Cultural Encounters and Claims to Expertise in Post-Communist Capitalism
What are the mutual implications of cultural politics and technical assistance? While culture is certainly obvious to anyone who has participated in the encounter that technical assistance implies, its implication is not well understood, especially if we can expand culture beyond styles of dress and something that East Europeans have and Western experts don't. Instead, if we can think also about the stories and symbols of transition culture itself, we can rethink the engagement between Western experts and East European entrepreneurs and managers as a peculiar kind of cultural encounter laced with presumptions and power. This is effectively investigated by examining contending and complimentary claims to expertise among those differently located in the process of transition and technical assistance. This paper focuses on claims made in in depth interviews with 27 indigenous managers, expatriate managers, American interns and local fellows in the William Davidson Institute 1995 research projects. The significance of cultural know-how and language, the distribution of business competence in general and in specific tasks, and the articulation of these assessments with the power relations implied in transition culture and center-periphery relations are the main substantive foci of the paper. The paper concludes with a series of questions for those who would design technical assistance. For more information on the methodology and the Davidson Institute, see the appendix beginning on page 37.
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