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Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress [Paperback]

by Lawrence E. Harrison, Samuel P. Huntington
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 3, 2001 0465031765 978-0465031764
Prominent scholars and journalists ponder the question of why, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the world is more divided than ever between the rich and the poor, between those living in freedom and those under oppression.

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Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress + Who Are We?: The Challenges to America's National Identity
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Editorial Reviews


"A fascinating book." -- Lance Morrow Time

"In exposing the tangle of causality and processes that link culture and economics, these essays put the debate on a constructive path." -- Foreign Affairs

"Offers hope of an important countercurrent to today's received wisdom about poverty and the fate of ethnic minorities." -- Tamar Jacoby Wall Street Journal

About the Author

Lawrence E. Harrison directed USAID missions in five Latin American countries between 1965 and 1981. He is the author of Underdevelopment Is a State of Mind: The Latin American Case, and was the U.S. member on the Haiti crisis mission of the Organization of American States in 1991 and 1992. Lawrence E. Harrison is a senior fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies and the author of Who Prospers? and The Pan-American Dream.Samuel P. Huntington is the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor of Government at Harvard University and the author of The Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of the World Order.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 3, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465031765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031764
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome MindBlowing Book! January 14, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I just started reading the book and I finished the Culture and Economics section. This book is a collection of essays by prominent sociologists and economists written in an easy to understand language (except for some sections in one essay where the authors wants to foist technical terms on you to impress or cajole you into seeing things their way but you will know and identify such people and make your own judgements about what they have to say) and it presents both point of views (the extremes as well as the middle ground).

Although there is one bad thing about the book (you cannot tell clearly which author will argue which side until you are in the middle of the essay : this is particularly the case with people who wish to state that Culture Does NOT Matter. They almost sneak up their arguments on you and beat around the bush for pages before getting there; which probably reflects on their essays).

If anything, reading this book has told me A LOT about every manner of culture including African and Latin American cultures. These are deep insights that only an observant student of that culture can deduce. It is enlightening to read them at times while at other times you go "Ok, so these people have problems, maybe I can do something about it, maybe I may not, but I would like to know more about the culture good and bad, and particularly the parts that every culture tries to hide or gloss over".

This book is a good read for all future politicians, economists, businessmen and anyone who is curious about how to interact with various cultures and what are the motivations behind the actions of various cultures. Fabulous, simply fabulous. What is amazing is the media attention a book like Guns, Germs and Steel received as opposed to this book which is simply sublime. I read passages of it to everyone I know.
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53 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Islam and Western Culture February 22, 2006
Multiculturalism is a lie. It is a lie not because it says we should tolerate minorities (we should), but because it says every culture presents an equally valid way of looking at the world (they don't). This lie has consequences. The most significant being that educators in America and Canada have abandoned teaching Western culture for fear of offending minority cultures. Policy makers in the West take our culture for granted. They don't recognize that rational thinking is not natural, and it took a 1500 year battle with the Catholic Church, culminating in the Reformation and the Enlightenment, before rational thinking became a fixture in Western culture. In the Arab world today, that battle is still waiting to be fought.

Consider the following thought pattern

1. a terrorist attack kills scores of people

2. muslims would never kill innocent people

3. therefore, the killers could not have been muslim

4. since they were not muslim, they must have been CIA or Mossad.

A person schooled in Western culture - the language of Aristotle and Socrates - will recognize the fallacies in this thought pattern: the false premise (#2), circular reasoning and logical quadruped (#2->#3), and non sequitur (#3->#4). And even Westerners without a classical education will almost instinctively recognize those fallacies, even though they don't know the technical terms of logic. Yet to a person in the Arab world, the above thought pattern seems eminently reasonable. (See [...] search for "Iraq shrine blast: Your reaction"). Rational thinking, then, is an important difference between Western culture and Arab culture.
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188 of 252 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars voices from on high April 21, 2001
Can culture determine development? There are several fair to good essays in this book: those by Lawrence E. Harrison (introduction), Jeffrey Sachs, Ronald Inglehart, Robert B. Edgerton, Richard A. Skweder (and the responses and re-responses!), Orlando Patterson and Barbara Crossette.
As the reader proceeds from one essay to the next, differences emerge, a valuable editorial choice. Some authors argue that culture is a factor, some that it matters a lot, and some, as if grasping for a magic wand, that culture is the only game in town.
The first problem that emerges is that each author has his or her own idea of development. Although Harrison in his introduction lists literacy, life expectancy, the status of women, infant mortality, democracy and human rights, most contributors limit development to economic development, and economic development to the sum total of 'things' produced or possessed. The issue of how people in general acquire these 'things' is largely avoided.
The second problem is that there is a crusade to ignore history. David Landes writes that, through observing cultural characteristics, one could have easily predicted the economic rise of West Germany, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Apparently all that money we spent in those places to hold back the Soviet Union, Red China and North Korea was wasted. They would have done it anyway. Mariano Grondona's historical and theological analysis of the role of religions is incredibly uninformed and simplistic. (You ought to be able to state someone else's position correctly before criticising it.) He even claims that, "Martin Luther was the religious pioneer of intellectual pluralism." And George III was Thomas Jefferson's best friend.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome!
Lawrence Harrison tells it like it is without the usual PhD-excuse making and apologies for American culture. Read more
Published 1 month ago by B. Leland Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent compendium of different opinions on the influence of...
I was pleasantly surprised by the opinions of the different participants. It has helped me in a book that I'm preparing about the real causes of underdevelopment in Latin America... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Juan Carlos Gómez
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking essays of uneven quality
This collection of essays resulting from a 2000 (?) symposium at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University is still relevant and well worth reading. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Walter Stechel
4.0 out of 5 stars shows culture does matter - kind of
This book contains some interesting articles about culture in politics. I think the authors do establish that different countries do have different political cultures. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Enjolras
4.0 out of 5 stars Food for Thought
An interesting group of essays - well at least most of them are interesting - exploring how culture does seem to matter as to the success of a society and/or groups within a... Read more
Published on June 11, 2009 by C. Richard
2.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read -- find out what academics think!
Well, we are very carefully approaching a point of actually *applying objective standards* to how well cultures allow their populations to self-actualize. Read more
Published on September 10, 2007 by M. Heiss
5.0 out of 5 stars Culture Matters
This book was well put together. it reflects the work of a number of intellectual authors and gives multiple opinions on this huge subject of culture in politics and world order.
Published on March 8, 2007 by T. Honce
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious academic compilation
There were a few good nuggets of information in the varied chapters; however, most of the content of this book is hopelessly dry and academic. Read more
Published on August 27, 2006 by David Q. Ziegler
5.0 out of 5 stars it really does matter
For those who wonder why some people are doing well and some aren't, this is a good book. Particularly excellent is the section on why Africa is such a mess by Daniel... Read more
Published on July 3, 2006 by Shirley Sacks
3.0 out of 5 stars Some very good chapters
Richard A. Shweder's "Moral maps, first world conceits, and the new evangelists", Samuel P. Huntington's "Cultures count", and Jeffrey Sachs' "Notes on a new sociology of economic... Read more
Published on June 18, 2006 by Frank S. Fang
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