Measuring Culture

Formal measurement of the variables that distinguish competitive, hierarchical, and egalitarian forms of organization was proposed more than twenty years ago by Gross and Rayner (1985). To a considerable extent, their measurement scheme anticipates the approach of the PRI's social capital indicators, in that it separates out the formal (mathematically graphical) network characteristics of social relationships from measures designed to capture the quality of interpersonal relationships and expectations within any network. They proposed five "basic predicates" to measure the closeness and interactivity of networks:

1. Proximity: the average number of links that it takes for one member of the network to reach another.

2. Transitivity: the likelihood that members of the network will all know one another.

3. Frequency: the amount of time members spend with each other.

4. Scope: the proportion of members' activities that are conducted within the network.

5. Impermeability: the degree of difficulty in gaining admittance to network membership.

To distinguish the degree of social differentiation within networks, Gross and Rayner propose four predicates:

1. Specialization: the extent to which different roles are recognized within a network.

2. Asymmetry: the extent to which roles are interchangeable among members.

3. Entitlement: the extent to which roles are allocated by achievement and by ascription.

4. Accountability: the extent to which members are mutually accountable to one another or accountability is asymmetrical.

The advantage of this proposal for measuring culture over the PRI scheme appears to be that the indicators seeking to capture the relational qualities within the network are not dependent on self-evaluation or subjective perceptions of the members and seem to succeed in separating explanatory variables from the end results. However, in the two decades since they were proposed, the cultural theory indicators have seldom been employed in practice. This is not least because the measurement scheme is very resource intensive for the researcher, requiring a considerable commitment to careful first-hand observation. They are also less comprehensive in some respects than the indicators developed for the measurement of social capital. Clearly, there is considerable room for refinement of both approaches drawing on each other.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment