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Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress

3.7 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465031764
ISBN-10: 0465031765
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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 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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 5, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465031765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031764
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
Culture Matters is a good starting point to familiarize yourself with the arguments relating cultural factors to development. The high quality of most of the authors and the variety of topics provides a solid exposure to the several angles of the issue.
However, the book falls short of a) offering a structured and compelling argument for the relationship between cultural factors and development and b) offering enough evidence that it is not only relevant, but relevant enough to be in the mainstream debate.
It seems to be a reflection of the stage of development of this "school of thought". One finishs the book with the feeling that this school has yet to accomplish two things a) reach a much stronger logical and factual explanation of the causal relations between a society's culture and its level of development; and b) show how much culture matter compared to other variables, such as geography, natural resources, educational system, etc.
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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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Format: Paperback
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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