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вернуться Alexey Shestopal, Margarita Silantyeva: Cross-Cultural Communication in the Current Modernization Processes: `Soft Power` of Cultural Modulators


    By A.V. Shestopal, M. V. Silantyeva[1]

The authors address the "soft power" problem through the prism of linguistic and cultural studies, sociology, policy and philosophy providing a holistic vision of the current complex process of cross-cultural communication.

The "soft power" has become a priority issue in the contemporary world. The Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov drew attention to this genuinely strategic resource in their addresses at the conference of the Russian ambassadors and permanent representatives in foreign countries[1]. In this connection the Russian language acquires special importance as without the strong support by this media it would be difficult to consolidate Russia`s positions in such spheres as economic cooperation, political contacts and support Russians living abroad and within our Motherland[2].

Who Is the Subject of Cross-Cultural Communication?

The current processes of modernization are known to represent complex multilevel interaction among different sub-systems of culture ("culture" is understood here as a socio-cultural organism) marked by some or other emphases on the system of values. Such emphases are usually connected with historical "types" of cultures or directly with specific socio-cultural organisms. Therefore the cross-cultural communication participants may be considered at least in two ways, and the difference in nuances would be quite substantial. While today the term "organism" is so far understood as a nation-state (acting at least within a legal framework as an actor of international legal relations), the "types" appear as rather vague geopolitical formations having similar platform of values in their inner structures but not posing a solid, one and forever built monolith. Whatever the case, a specific sociocultural organism would be the `dominant` and reference point at all times, and it was not without a reason that the "local types" of Danilevsky-Spengler were named in conformity with the respective terms of country- and area studies.

As for cross-cultural communication, it takes place in the foreign-policy space (and states as its macro-actors would be the players on the field) as well as in the space of domestic policy (in which case the list of actors would include major and minor social groups as well as social institutes and individual organizations, all represented by specific people).

It should be noted that the activity of sociocultural organisms is marked by the specifics of diversified globalization trends, including "glocalization". Strive of cross-cultural communication actors for the wider openness coincides paradoxically with isolationist trends. Political emotions manifest themselves in the entire spectrum of preferences - from strive for super-integration through to slip-down to the Taoist model of "letting the border of the neighbor state be marked by a crowing cock", which brings the macro-actor to a minor social group or even to a `social unit` usually of the clan type.

It should be remembered, however, that the real agents of cross-cultural communication are the real people, who are not only the carriers of certain values (in this case it would be easy to digress from the personality factor), but also free "units" of social activity capable of "opening the chain of causation from themselves".

Specifics of Modernization in the Current Conditions

A noteworthy point connected with the subject of the article is that the current phase of modernization has long ago surpassed the na?ve belief in industrial and post-industrial power as the panacea against all troubles. At the same time, such "self-surpassing" was based on the fact that certain countries reached the really high-level modernization of their socioeconomic, sociopolitical and sociocultural sub-systems. Exactly this circumstance enables them to "surpass" themselves in the "post-industrial" type of organization. Hence the well-known conclusion: indeed, these days the social space of such societies undergoes radical transformations including those of socio-psychological nature.

Another well-known point is that the economies included in the globalization processes by the principle of "catching-up" modernization don not avoid such transformations. In a sense, we can state that modernization of their sociopolitical and sociocultural clusters takes place several times as more efficiently than the socioeconomic modernization as such (industrialization and the related reorganization of social life).

In the given process, a notable role is assigned to the more intensive functioning of the aggregate communication networks as such intensification is connected with accelerated technological development, whether it is transportation of cargoes or transmitting of information, relocation of people or relocation of ideas and values. Thus the communicative process is rightfully called the "cross-cultural communication" - i.e., intensive multi-aspect communication of cultural forms representing different and sometimes non-commeasurable types of sociocultural organisms.

A certain part of such communications represents the elemental reciprocal influence of adjacent sub-systems among cultures of different types (or, in terms of a somewhat dissimilar approach - among different sociocultural organisms). Another part of cross-cultural communication is connected with the more or less circumspect "influence strategies" of partnership and other than partnership types. In the logical terms, partnership suggests "soft", non-violent reciprocal influence, while its antipode, on the contrary, implies the use of some kind of explicit or implicit violence. In fact, however, imposing one`s own cultural forms as the dominant ones is present in any kind of the more or less serious interaction including partnership. Therefore, the "soft power" is a necessary component activating the mechanisms developing productive contacts to proceed with due regard of the need to lobby either party`s interests in the course of resolution of specific problems impelling the parties to interact.

"The one, who refuses to feed his army, will feed the alien army in the end" - this old wisdom can be projected easily onto the contemporary field of cross-cultural communication: "the one who refuses to lobby his interests, in the end will work for nothing else but realization of the counteragents` interests". "Cross-cultural communicators" are supposed to be aware of their actions - that is, to realize whose and what kind of interests they represent in the process of communication.

The earnest statement of facts would help to specify the limits of "softness" being discussed herein. Such limits may not extend beyond the scope of strategic interests of one`s own state and people (that, by the way, do not at all always coincide in the contemporary world), whether the "softness" applies to political, economic or cultural communication. On the other hand, the given limits may not openly neglect the counteragents` basic values as otherwise the "soft" communication would reach the phase of violence and thus fall short of being "culturally correct".

"Cultural Modulators" As a Subject of Research

So, the admissible dimensions of mutual consideration of interests suggest "value interventions" in the conditionally alien sociocultural space as exactly such interventions serve the way for its cultural "exploration" and as otherwise cultures would remain absolutely incommensurable and thus incommunicative. It`s another matter that definition of priorities in the process of communication must be subjected to strict evaluation that would help to assess the chances of one`s own position vis-?-vis the one of the counteragent. It is evident, that in this case the communicative transactions can be oriented directly to a type of communication optimally corresponding to the selected strategic line of behavior. It is also clear, that in some cases domination through active lobbying of one`s own position would not be the required optimal scenario. It is common that the wait-and-see position of letting "all flowers blossom" would produce much more efficient and much less expensive effect (the so-called "Asian diplomacy").

Therefore, consideration of axiological "foundations" of cultures determining the certain strategies and tactics of their representatives` behavior in a specific situation is a necessary component of effective cross-cultural interaction aimed at specific business results.

The "artillery preparation" for such interaction would be served by cross-cultural communication without any visible pragmatic purpose - that is, communication as such, or partnership for the purpose of cognizance. In this respect, we may emphasize the two key vectors of communication, such as:

- first, academic and amateur exploration of "alien" cultures (from ethnography expeditions through direct intelligence operations in other states);

- second, the so-called "people`s diplomacy", which is used today not only in sports, tourism and the related daily-life contacts, but as well broadly proliferates as a form of international contacts in such spheres as education[3], healthcare and other international contacts at professional level.

Descriptions of phenomenological type that fix the key features (and notables changes) of such facts form the basis for the modern cultural (and linguistic-cultural) studies, and this is especially important for the research ground of MGIMO-University. At the same time, however, it should be remembered that any phenomenological description is supposed to expressly "scan" the essence of the described events. As far as research of cross-cultural communication is concerned, such essence should be understood as vivid life of specific cultural forms, while their metamorphoses form a kernel of inner life of respective cultures. This task, being unsolvable beyond the context of cultural phenomenology and at the same time non-linkable with the latter, is a subject matter of another discipline, such as philosophy of culture.

Thus philosophy of culture is an attempt of grounded reconstruction of essential interactions among modern cultures in terms of cultural forms` movement. It is based on application of relevant methodology (phenomenology, comparative philosophy, hermeneutic analysis, axiology, modern anthropology, area-study analysis, ethno-psychology, theory of communication in the neo-rhetoric context of the 20th century, civilization-related approach, theory of governance, sociology, conflict-resolution studies, geopolitics, etc.).

Referring to concrete pragmatic results of such studies, we should emphasize that they "`approach" resolution of most important practical tasks including those of business and even economic nature. It has been known since long ago that knowing your partner would contribute to better understanding and facilitate attainment of possible agreements. Success in this sphere of ethno-psychology suggests profound study of "axiological foundations" and spiritual axiomatic of cultures as well as trends of their eventual transformation. Having the "updated" data of such kind is a necessary precondition for successful communication in any sphere. However, knowledge of the foundations is undergoing very slow transformation and being the "bearing constructions" of "our" and "alien" cultures is a no less important component needed for proper orientation in business relations with representatives of other cultures. "Mutations" of values caused by contemporary migration processes are a separate subject. At the same time, reflection on "strengths" and "weaknesses" of ones` own culture is also a powerful factor making it possible to modulate activity of any, from business to political profile by means of "soft power".

MGIMO School of Philosophy and Cultural Studies:

Theory, Practice and Pragmatics

The said approaches suggest that the MGIMO research ground has vast prospects predetermined by available broad range of specialists of the respective profiles and by the specifics of "production process" at our university - marked, on the one part, by the representatives of different cultures (especially in the student audience), and on the other part - the faculty`s knowledge of subtleties of cross-cultural communication in the spaces of education and business transactions as well as interaction in the international legal space, international research projects, etc.

Another reason for which development of this vector seems to have good prospects is seen in the ever more severe competition, discussed by leading experts in the given field, in the contemporary (including international) space of education. The higher competitiveness of our University is a tangible result of the stronger buildup of research potential in the given sphere undertaken thanks to the MGIMO Academic Council`s Decision, realized in 2012, to open Postgraduate Courses on Cultural Studies (specialty 24.00.01: History and Theory of Culture) and Philosophy (specialty 09.00.13: Philosophical Anthropology and Philosophy of Culture).

What is important, our university is staffed with highly qualified researchers and faculty members who can conduct research activities that support the efforts taken by the faculty to engage students to discuss and study problems that would be relevant in their future professional career. The experience accumulated in the given sphere enables us to staff the process of learning in new specialties with specialists in different areas (world culture and literature, philosophy, journalism, history, linguistics, sociology, economics, psychology, law, etc.) as well as to develop cross-disciplinary research through joint efforts of the faculty and students.

One of the tasks set today by leaders of the country is to attract investments into Russia, and it must be resolved on the basis of "soft power"[4]. This objective cannot be attained without the precise knowledge of cultural specifics inherent in cross-cultural communication, and without proper consideration of the essential models for development of modern local cultures. The personality factor, which, inter alia, determines the extent of a personality`s absorption by the given agenda (and the preparedness to consider it in decision-making) is an important component of the "human capital"[5], without which there can be no talk of any (let alone successful) communication.

Materials of reports and presentations delivered at the Cross-Cultural Communications Panel Session of the 7th RAMI Convent were selected using the following logic:

- first, the singled-out bloc of linguistic-cultural and country-study subjects (E.V.Voevoda, A. V. Kagalnikova, N. N. Izotova, L. B. Karelova, M.A.M. Khalil);

- second, the presented analysis of modernization processes in post-Soviet Russia (V. L. Kurabtsev, O. L. Tserpitskaya);

- third, the highlighted methodology issues of socio-cultural transformations in the system of contemporary international life (M. L. Polischuk, D. N. Belova, A. G. Klimov, M. V. Silantyeva, A. M. Petrovitch, M. Uselatz, V.S.Glagolev).

The panel moderators would appreciate the readers` comments and criticisms on the presented views.

Cross-Cultural Communication in the Context of Current Modernization Processes: "Soft Power" of Cultural Modulators

By A.V. Shestopal, M.V. Silantyeva:

Summary: The authors address the "soft power" problem through the prism of linguistic and cultural studies, sociology, policy and philosophy providing a holistic vision of the current complex process of cross-cultural communication.

Key-words: "Soft power", modernization, cultural-study moderators, linguistic-cultural studies, philosophy of culture, axiology of culture, MGIMO School of Philosophy and Cultural Studies.


[1] Alexey Victorovich Shestopal - Professor and Dr. of Philosophy, Head of School of Philosophy at MGIMO(U) of the MFA of Russia

Margarita Veniaminovna Silantyeva - Professor and Dr. of Philosophy, School of Philosophy at MGIMO(U) of the MFA of Russia. E-mail: silvari@mail.ru


Notes
_____________

[1]V. V. Putin. Russia in the Changing World: Succession of Priorities and New Opportunities.// Vestnik MGIMO-University, No. 4 (25), 2012. p. 11.

[2] S. V. Lavrov. Russian Language: an Instrument of Our Influence. Interview by Russian Foreign Minister S.V. Lavrov for K. I. Kosachev, Rossotrudnichestvo Director in his radio program The Voice of Russia // Op. cit., p.14.

[3] A. V. Torkounov. Education as a "Soft-Power" Instrument in Russia`s Foreign Policy. // Vestnik MGIMO-University, No. 4 (25), 2012. pp.85-92.

[4] Russian Authorities Work on Mistakes in Image-Making. Moscow, September 2, RIA News Agency / E-resource: http://news.mail.ru/politics/10109360/ (date of address: 03.09.2012).

[5] A,I. Podberezkin. National Human Capital. 5 V. Vol. 1:Role of Ideology in Modernization of Russia / A. I. Podberezkin. Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of MFA of Russia. Moscow, MGIMO-University, 2012. pp. 3-6, 11-14.

Док. # 662294
Опублик.: 09.07.13



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