‘We Need to Overcome the Cultural Barrier’
On May 24th –26th the Samuel P. Huntington Memorial Symposium on Culture, Cultural Change and Economic Development took place at the HSE. It was organized by the Cultural Change Institute (the Fletcher School, Tufts University, USA) and the Higher School of Economics. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met with the Symposium participants.
The recent symposium in Moscow was a follow-up to the 1999 ‘Cultural Values and Human Progress'Symposium at Harvard. The Harvard symposium was initiated by two professors - Samuel Huntington and Lawrence Harrison, currently the Director of the Cultural Change Institute at the Fletcher School, Tufts University. In the opinion of many politicians, analysts and academicians, Samuel Huntington has been one of the most influential political scientists in the world over the last 50 years. Samuel Huntington, author of the famous book ‘Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order', predicted, in particular, the future conflict between the West and the Muslim world. One of the key conclusions of the book published in 1996 was that, in the future, world conflicts will have not an ideological but a religious nature. The high standing of S. Huntington among U.S. political scientists is demonstrated by the fact that he was elected in 1984-1985 Vice President, and then in 1986-1987 President of the U.S. Association of Political Sciences.
In summer 1998 a research group from the Harvard University Academy of International and Regional Studies lead by Prof. Samuel Huntington started a comprehensive investigation into the correlation of cultural, political, economic and social development of various countries. The topic of the Harvard Symposium which involved many researchers, journalists and politicians, covered interrelations between culture and modern social institutions, analysis of connections between cultural values and progress, geographic specifics of culture development, ‘cultural imperialism'of the West and different stages of culture transformation. As a result of the Harvard Symposium, in 2000 a scientific best-seller ‘Culture Matters'edited by Lawrence Harrison and Samuel Huntington was published.
In the wake of the interest generated by the published book, Prof. Huntington initiated the Culture Matters Research Project - CMRP at the Fletcher School, Tufts University. As part of this project, over 65 researchers carried out original research around the world during a 3 year period . This unique experience was presented in various publications and collections of articles. In 2007 Professor Lawrence Harrison headed the Cultural Change Institute at the Fletcher School, Tufts University, where, together with a group of researchers and experts, he continued to study the influence of culture on the development of the humanity and develop a policy which stimulates progressive cultural changes.
In summer 2008 Lawrence Harrison met Evgeniy Yasin, HSE Academic Advisor, and they made a decision on the development of the cooperation between Harvard and Russian researchers in the area of cultural studies and on the organization of a symposium in Moscow that would become a follow-up to the 1999 Harvard forum.
During the Moscow symposium the issues discussed in Harvard were developed and studied in the following work sessions:Regional/Civilizational /National Cultures;Culture's Influence on Economic Variables;Religions and Development;Measuring culture and cultural change;The Russian case. The key tasks of the Moscow symposium were the definition and analysis of cultural factors that could activate the transition of developing countries to modernization and democratization, as well as the formulation of ideas for Russian economic and political transformation through renovation of cultural values, aims and institutions on the basis of the world experience.
In his address speech to the Moscow symposium participants Evgeniy Yasin emphasized:‘The Samuel Huntington Memorial Symposium is unique for Russia. It is devoted to the issues of culture in the broadest sense and its influence upon economics and all spheres of life of the society. It is very important that this time it is held in Russia, where problems connected with culture and national identification are of primary importance. I strongly believe that to solve our current problems of modernization and the creation of an innovative economy and to develop our democracy we need to overcome the cultural barrier, to achieve changes which will make our culture more productive'.
The Symposium programme was extremely varied and intensive, and the list of the forum participants and guests underlined its high international status. In his report on ‘The Role of Culture in Understanding the Process of Economic and Social Change', Professor Douglas North, 1993 Nobel laureate in Economics, unveiled the basics of a new analytic approach to the problems of culture and ways of evolution of the society. A speech by Josef Joffe, publisher and editor of the German weekly magazine Die Zeit, was dedicated to the analysis of the development and transformation of European culture from the Renaissance to the present day. Professor at the Department of History and Philosophy of China at Harvard University, Tu Weiming, touched on the topic of new paradigms and culture interpretation and urged the Symposium participants to avoid stereotypes in cultural phenomena analysis. In the report by Oscar Arias, ex-President of the Costa Rica Republic and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, an analysis of cultural obstacles to Latin America countries development was presented. Daniel Etounga-Manguelle, Professor at the Sorbonne University, introduced an analysis of key characteristics and basic values of African culture through the example of economic development of Tunis and Rwanda and showed the inextricable connection between cultural changes and economic progress. Deepak Lal, Honorary Professor of Political Economy at the University College in London, told the audience about cosmologic and material specific features of Indian civilization and how modern India has succeeded in reconciling modernization and the country's ancient traditions leading to economic growth. Robert Hefner, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs (CURA) at Boston University, presented the results of research into social reasons for a ‘global Pentecostal surge'as well as the expected consequences of their activity for the development of market relations, democracy and pluralism. A presentation by Richard Nisbett, Honorary Professor at the University of Michigan, was dedicated to the analysis of differences in thinking and perception by the inhabitants of Asian and Western countries. Shalom Schwartz, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, described basic cultural differences between countries by means of key cultural dimensions and suggested his evaluation of how differences between countries correlate with the direction and scope of changes in those countries in key economic parameters. Professor of Political Science at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, Ronald Inglehart, suggested a brief review of data confirming that modernization leads to long-term changes in the cultural aims of peoples and helps democratic development. Geert Hofstede, Honorary Professor at seven European universities and one of the most quoted authors in social sciences, suggested the symposium participants discuss the results of his research on the role of American culture in the development of the 2008 global financial crisis.
A report by Leonid Kosals, Deputy Dean of the HSE Faculty of Sociology, contained an attempt to apply the anomie theory to the study of Russia in comparison with other European countries. In his presentation Vladimir Magun, leading research fellow at the HSE Laboratory for Social and Psychological Studies, studied the results of analysis of core values of Russians in comparison with the values of citizens in a number of other European countries.
Yaroslav Kuzminov, Rector of the HSE, said in his speech:‘During the analysis of key publications, a typical understanding of culture by economists either as a system of over-biological human adaptation or as inherited specifics of economic institutions can be seen. The first definition of culture is too broad, and the second is too narrow'. The point of the HSE Rector's report entitled ‘Culture as a Tool for Economic Analysis'was a way to link culture to the category system of the new institutional economy and to the category system of education theory. According to Yaroslav Kuzminov, such an approach lets us operationalize the idea of culture and proceed to the instrumental analysis of culture as an economic phenomenon.
Lawrence Harrison's words addressed to the symposium participants expressed not only the contents and idea of the symposium programme, but the researchers'desire to be heard:‘Culture is neither monolithic nor permanent. It is constantly moving. We admit and emphasize that the need for cultural change should be born inside a society. Externally imposed transformations are doomed to fail. But for committed political leaders within a society, cultural changes are realizable. They can be achieved through concrete and practicable initiatives, including, for example, improving the methods of child-rearing, reforming education, stimulating progressive leaders, use of media, cooperation with leaders of religious organizations and transformation of the legal system'.
On May 26th the participants of the Samuel P. Huntington Memorial Symposium on Culture, Cultural Change and Economic Development met with the President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev. The meeting gave hope that the results of research unveiled by leading experts at the Moscow forum will be of interest for political leaders from Russian government and other countries. Especially as the Russian President said in his welcoming speech to the meeting participants:‘...the relation between culture, ethics, and economic development becomes particularly evident during times of crisis. Perhaps back in 2008, the only people paying attention to the relation between these fields were scholars and those interested in these issues on a scientific level. But now, after the events we lived through in 2008 and 2009, the global interconnection between all of these things becomes apparent, as does the need for a broader approach to addressing economic problems.'
Valentina Gruzintseva, HSE News Service