic European,

(4) Orthodox East European,

(5) Latin American,

(6) South Asia,

(7) Confucian influenced, and

(8) African and Middle Eastern.

Typical patterns of cultural values describe these eight transnational regions of the world. Researchers noted, however, that these eight types of cultures do not exactly fit into defined regions.

Many studies have shown that these cultural dimensions determine people’s experiences and expressions of emotions and cultural models of love. They bring cross-cultural research beyond widely accepted individualism and collectivism (Karandashev, 2021, 2022).