Philippe d'Iribarne

The Successful Third World New Models Publication date : October 1, 2003

Subject to the combined pressures of globalisation and international organisations, developing countries are being told they must reform. The example of the emerging nations of Asia and South America would seem to indicate that truly motivated countries can do this successfully. According to organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, what is required is good management of public institutions and private enterprise — in conjunction with the unmitigated acceptance of the rules of the marketplace. Failure of the system can be blamed on corruption among those who hold power, murky business dealings, and a lack of democracy. Before countries suffering from these ills can take their place in the global economy they will have to undergo major reforms.
The pressing need for overhaul has left leaders and citizens in developing countries in a quandary. Most want economic modernisation and prosperity. They are conscious of their failures. They want honesty and a stronger democracy to replace corruption. At the same time, they wish to protect their identity and culture, and they have the feeling that, under cover of modernisation, today’s rampant neo-colonialism is trying to impose alien practices and customs. The result has been the denunciation of globalisation as dehumanising. This has sometimes been accompanied by withdrawal into ethnic or religious communities, by violent fundamentalism, or by hatred of the West.
There is no doubt that here lies one of the greatest dilemmas of our time. How can it be resolved? Must a nation’s modernisation necessarily take place in opposition to its profound culture? Couldn’t modernisation repose on the past?
Citing examples from Mexico, Argentina, Morocco and Cameroon, Philippe d’Iribarne points to numerous cases where companies have successfully measured up to those "Western" standards advocated by the IMF and promoted by the marketplace — simply by taking full advantage of local cultural characteristics. Of course, these successful tactics cannot be blindly applied everywhere. They can, however, serve as models of development which will reconcile modernity and tradition. And they can also serve to counter the negative effects of globalisation.

Philippe d’Iribarne is an expert on the influence exercised by different cultures on models of business management. He is a research fellow at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique and the author of La Logique le l’honneur, Vous serez tous des maîtres and Cultures et mondialisation.