A cultural comparison can be made between the United Kingdom and Greece by examining these dimensions and their stances on each. Lets first look at power distance, which addresses the inequality of power in organizations. The UK scores a relatively low 35 and Greece is moderately high at 60. Large power distance, like Greece, indicates an acceptance of a hierarchy in which everyone has a position in society and no further validation is needed. The UK on the other hand, with a low power distance society, seeks power equilibrium and requires validation for disparities of power in organizations.
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Collectivism maintains a high interdependence within a society, where individuals presume their community will take care of them; it is based on loyalty. Individualism fosters a society that is much more independent where people only look after themselves and immediate family. The UK at an 89 is very high on individualism where Greece with a relatively low 35 nurtures a society where the community watches out for one another.
Masculinity advances material successes, high levels of achievement, and decisiveness. Femininity promotes quality, humility, relationships, and morality for the weak. The UK and Greece are most similar in this regard scoring a 66 and 57 respectively. They are both slightly on the masculine side. However, the UK is closer to the masculinity side of the spectrum. They are a little more concerned with accomplishment and heroism, while Greece maintains some reserve for the overall quality of life and Adam Smith’s fellow feeling.
Uncertainty avoidance is the amount of ambiguity a society feels comfortable with, whether you attempt to control the future or let it happen. A high uncertainty avoidance culture sustains firm beliefs and is unaccepting of radical ideas. Weak uncertainty avoidance cultures view principles inferior to practice and have a much more relaxed environment. The UK has low uncertainty avoidance at 35 while Greece is extremely high at 112. Unlike the UK, Greece does not tolerate ambiguity and deviations well. Their organizations will serve to defend conformity and certainty.
These cultural dimensions discussed are also correlated to accounting values. The UK ranks high in individualism and low in uncertainty avoidance and power distance, implying an accounting culture that would rank high in professionalism over statutory control. Professionalism allows for judgments to be made in certain situations, whereas statutory control aims to regulate how to account for each transaction without the interpretation of the professional. Greece with extremely high uncertainty avoidance would favor statutory control.
Greece ranks high in uncertainty avoidance and power distance while being low in individualism. This would correlate with an accounting culture fostering uniformity over flexibility. The UK on the other hand with low uncertainty avoidance would support a system with comparability/uniformity subject to the prerequisite of flexibility.
Greece is much more likely to be conservative with a high uncertainty avoidance and a low ranking for individualism. Conservatives tend to under value assets and profits while over estimating liabilities to hedge the uncertainties in future events. The UK with high levels of masculinity and individualism and a focus on achievement, would be prone to be more optimistic with their valuations.
With a low level of uncertainty avoidance and power distance accompanied by a high level of individualism the UK would foster an accounting culture with more transparency as compared to Greece employing more secrecy. Secrecy surfaces from a need to preserve security and elude conflict while also maintaining power disparities through restricted financial statements. Transparency appeals to the UK because they are more focused on the individual and his achievements while they are not concerned as much with the uncertainty that accompanies many company’s books.
There are many links that have been hypothesized by Hofstede and his use of cultural dimensions. However, as prior research shows, it remains very controversial as to the identification of how national systems develop their accounting policies. Much empirical examination must still be done to understand the degree of correlation between accounting and societal values. It will be important to integrate external impacts in the research to truly understand the findings. The ideas presented by Hofstede reveal promising relationships in the realm of accounting, which could prove to be crucial as we attempt to move towards a unified global accounting system.
S.J. Gray, Towards a Theory of Cultural Influence on the Development of Accounting Systems Internationally
It is clear that accounting systems across the globe are heavily influenced by culture and major discrepancies exist between IFRS and countries that have not adopted its standards, specifically the Islamic world. There is an ever-growing need in our macro quantum world to apply an accounting system that is consistent across all nations to allow comparability across international organizations. The fact that culture does play such a significant role in developing accounting policies, and that cultures are so vastly different from one country to the next, how could we cultivate a culturally acceptable accounting system? Hofstede’s analysis of cultural dimensions and accounting values could offer some insight into this growing problem.
Hofstede identifies four cultural dimensions: power distance, individualism, masculinity, and uncertainty avoidance that can be used to predict and explain cultural differences. These dimensions are then linked to accounting values in the form of statutory control, uniformity, conservatism, and transparency. Using this framework to analyze Islamic nations we can better understand their cultural and accounting values, which will help formulate a socially acceptable accounting system.
Islamic law is very collectivist, every individual is required to work and produce. They also attempt to distribute wealth through zakat, which is an almsgiving, and if that is not sufficient the government will impose a temporary tax on the affluent as a means to provide balance. This also displays a moderate to lower level of power distance by striving for equalities. Living extravagantly or in poverty is condemned, further exemplifying a lower power distance as the society aims for equalities. Muslims are expected to be socially accountable to their community so that the whole community will benefit. These ideals also embrace femininity by caring for the weak and living a life of modesty and quality. They display a low level of uncertainty avoidance by trying to eliminate any doubt or ambiguity in society, the Qu’ran is the truth and it will take care of you.
Islamic law requires full disclosure that is fair and accurate, which means they believe in transparency over secrecy. This is in line with a nation with high collectivism and femininity, while having lower power distance. They are required to keep adequate records, especially in regards to debts; they aim to eliminate uncertainty and doubt. This would put Muslims at a moderate to high level of uncertainty avoidance. Islamic accounting is conservative in nature, not optimistic. The holy Qu’ran reveals the truth and the best way of living, thus disclosure must reveal the entire truth in all faithful obligations so that investors can afford their religious responsibilities such as the zakat. It is forbidden to attempt to deceive; therefore optimistic accounting would not be advised. Islamic law would lean towards statutory control and uniformity in accounting policies to ensure records meet their strict presentation requirements.
In formulating a culturally acceptable accounting system it is imperative to fully understand the cultural differences that are unavoidable in society. We must address and embrace these differences in order to formulate a system that is satisfactory to all. Hofstede’s dimensions provide a framework for analyzing and grouping cultures to find similarities and offer insight to why there are discrepancies. The IASB can then utilize this information to help nations understand each other’s reasoning and beliefs concerning financial reporting. Using this mechanism we can come together and make compromises where necessary and construct an accounting system that will benefit the majority.
Tsakumis Campbell and Doupnik, IFRS: Beyond the Standards
Mervyn K. Lewis, Islam and accounting
Christopher Napier, Defining Islamic accounting: current issues, past roots
S.J. Gray, Towards a Theory of Cultural Influence on the Development of Accounting Systems Internationally
We live in a macro quantum world where every aspect of the global economy is becoming exponentially interconnected. There is an immense ripple effect in our society that reaches every corner of the globe. As things become more and more connected the cultural differences within our societies are becoming increasingly more evident and influential.
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There is a need for a unified accounting system in our macro quantum world as transactions and investing are taking place on the global stage. Recently there has been pressure for the rest of the world to adopt the western “conventional” accounting standards. The problem is that the rest of the world has different political, social, and commercial environments. Requiring a nation to adopt such standards is not possible without detrimental effects to the home country’s society and economy.
As Hofstede alluded to, accounting and cultural values are interrelated. Accounting practices form cultural realities and the controlling forces within the culture inherently influence these practices. If the capitalist peace is to be achieved in the macro quantum world, state and non-state actors will have to find something within that allows for a peaceful arrangement that will benefit the society as a whole.
Adam Smith believed people have a conscience formed through self-love and sympathy that is kept in check by the impartial spectator. Sympathy to Adam Smith was closer to the emotion of empathy, the ability to understand another’s feelings and being able to step in their shoes and embrace those feelings. Although, empathy is not so much a word but a capacity to actually feel the pain someone else is experiencing. As we continue to globalize it is imperative to be able to see the world from another nations point of view in order to initiate policies that will serve the greater good. If we cannot truly understand our cultural differences and the purposes behind them we will be unable to create a culturally acceptable macro quantum world.
We all have an inherent need to be approved by others; we achieve this through an understanding of the desires of others, thus being in sympathy. This is the fellow feeling. This feeling is essential to life, we need to be loved and we need to love others. Understanding the trials and tribulations of developing nations and being able to lend aid allows us to grow. This will be mutually beneficial in the long run. We cannot simply implement policies in other countries because we believe them to be correct, we must empathize with them and comprehend we are both seeking a similar end, its just the means that needs to be sorted out.
Adam Smiths concepts of sympathy and the fellow feeling apply to much more than the harmonization of accounting standards. They apply to the entire macro quantum world. Embracing the fellow feeling is one of the best ways to eradicate poverty and deriving a plan to combat healthcare issues. If we could all truly empathize with one another there would be now need for security or defense. By embracing the fellow feeling we would be able to better realize the impacts of negative externalities of energy on our neighbors.
Everything that happens in a macro quantum world has effects felt across the globe. Incorporating Adam Smith’s teachings about the fellow feeling and sympathy into our everyday lives would have major positive influences. We must set aside our selfish ways and empathize with others. Only then will we be able to truly grasp our neighbor’s troubles and come to their aid. Our selfishness leads to prolonged policy making and constant political gridlocks. More than ever do we need to realize this and do something about it. By embracing sympathy and the fellow feeling we can realize a capitalist peace in our macro quantum world.
Shahul Ibrahim, Nurtured by ‘KURF’ the Western Philosophical Assumptions Underlying Conventional (Anglo-American) Accounting
Jonathon B. Wight, Saving Adam Smith
Peter Marber, Seeing the Elephant
It has become very clear over the past decade that outsourcing of domestic jobs will be very prevalent in the future. Daniel Pink argues much of this is due to one very “scary” word, routine. As companies are able to reduce certain tasks to a series of steps that produces the same end, they are able to outsource these tasks to countries that have cheaper labor. Many tasks within the accounting profession are already heavily outsourced to India. KPMG’s tax practice utilizes their “Q-center” in India, which performs all of its routine tax preparation work. Daniel Pink argues that these left-brain attributes will no longer secure the fruitful jobs they once did. Pink suggests certain right brain attributes that we need to develop in order to prevent our position/career from being outsourced.
In A Whole New Mind Daniel Pink identifies six senses: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning as qualities to build upon that will differentiate yourself from the routine. As a professional you must be literate in design, it has become a fundamental business attribute. Design is the remedy to commodification. With the implementation of the Internet facts have become free, which eliminates its value, we must be able to put these facts in context and present them with emotional influence, thus story. The third facet is symphony; this is the ability to see the big picture and combine incongruent things into previously unrealized concepts. Empathy is the ability to step in someone else’s shoes and understand their situation; it is similar to Adam Smith’s fellow feeling. A disposition of playfulness and humor is good for you physiologically and psychologically and promotes better attitude in the working environment. The final aspect is meaning. Everyone seeks meaning in what they are doing. Pink expands on this discussing “not only for profit” companies that can generate profits, gratify their shareholders, and do right by their employees, while using a vehicle that links purpose, profit, and public spirit. The main underlying link between all of these qualities is that they are all incredibly hard to outsource and or automate, this is the key to ensuring you career does not end up overseas.
In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us Daniel Pink pinpoints three more elements: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy is the desire to be engaged and self-directed. The strive for mastery drives motivation is such a way that such things like Wikipedia have been made possible, where people devote countless hours of work in their discretionary time. We all have the desire for purpose, the desire to be part of something more. It is much like the need for meaning, discussed earlier. These elements will serve to provide the proper motivation to achieve and thus diminish the possibility of the individual being outsourced.
As an up and coming CPA, I feel confident that there are many things I can do to prevent my job from being offshored. Motivation will be key. I strive to master my craft, continuing to learn everyday and fully understand the concepts of taxation to be able to consult my clients in a manner unrivaled by tax preparers in India. Symphony will play a major role in my future. It will be imperative to comprehend the bigger picture of a company’s current affairs and future goals in order to provide the best tax planning strategies. Empathy will also play a vital role in helping clients cope with certain issues and also in acquiring new clients. The ability to grow my billable book will be an asset that cannot be achieved overseas. It will be crucial to always be learning and developing these right brain attributes that will prove to be the differentiators in the future. The key is to be able to utilize and expand upon your inherent attributes that cannot be easily outsourced or automated.
Pink addresses three questions you can ask yourself about your role in the workforce: Can someone overseas do it cheaper? Can a computer do it faster? And is what you’re selling in demand in an age of abundance/significance? We must stray from the routine and develop our right brain characteristics in order to differentiate ourselves in the future as we are shipping our left brain overseas. In our growing macro quantum world, where new avenues for labor cost reduction present themselves everyday, it is crucial in every vocation to mature these core senses.
Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind
Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us