14 October 2014 | Book Reviews, Book Reviews 2014 | By Christophe Lachnitt
Book Review: “The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way To Understand Why People Around The World Live And Buy As They Do” By Clotaire Rapaille (2006, 208 Pages)
A book that could have been very interesting but lacks credibility.
Clotaire Rapaille is the founder and CEO of Archetype Discoveries Worldwide, a marketing consultancy firm. Prior to that, he was a psychoanalyst. The accuracy of his résumé (academic diplomas and client list) has been challenged in an investigation conducted by the French Canadian newspaper Le Soleil in 2010*.
According to Rapaille, the culture code is “the unconscious meaning we apply to any given thing – a car, a type of food, a relationship, even a country – via the culture in which we are raised. (…) It is obvious to everyone that cultures are different from one another. What most people don’t realize, however, is that these differences actually lead to our processing the same information in different ways.”
Rapaille compares his theory of the cultural unconscious to the Freudian individual unconscious and the Jungian collective unconscious, no less.
Even though it gives very interesting insights about the American adolescent culture, “The Culture Code” suffers from several deficiencies:
- Rapaille, who relocated from France to the U.S. in his forties, writes as if he was American. This contradicts his own theory that a culture is a survival kit we inherit at birth and we do the overwhelming majority of our learning when we are children. The trickery is highlighted when he talks about his son who was raised in the U.S. and, hence, has a very different culture from his;
- he presents an often simplistic view of the French culture, which hurts the credibility of what he writes about other cultures;
- he makes assertions – e.g. on Blackberry and e-commerce – that are supposedly based on his Culture Code and did not stand the test of time (the book was published in 2006).