Hofstede’s culture onion


About my post you want values?, I must say that people have missed the point entirely…….

The holler was not about observing (or not observing in this case) a holiday or remembering (or not) a specific date. Nor was my intention to compare Amitabh Bacchan with Mohandas Gandhi.

(Gandhi) He was as much of an icon as Anil Ambani or Amitabh Bachchan. Its only that, the youngsters do not relate to his principles anymore, says Divya…. and that is precisely my point…. That values are changing…. The kind of things people (I don’t not use the much abused word, youth here) relate to and want are drastically different…. And it reflects in everything they do…..

Geert Hofstede, a social psychologist / behavioural scientist in 1991 came up with this explanation of culture. In his view, ‘culture’ is like an onion: a system that can be peeled, layer by layer, in order to reveal the content. Imagine the whole onion as ‘culture’ and as you peel on, you see different levels which work on and influence culture (in any particular society).

At the core of his onion are ‘values’, in other words, how people believe things ‘ought to be’, what they hold dear to them. This level is invisible and is manifested through the three other layers : symbols, rituals and icons.

– symbols : words, artefacts, pictures that carry a special meaning
– rituals : such as festivals, ways of paying respect, ‘hanging out’ trends
– icons : persons admired by the society as a whole

And every generation, every society sees changes in the other three layers mentioned above. And students of social psychology (naively, according to some) believe that Hofstede was right and that values are indeed changing, going by the changes in outward manifestations…..


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