Book Review: Clash! by Hazel Rose Markus, Ph.D. and Alana Conner, Ph.D.


Rating: 4 / 5

In Clash!, Drs. Markus and Conner examines 8 cultural conflicts, its roots, and what can be done to ease some of the tension the conflicts create.  The cultural divides discussed are:

  • East vs West
  • Global North vs Global South
  • Men vs Women
  • Rich vs Poor
  • Business vs Governments and Non-profits
  • Whites vs People of Color
  • Conservative vs Liberal religious groups
  • Coasts vs Heartland

At the root at each cultural clash are the independent and interdependent dichotomies. The independent side values individuality and personal excellence, while the interdependent side values relationships. Clash! explores broadly how culture affects the choices we make, the lives we lead, and how we treat others.  It is insightful and really got me thinking about how I interact with people, the goals I have set for myself, and how I view other people’s actions, beliefs, and values.

I’ve been through a lot of schooling, to the tune of one undergraduate degree and two graduate degrees.  My parents had the money to help with a significant chunk of tuition, but more than that, they both obtained graduate degrees (like me, my mom has two graduate degrees).  All this to say that the environment I grew up in was one where my brother and I were expected to get a college education; there was never a question of what to do after high school.  Clash! has made me realize how salient that thinking was in helping me through college and beyond.  For first generation college students, that support structure is usually missing, and their parents do not understand college prep classes, college visits, and the grueling application process.  This is one of the reasons why first gen college students struggle.  Also, the reason for going to college is different for middle-class students compared to working-class students. For middle class students, it is usually about becoming the best person they can be, ‘finding’ themselves, and putting their stamp on the world.  For working-class students, one huge motivation is to give back to their families.  These are theories I’ve never thought about, so I have to commend the authors for giving me a new perspective to mull over.

As anyone can see, education is a priority for my family, so this section of the book was of particular interest to me, but I found other areas fascinating too, such as the differences between the Northeast and the South.  Chapter 8, Workplace Cultures, was also interesting in that it discussed the challenges that non-profits and governments face that for-profit companies do not have to deal with, and which make the former two less efficient.

In some areas the authors paint in overly broad brushstrokes, but overall I found Clash! to be insightful and thought-provoking. After reading it, I’m hoping I can improve my outlook and understanding of people across social, cultural, and geographic backgrounds.

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