Business Globalization: Nepotism versus Wasta – ll

Cont… Kate Hutchings and David Weir have also studied the practice of wasta, as seen in The Journal of European Industrial Training. In studying 25 years of literature concerning wasta, these investigators believe that it remains very influential and traditional in business practice.

Business culture

Wasta can be viewed as a kind of networking in which relationships matter more than structures like Western business practices. Relationships come first in the Arab world and then business negotiations can occur. This is opposite what happens in the West.

Hutchings and Weir explain that the Arab business world is characterized by Islamic practices and that all business and social life are affected by these practices. This creates networks that involve kinship ties. Wasta is the glue that holds this society together yet it is not openly discussed, so is an important component of cultural intelligence training. In terms of business transactions in the Middle East, emotional trust is more important than cognitive trust; relationships mean more than legal contracts.

There are similarities between wasta and Western practices that often goes unrecognized. Gift-giving for instance, differs from favors and is a sign of respect or affirmation in both Eastern and Western cultures. Networking, too, is a common practice in the West although it is borne out in a different manner and is based more on cost and advantages than wasta is.

Some researchers believe that wasta will wane as modernization increasingly affects the Arab world but Hooker, Hutchings and Weir believe this is too simplistic a view. First of all, the threat of change or economic risk can cause “tribal” bonds to intensify. Secondly, globalization and modernization aren’t one-way streets: cultures affect each other by coming into contact with one another. While Westerners often view law and rules as universal, relationships are the real name of the game in creating a global society.

Wasta is about social cohesion and emotional bonds, values that every society benefits from. There are certainly good and bad forms of wasta. Hooker points out that the influence of Westernization has contributed to some of these negative forms. For instance, corrupt bribes or side payments in the Middle East have evolved because of the breakdown of social bonds between interactors, because of the Western influence on the objective instead of subjective. It is influence that is important in the Middle East, and not just procedures, and the way wasta evolves, along with intercultural business, will depend on how open cultures are to learning from each other.

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