How valid is the argument that the nature and competitiveness of major economies depends fundamentally on differences in national culture?

In Business in International Comparative Perspective, you will receive marks for fulfilling the following specific criteria:

Answering the question.
You need, naturally, fully to interpret the set question; to consider key words or phrases; to decide how all parts of the question are connected (although possibly asked in two parts, there are connections that should be reflected in your answer); to devise an analysis and/or essay structure that allows you to answer the question fully; and, through analysis and thought, to determine the key issues, debates and subject matter as opposed to the peripheral or irrelevant.

Knowledge of Cases and Evidence.
It is impossible to gain high marks unless you demonstrate knowledge of countries, institutions, industries, firms, and organizational functions. Evidence enables you to avoid annoying generalizations and sweeping statements. While some cases may support one interpretation of an issue or question, other cases may not. Use your cases and evidence within an analytical structure designed to answer the question rather than just mentioning cases and authors in turn and without clear purpose.

Knowledge of Theory and Literature.
You need to demonstrate an understanding of major authors and theories whenever relevant. But please avoid repeating the work of others at length. Often a short summary is sufficient, and the questions on the course direct you to critique and not exegesis. You should employ theories and concepts as a means of shaping your use of evidence, and theory and evidence should be synergic and not separate.

Analysis and Structure.
This is the main characteristic that defines a good assignment. You are expected to know the major literature and offer evidential support as a basic part of studying for the course. The point is whether you have thought about the material, and whether you can use it to argue coherently and analytically in response to a set problem. The insights implicit in your analysis should be reflected in the design of your assignment structure, which, in turn, should be apparent to the marker.

It should be no surprise on this course that you have to offer comparisons. It is better to avoid the sequential outline of cases, by which is meant a discussion of (say) the US, Germany, the UK, Japan and China in turn and separately. The approach causes problems in the design of an analytical structure, and it is not directly comparative because you treat each example separately. Place evidence from each nation within the issues set by an analytical structure: that is, if you were to discuss comparative human resources, place choices of evidence from Germany, UK, US, Japan and China into most of the assignment sections dealing with key issues such as training, management education, employment systems, trade unions, etc.

Analysis, Structure and Comparisons
In planning your presentations and assignments, it is valuable to consider several issues:
Decide on your answer to the question or your point of view before you begin. That is, interpret the set question insightfully with both full understanding of its context and implications and an appreciation of its various dimensions and issues.
Include an analysis or description of relevant theories and concepts, blend them with (only) germane evidence and cases, and support your view with theoretical understanding, evidence and cases.
To achieve this objective, you must plan your analytical structure carefully and be in a position to establish links between its different sections. That is, do not lose the thematic thread that unites the various aspects of your essay, and ensure that your use of theory, concepts, evidence and analytical structure lead you towards the answer you have already determined.
To decide upon the core of your structure, that is the key points of your assignment answer, you must be well read and knowledgeable about the relevant major topics on the course.

Knowledge of Theory and Cases
Students are advised to use the theoretical insights and the corporate and industry examples covered in both lectures and seminars. With respect to the industry cases studied, and their relevance to particular assignment topics, the following points may be noted.

Material on pharmaceuticals is especially appropriate for R&D issues, managerial enterprise, the state and government regulation, multinational enterprise, education and human resources, national competitive advantage, culture, and to some extent other topics.
The steel industry is especially appropriate for the state, managerial organization, late development, technology, finance, national competitive advantage, production and operations, and so on.
Trade, banking, financial and retailing services are especially suited to national competitive advantage, state/regulation, technology, culture, multinational enterprise, human resources, finance, and so on.
The electronics industry is especially suited to national competitive advantage, clusters, R&D, human resources, production management, finance, managerial enterprise, the state, culture, late development, and so on.
The car industry is especially appropriate for production management, managerial enterprise, human resources, the state, multinational enterprise, finance, national competitive advantage, culture, late development, and so on.
Aerospace is especially suited for managerial enterprise, the state, R&D, human resources, national competitive advantage, production management, culture, finance, and so on.
Textiles is especially appropriate for clusters, culture, human resources, national competitive advantage, and so on

Essay structure:

8. Culture
i. Introduction. Suggest answer to the question and outline how to validate your suggested answer by clarifying the analytical structure
ii. Key Arguments. The point is to understand various cultures and the literature on Protestantism and Confucianism, but to deal with it quickly, and focus on attributes with specific business implications (work ethic, education/training, thrift and finance systems/investment, emphasis long termism etc). Use real case examples to prove your points of differences. This is never a question just about Japan, or Confucianism, but must be comparative. Students must also be aware of criticisms of culture as an explanation of economic success. This is question with difficult concepts and a clear analytical structure and precision in argument are vital. The point is to show very quickly how vaguer ideas about national culture shape specific national business cultures and how these are linked to particular business systems and management, and the last should be the focus of your discussion.
iii. Work ethic. HR systems, hours of work, entrepreneurship and rewards. In this section, always give specific case/management examples. Don’t talk vaguely about culture or work ethic. The same applies to the following sections.
iv. Education/training systems – by state and firms.
v. Thrift. Saving ratios, finance systems, investment patterns, attitudes to waste.
vi. Long Termism. Are some systems of capitalism more long termist than others? Is this due to culture?
vii. Counterargument. Does economic growth and technological/organizational needs, as well as factory/office work and urbanization, change national/business cultures, and not vice versa?


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