From Versailles to Video-Conferencing: Cross-Cultural Etiquette, Globalisation and Power

Mark Gibson, MCC, Murdoch University

Pub Talk

Thursdays at the Fremantle Hotel, corner Cliff & High Streets
Presentations start 6.30pm sharp.

26 September 2002


Recent years have seen an extraordinary growth in the area of international business etiquette or protocol, an area in which it has become commonplace to offer highly prescriptive directions on how to behave in relation to cultures other than one's own. Yet the area has received much less attention than more immediately 'political' debates around cultural difference. It often appears, both in academic writing and in media commentary, that positions on the subject can be entirely reduced to a 'culture war' between a social progressivism with roots in the 1960s and 1970s and a conservative backlash of the 1980s and 1990s, between calls on behalf of marginalised groups and accusations of 'political correctness'. The paper takes a detour from these debates in the hope of developing a more complex sense of the contexts which inform them. Drawing on the work of Norbert Elias, it argues that sensitivities about relations between different social groups is closely related to degrees of social complexity. As people become enmeshed in ever-longer 'chains of interdependence', they become increasingly exposed to the perceptions of others. Elias traced this process most fully in the development of court society in Europe ('Versailles'). Today, we must look to the etiquette of video-conferencing. But by considering the process as a whole, we gain a wider and more productive view on the relation between cross-cultural etiquette, globalisation and power.

Pub Talk | 2002

New: 23 September, 2002 | Now: 8 May, 2015