What is the summary for Beyond Culture?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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This is a book written by a famous anthropologist in the 1970s. It is a tough book to summarize in that it doesn't really have a plot and reads more like a textbook. In his classic text, Hall touches on the reasoning behind human behavior according to context.

One of the first concepts Hall introduces is that of a "high-context situation," which is a situation where communication is never verbal because everyone shares the same context. Hall gives the best example of a high-context culture as that of Japan. A low-context culture would be that of Europe. Hall then speaks about language changes according to context or accepted understanding. 

Later, Hall presents the idea of the "AC" or the "Action Chain." Just as the sound of the dual term suggests, an AC is a sequence of behaviors or actions that a group of individuals perform together. Hall gives the example of a handshake as a simple action chain, while the process of becoming engaged is a very complex action chain.  Hall then reveals how different cultures place different degrees of importance on completing an action chain.

Other chapters deal with how to get along with others whether at home, at work, or abroad. Still other chapters are about culture being completely irrational or about the red tape and politics involved in the decline of academia.  

A key factor in explaining the sad state of American education can be found in overbureaucratization, which is seen in the compulsion to consolidate our public schools into massive factories and to increase to mammoth size our universities even in underpopulated states. 

In conclusion, Hall also deals with serious issues surrounding both immigration and prejudice. This book by Hall is useful for anyone trying to understand cultural differences. 

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