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Repost Marina Mahathir's article censored by The Star: Malaysia is number one in the Power Distance Index

This is another solid reason you shall not buy The Star for its selective censorship.

By Marina Mahathir

Some time last year a friend gave me a very interesting book, Cultures and Organisations: Intercultural Cooperation and Its Importance for Survival by Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede and Michael Minkov. Professor Geert Hofstede is a Dutch sociologist who studies the ways in which companies can incorporate intercultural factors in the countries they work in so that they may function better.

One of the five intercultural dimensions that Hofstede developed in this research is the Power Distance Index that looks at how much a culture does or does not value hierarchical relationships and respect for authority. The PDI measures the distribution of power and wealth between people in a nation, business and culture, and seeks to demonstrate the extent to which subordinates or ordinary citizens submit to authority. The index figure is lower in countries or organisations in which authority figures work closely with people, and higher in countries or organisations with a more authoritarian hierarchy.

Examples of countries with high PDIs are the Arab countries, Russia, India and China while those with low scores include Japan, Australia and Canada.

How does a high PDI culture manifest itself? In these countries or organisations, we would normally observe that those in authority openly demonstrate their rank and their subordinates are not given important work and expect clear guidance from above. If anything should go wrong however, those subordinates are expected to take the blame. The relationship between the boss and his subordinates are rarely close or personal.

When it comes to politics, high PDI countries are ‘prone to totalitarianism’ and class divisions within society ‘are accepted’.

On the other hand, in low PDI countries, superiors treat subordinates with respect and do not pull rank. Hence you find the phenomenon in some countries where bosses and subordinates call each other by their first names. In these countries, subordinates are also entrusted with important assignments. If something goes wrong, the blame is either shared or accepted by the boss as it is his responsibility to manage. This is why we often find company bosses in Japan or Korea resigning or even committing suicide if there is some scandal in the company. Managers also often socialize with their subordinates.

In terms of politics, low PDI countries tend to be liberal democracies and their societies tend to lean towards egalitarianism. Hence you find Dutch royalty for instance cycling around town just like everyone else.

The PDI’s measurement of inequality is defined from below, that is, it is about how the lower ranks of a society or organization accepts and expects the unequal distribution of power. This suggests that both the followers and the leaders accept a society’s level of inequality.

As an example, Germany has a 35 on the PDI scale. This means that compared to Arab countries, which rank around 80, and Austria which has a rank of 11, Germany is somewhere in the middle. German society does not have a large gap between the rich and poor but has a strong belief in equality for every citizen. This means that every German has an opportunity to rise in society.

On the other hand, the US has a PDI of 40. Although still in the middle of the scale, there is a more unequal distribution of wealth compared to German society, a gap that seems to be widening as the years go by. This explains the recent explosion of the Occupy Movement, because the distribution of wealth between the top 1% and other 99% seems to have become extremely unequal.

When you look at the PDI measurements of many countries, a pattern seems to emerge. Those at the top end seem to be less developed than others. They also seem to be undemocratic or at the very least very imperfect democracies. They are the type of countries where you are likely to see leaders who are kept both physically and psychologically distant from the masses. Apart from orchestrated events, you are unlikely to see political leaders in anything except limousines and VIP rooms.

So after reading all of this, and sensing something familiar, where do you think Malaysia stands in the PDI rankings? Do we have our leaders ‘openly demonstrating their rank’? Despite constant exhortations to ‘go down to the grassroots’, our leaders rarely are addressed in anything but the most respectful titles and terms. Some of their subordinates may take on important jobs but they will shoulder 100% of the blame should anything go wrong, even when it’s not really their fault. Our people do tend to wait for instructions from above and feel somewhat lost if we don’t get clear ones. Our mindset remains largely feudal.

Thus it should come as no surprise that Malaysia, with an index of 104, tops the PDI rankings.

The comment board with Facebook account.
Yus says:

Today, Malaysia is on the way to join Greece and if Malaysians don’t wake up NOW, throw the present UMNO B / BN govt. out, the future generations will suffer. Our women folks will work as maids in Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore …. our men will have to become construction workers and be called malaichai by the banglas. Agree????????

nkkhoo says:

I already make the same conclusion in earlier post…Our women will be exported as prostitutes in foreign lands by 2020.

Yus says:

“Our women will be exported as prostitutes in foreign lands by 2020”.
Gagak Hitam Syndicate has made it happened in 2012, 8 years ahead.

Jayson says:

Facebook is accelerating the process:

niceguy says:

This reminded me of what we called “power trip” when we were in school.

A teacher was giving a strange speech on tigers leaving bones and men leaving their names at the end of class lessons. After he left, one fellow student remarked that the teacher just got a PJK pingat for his work in an extra-curricular activity.

Yeah, the teacher just went on a power trip.

A meaningless indirect boast and pat on his own shoulder; while we students from humble background with ordinary parents – rubber tappers, fishermen, employees, shopkeepers, policemen, soldiers, and other people in normal everyday professions – knew that ordinary folks without awards or datukships, without streets or buildings named after them after they passed away, contributed just as much as anyone else towards the country in their own ordinary ways.

PS. I met Marina once. I made a mistake in calling her “Miss” when asking her permission to take a photo of her. And the datin did not blink, and was very gracious. A classy lady.

Azmeer says:

Of course she is happy you called her ‘miss’ and not ‘madam’!
Try greeting her makcik and see if she can maintain the graciousness.

nkkhoo says:

Which girl is not happy with the Miss? Whenever I reply email to a lady, I always use “Miss”.

Raj says:

Ini cerita banyak susah saya nak faham. Pasal Korapsi ke?

nkkhoo says:

Go learn and improve your English.

Raj says:

Lu jangan sindir saya.
Du saya ditipu bahasa jiwa bangsa dan tak belajar Inggeris.
Itu semua salah polisi BN!

nkkhoo says:

Do you think I was studied in English school? Only those born before 60s were lucky one.

Lang says:

knowing the poor governance of bn, we must Ubah for better future.