Soft cultures: the symbolism of cross-border organizing

 

Studies of Society, Culture and Organizations. Vol. 1/1.1995

Abstract

 

It is not always true that the concept of culture implies a convergence on one meaning, one set of values, one pattern of behaviour. This paper develops the notion of soft culture. Cultures are soft in the sense that multiple renderings of reality are accepted and legitimized. Soft culture is studied in the context of cross-national technology development projects. Such projects are loosely structured communities, as organizational actors are separated in time and space. The paper demonstrates how symbols work among those actors. In addition to the traditional uses of symbolic categorizing, in soft culture the symbols also play an important role in attracting more networks to the action and licensing a wide variety of exploratory activities. These equivocal characteristics of symbols should be considered a strength in face of overwhelming uncertainty since they allow actors to construct multiple futures and pursue them.

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Author: Kristian Kreiner & Majken Schultz