Bangladesh: Is the new economy giving birth to a new culture?
Afsan Chowdhury: Culture is a fundamental element of identity. But this is a by-product of socio-economic reality. People not only share beliefs, values and norms but also use the same to distinguish one from another. Culture has been described as an onion where outer layers such as clothing, food etc. move to intermediate layers such as preference for cultural and entertainment products core values including issues of belief, language, caste and ethnic origin etc. But a structural analysis of culture is not the above but the patterns of social behavior that arise as a result of internal and external factors that determine the dominance of elements, latent choice processes. It is about changing the social mind.
Applied Model of Culture: Professor Griert Hofstede of the Netherlands developed a popular model of identifying national culture. His model is essentially anthropological in nature according to which there are six main elements in culture formation. 1. Power Distance (PDI): How prepared less powerful members of a state/society are to accept power inequality. 2. Individualism (IDV): Preference for a loose social structure in which individuals are expected to care only for themselves and their immediate families. 3. Masculinity vs. Femininity (MAS): Masculinity represents a preference for heroic achievement, which is more competitive. Priority of femininity is cooperation, modesty, caring for weaknesses, quality of life is more consent-oriented. 4. Uncertainty Aversion (UAI): Uncertainty aversion is the degree to which society is prepared to take risks. 5. Long Term Orientation (LTO): How it addresses present and future challenges. Is the society traditional or realistic? 6. Indulgence (IVR): It deals with the gratification of basic and natural human drives related to how to enjoy life and have fun. Temperance stands for a society that suppresses the gratification of needs and regulates them through strict social norms.
How useful this model is: The positive aspect of this model is that it is not intrinsic value based but social behavior based. Two categories of MAS IVR stereotypical analytic work necessitated some reevaluation of them. It was probably developed before globalization became digitalization, which means an expansion is needed. But the fundamental core can be used as a starting point for functional and other analyses. In fact all six aspects can be applied to any society. It is a matter of measuring the degree of each element present. They are not constant, new elements constantly appear to grow the list. It needs further emphasis that culture is a response to socio-economic realities that change over time. In other words they are not permanent culture of any society.
Bangladesh Scenario: A study project conducted by a local NGO-Films for Peace Foundation on behalf of an international organization identified the main elements of culture that defined the population of Bangladesh, with a special focus on rural areas. The main factors identified were that people are driven by economic needs, aspirations and ultimately the desire for prosperity as they move up the ladder. The dominant value structure is not based in tradition or belief but rather in the need for livelihood security, which is the dominant social norm. People are averse to change and risk taking in domestic/social/domestic matters but high risk in livelihood issues. Society is collective, cluster based, group driven as well as individualistic depending on the situation. Digitalization also regularly creates new communities and traditions through traditional networks. Public and private price structures are not identical; they are connected but at the same time autonomous. Social connections increase or decrease based on participants’ probability of gain, loss, or loss. Social coping styles due to increased incomes are a mixed bag as households themselves are better equipped to manage different needs. Social services are more available, social dependence has decreased even as networking has increased.
According to Hofstede’s model gendered values are controversial, societies are based on family rather than gendered values which are again based on economic change. Traditional gendered value modeling has weakened. Because more women are entering the workforce, declaring themselves heroes and achievers than ever before. Despite the official promotion of history as a political product, people deal with the past as realistically as possible. Humans are extreme realists who will use or reject history if it suits them. So cultural products are not as artifacts for survival progress. Pleasure and piety mingle comfortably together, transcending sexuality as in the West. Public display of piety through the promotion of religio-cultural products is important but the reverse may be practiced in private life though not publicly. Religion is social not theological. Another study on ‘KAP and Islam in Bangladesh’ shows that sacred rituals are less, ceremonial rituals are more. Although this is not a universal scenario, the urban-rural divide is becoming as sharp as the traditional gender divide. This is not covered in the Hofstede model. The context of Bangladesh leads to diversity, not cultural universalism. Thus from a cultural perspective, society is rapidly changing with higher incomes making disposables more available. Digitalization has led to new resource access, influence and community formation. Variation is also high which means that one transition is paving the way for the next set of changes. दभुंगद्ध.प@मसद्धार्ष.प्रस. Source: The Financial Express. Translation: Mirazul Maruf