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Universalists and particularists

12 May 2010

I have quite often blogged about modernity, premodernity and postmodernity. Maria Guzenko puts a different slant on it in her post on Why the Personal is often more important than the Legal in Russia: Russia101:

You might have heard or read about “legal nihilism” in Russia (little respect for the law). Apart from political reasons, this may be explained by what scholars refer to as Universalism vs. Particularism (See this entry on Chinese and American entrepreneurs and this blog entry).

In a nutshell, Universalists like the good and the evil to be defined, and once they’ve been defined, everyone’s expected to stick to these “ground rules”, regardless of the circumstances. By contrast, Particularists tend to consider the relationship with the person and the situation first to determine how much the rules apply. For instance, a member of a Universalist culture is more likely to report their friend or relative to the authorities, while a member of a Particularist country is more likely to hire someone they know personally rather than interview unfamiliar candidates.

She has some interesting examples of how this works in the way people play games.

I just caught in passing a remark from a British political commentator on TV saying that he hopes Britain soon gets back to the old-style adversarial politics, and that he dislikes the consensus politics demanded by hung parliaments. I think that too is related, but there is more on that here.

I wonder if this is present in Russian culture as part of Orthodox culture, and such things as the Orthodox concept of economia, where one bends the rules for the sake of love, on the principle of “It is better to do wrong for the sake of love than to insist on doing right because of my lack of it.”

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