Gelfand's thesis is that a culture is shaped, primarily, by its perceptions of internal or external threat. The greater the sense of threat, the tighter it gets with rules and norms and vice versa. Threat-driven tight cultures seek order and unity and do not allow for the ambiguities or risk-taking that loose cultures revel in. Throughout, Rule Makers, Rule Breakers, Gelfand gives many examples — both historical and contemporary — to prove how the customs that have shaped worldviews, behaviors, identities, and personal lives in any particular culture, have originated from underlying perceptions of threat. Whether a culture embraces diversity or division, its tolerance for norms deviation or permissiveness depends largely on whether it's a rule-making tight culture or a rule-breaking loose culture. (And within any given culture type there will also always be pockets of the opposite type.)
An essay published at The Millions. I write about how Voltaire's Candide inspired both my physical garden and my literary one. Along the way, I share thoughts from Virginia Woolf, May Sarton, Diane Ackerman, Adam Gopnik and . . . The Martian (by Andy Weir.)
My latest book review at PopMatters is of a nonfiction book by Prof Angela Leighton (Trinity College, Cambridge.) For all those who love to read and/or write, HEARING THINGS is about how sounds are created on the page and how readers take them in. This goes beyond just the immediate sounds of words/language.