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August 15, 2007

'Culture' and 'culture' are dead

John Stoehr

Perhaps it's time the case was made for a new definition . . .

It has been on the endangered list for ages, as management experts and talking heads pecked at it. ... "Culture" used to be the word used to describe activities such as listening to Bach or going to the theatre and art galleries. ... Now when you see the word "culture" it is generally being used as an all-purpose insult for people who have fallen behind the times and are reluctant to embrace new practices introduced by boardroom barbarians or government gorillas. "Management culture", "institutional culture", "workplace culture", "four-wheel-drive culture", "a culture of neglect"... In the past week, I have heard governments being accused of having "a culture of resisting disclosure of information", welfare authorities said to have "a culture of indifference" that affects vulnerable children, and an "anti-adoption culture" standing in the way of people wanting to adopt from overseas.

Culture has become what you have when you have a problem. ... "Culture" has become a virus, infecting government, union and PR statements and emails sent around by management, HR and consultants whose earnings are doubtless linked to the number of times they use it negatively in their final reports.

From "The respectable word that fell in with the wrong crowd" by Jenny Tabakoff for the Sydney (Australia) Morning News.

Posted by John Stoehr at August 15, 2007 8:03 AM