Universalism vs. Particularism is a concept forwarded by Fons Trompenaars, a Dutch author. Basically, this dimension asks if which is more important to you, rules or relationships.
The Universalist, or rule-based, approach is roughly: "What is good and right can be defined and ALWAYS applies." In particularistic cultures, far greater attention is given to the obligations of relationships and unique circumstances.
Universalism vs. Particularism indicates how a society applies rules of morals and ethics. In a Universal society such as the U.S., rules and contracts are developed which can apply in any situation. For example, take the case of trying to cross the street at the red light. In a very rule-based society like the U.S., you will still be frowned at even if there is no traffic. It tends to imply equality in the sense that all persons, or citizens, falling under the rule should be treated the same.
On the contrary, in Asian societies like Taiwan, where particularist judgments focus on the exceptional nature of circumstances, it is likely to be OK with one if it is his/her brothers or friends that violate the traffic rule. These people are not "citizens", but their "friends" or "brothers". This difference probably explains why there have been difficulties in implementing a judicial system that is credible in our country.
Strong universalist cultures use the court to mediate conflicts. The more universal a country is the greater is the need to protect the truth. International operating businesses think more likely in an universalistic way. When universalistic business people agree to a contract relating to a high value deal there are always lawyers involved to assure that every detail is correctly mentioned and protected by a paragraph. In case one party would break a part of the committed deal it is possible to draw the consequences and sue the counterpart.
In particularisticic cultures legal contracts don’t only keep their promises...
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