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Updated 01.31.1999


Universalism vs. Particularism.
The universalist, or rule-based, approach is roughly: "What is good and right can be defined and ALWAYS applies."  In particularist cultures, far greater attention is given to the obligations of relationships and unique circumstances.   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 judgements 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.



Focus is more on rules than relationships
Legal contracts are readily drawn up
A trustworthy person is the one who honors his or her word or contract
There is only one truth or reality which has been agreed to
A deal is a deal
Focus is more on relationships than on rules
Legal contracts are readily modified
A trustworthy person is the one who honors changing mutualities
There are several perspectives on reality relative to each participant
Relationships evolve
Reconciliation between Universalism and Particularism:  Adopt a central guidelines with local adaptation and discretion.  Some suggestions:

For Universalist

For Particularist

Be prepared for "rational", "professional" arguments and presentations that push for your acquiescence
Do not take impersonal, "get down to business" attitudes as rude
Be prepared for personal "meandering" or "irrelevancies" that do not seem to be going anywhere
Do not take personal, "get to know you" attitudes as small talk
Universalism vs. Particularism
Individualism vs. Communitarianism
Neural vs. Emotional
Specific vs. Diffuse
Achievement vs. Ascription

Books for your reference