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Is Hofstede more prominent than all anthropologists?

4 March, 2010

Reading Pal’s post about Geert Hofstede’s new book I was struck by the claim that Hofstede is more cited than any anthropologist, hands down.  I wondered how true this was and thought I’d run a quick test.  While not looking at citations, I ran a search on Google Insights of Hofstede with a couple of prominent anthropological names: Bruno Latour, Claude Levi-Strauss, Paul Farmer, and Margaret Mead.  This compares the number of times these names have been used in web searches between 2004 and 2009.

Here are  the results (n.b. doesn’t allow javascript so I couldn’t embed the graphs and have had to make do with screen shots instead).

Comparison of web searches for Bruno Latour, Geert Hofstede, Claude Levi-Strauss, Margaret Mead and Paul Farmer, 2004-9. Source: Google insights

As far as web searches go then, it would appear that there’s one anthropologist who remains way out in front of Hofstede and the rest of the competition: Margaret Mead.  Also, Paul Farmer comes out ahead of Hofstede and has had an enormous spike of interest since the earthquake in Haiti.  It’s not surprising that Mead outranks all the other names, I suppose, given that she is about the only anthropologist my non-anthropological acquaintances can name.  Even there though, there appears to be a gradual but definite decline in interest.

Another point of interest is the regional variation in Hofstede’s popularity, which stands out in Denmark and the Netherlands (and is quite high in Australia interestingly, though so are Mead and Farmer), but drops back closer to the level of other names in, say, the UK.  In the US, by contrast, Mead and Farmer are streets ahead.

Regional variations in web searches for Geert Hofstede. Source: Google Insights

One pretty massive weakness in this “analysis” is that there is no way of knowing whether the web searches are referring to the people in question.  This is going to especially be an issue with a more common name like Paul Farmer.  However, a quick look over the most prominent web searches for each of these names does show that the vast majority are referencing the appropriate people.  By contrast, when I was experimenting with this I tried James Clifford and got a huge result from the UK.  The most prominent searches there though were for a shoe store, which made that result just a tad suspect.

Okay, so it’s not particularly robust data scientifically, but it does lead me to take the claim that Hofstede is a more prominent figure than any anthropologist with a small grain of salt.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 4 March, 2010 10:04 pm

    This is very interesting. You didn’t try Clifford Geertz? Hofstede’s Amazon sales rank is higher than Geertz’s (I am talking about the best-known books).

  2. 4 March, 2010 10:27 pm

    I did try Geertz as a matter of fact. His results were almost identical to Latour’s so I left him out for the sake of clarity. What was interesting about Geertz though was that he was very popular in Central and South America, especially Columbia, Mexico and Brazil. You should be able to access the results of the search here.

  3. fourcultures permalink
    14 March, 2010 1:52 pm

    You might be interested to see some recent posts on Hofstede and national characterstics.
    The Google Dilemma: National Differences and Cross-cultural Theory.

    I was going to ask about Geertz too, but see I’ve been beaten to it. My guess is that whereas the other anthroplogists you checked are first and foremost anthropologists, Hofstede has gone a long way towards promoting his research as a practical tool for managers in multi-national and trans-national corporations, so he gets a lot of citations in the management literature.

  4. L.L. Wynn permalink
    15 March, 2010 9:07 am

    Oh, snap, Pal! Jovan took you DOWN! 😉

  5. 15 March, 2010 10:14 pm

    Right, first Jovan takes me down, and then you unmask my identity, Lisa!

  6. 16 March, 2010 12:14 am

    This doesn’t mean you lose your super powers does it Pal — err, I mean Ali?

  7. L.L. Wynn permalink
    23 March, 2010 9:29 am

    No, *you* unmasked your identity, Ali — in his post, Jovan refers to the post you published as Pal, and that’s what I was referring to, not to the comments of Ali Adolph Wu!

    Jovan, I think he definitely is losing his super powers.

  8. Alan permalink
    14 February, 2012 12:03 am

    Did these searches apply to famous anthropologists alone or famous anthrolpologists in the study of Culture?

    I am currently writing a thesis on culture and economic growth. Hofstede, in the area of culture, I would argue is the most prominent figure.

  9. 14 February, 2012 12:29 am

    Hi Alan,

    The searches were done in response to Pal’s claim that Hofstede was more cited than other anthropologists, period. Neither Pal nor I specified what their fields of study were. All the anthros I looked at though are socio-cultural anthropologists, so yes, they are in a sense all people who study culture, though I’m not sure about Culture. The big “C” in your comment, and the notion of an “area of culture”, seem to suggest that there is a sphere that we can identify as “Culture” as distinct from other spheres of social life. It’s precisely this sort of reification of culture in the work of Hofstede that Pal and others have critiqued. So in response to your query, I’m not sure that there is an “area of culture” that we can define and then say that Hofstede is more prominent in it.

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