From ‘business culture’ to ‘brand state’: conceptions of nation and culture in business literature on cultural difference.
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This article examines changing conceptions of culture and nation in business literature from the early 1990s to the present. In the early 1990s the growth of literature concerned with depicting the cultural differences between national varieties of capitalism and business systems seemingly betokened an interest in diversity in the business world. This seeming interest in cultural diversity, however, concealed an implicit neo-liberal teleology which implies a convergence hypothesis and change in the cultural role of the nation state to that of a ‘location manager’, whose role is merely to guarantee favourable conditions for business with the minimum of state intervention. This reconceptualisation of the nation leads to the ultimate stage in this teleology, the discourse of the ‘brand state’, in which ‘culture’ is seen as just equivalent to those aspects of a country’s ‘brand equity’ which meet the requirements of instant recognisability to the outside world.