Zakaria’s Cultural Incoherence

Fareed Zakaria takes offense to Romney’s recent comment about culture making the difference in a country’s economic vitality. Zakaria claims that China, Japan, and India, whose economies had been stagnant for centuries, “miraculously” took off not because of any change in these countries’ cultures, but because of the “adoption of capitalism and its related institutions and policies.” There’s no doubt that Japan’s success and the economic growth of China and India corresponds with the adoption of capitalism and democracy (or at least a significant movement from societies that are more authoritarian to those that are less). But these institutional changes are cultural in so far as capitalism and democracy are a way of life, not merely policies. Zakaria himself defines culture as the “shared historical experience that is reflected in institutions and practices,” yet refuses to credit culture and the change in culture (i.e., adopting capitalism) in these instances. Perhaps he is more interested simply in attacking Romney than in paying attention to what he is writing.

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