Lawrence E. Harrison and Samuel P. Huntington, Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, 2000.
HonestThinking: Culture Matters is a vigorous blow to cultural relativism!
Culture Matters, an anthology, discusses whether it is the case or not that a societies cultural values shapes its chances to take part in- and to develop human progress. Human progress is defined in the context as development towards the following positive values:
- Life as better than death
- Health as better than disease
- Freedom as better them slavery
- Prosperity as better then poverty
- Knowledge/education as better than ignorance
- Justice as better then injustice
Harrison and Huntington, the editors, and most of the book’s contributors answer this question with a resounding “Yes, culture matters!”
Culture Matters contain several interesting contributions, and HonestThinking particularly recommends Robert B. Edgerton’s ”Traditional Beliefs and Practices: Are Some Better than Others?”. As a general assessment it seems fair to say that the book balances delicately on the border between philosophical and empirical sociology/anthropology.
Perhaps one should view the book as an introductory manifest to a new sociologic paradigm aspiring to uncover precisely which cultural values it is that optimally further human development. – Though well, such a paradigm can’t be quite new. One owes a tribute here to Adam Smith (An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776) and Max Weber (The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 1904).
NB! Culture Matters is leniently criticized in the UN’s Human Development Report 2004 – a sign of the report’s ideological lopsidedness?
Reviewed by Jens Tomas Anfindsen, editor, HonestThinking.org.