How the “American Nations” Have Shaped USA Corporations – Second in a Series: The South

11 Nations

Historian Colin Woodard, author of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, examined the events of the past four centuries to understand the forces that drive our behaviors across the nation.

Woodard describes how the continental USA is comprised of primarily nine nations, since each region throughout the continent has a distinctive history that creates a unique identity — often times resulting in cross-cultural conflicts today. (There are another two nations located in Canada, with some spillover of the Midlands into Ontario). For simplicity’s sake, I’ve placed the nine nations of the USA into three regions: North, South, and West.


1) Yankeedom, 2) New Netherland, 3) The Midlands;


4) Tidewater, 5) Greater Appalachia, 6) the Deep South;


7) El Norte, 8) the Left Coast, 9) the Far West;

* Canada

10) New France (also exists in Louisiana — exception of New Orleans), 11) First Nation.

The focus of this blog is on the South, beginning with a brief account of the historical influences and values of each of the three nations that comprise the South; and an example, per nation, of a regional organization to illustrate how the values are reinforced and exemplified within the organizational culture.

We begin with “Tidewater.”

AREA- Tidewater

The area of Tidewater comprised of the lowlands of Virginia, Maryland, southern Delaware, and northeastern North Carolina.


Many of the so-called Tidewater elites were the unappreciated younger sons of southern English gentry.  They were unappreciated, because at the time of their relocation, the English culture was such that the first born son received the attention and riches, while the rest were typically considered somewhat a burden.  Despite being essentially disinherited, they openly called themselves aristocrats.  They were responsible for the aristocratic nuances in the Constitution, including the Electoral College and Senate – which legislators, not the electoral vote, determine who its members are to be.

Tidewater’s gentry embraced classical republicanism, meaning a republic modeled after those of ancient Greece and Rome.  Ancient Athens had the slaveholding elite, whose political philosophies revolved around the Latin concept of libertas, or liberty; which is entirely different from the Germanic concept of Freiheit, or freedom (which informed the political thought of the northern nations Yankeedom and The Midlands).  Liberty was a privilege extended to those born free; not to those born into bondage.  It was not considered a right.  As for freedom of speech in the Roman republic, only select people — senators and magistrates — had that liberty, the citizens had the right to vote, and the slaves had no say whatsoever.


Hierarchy, Tradition, Particularism (i.e. subjective on rule application), Elitism (i.e. Status orientation)

A high value was placed on respect for authority and tradition, and very little on equality or public participation in politics.  Court records demonstrate conscious bias: leniency for masters and males; harsh sentences for servants and women.  Prince Edward County, Virginia, for example, deprived blacks and poor whites from a public education, until the Supreme Court ruled that that was unconstitutional.


Individualism, Top-Down (i.e. Hierarchy), Particularism (i.e. subjective on rule application), Elitism (i.e. Status orientation)

“A great atmosphere and working environment created for employees, multiple kitchens, healthy snacks beverages, massage chairs, showers, gyms and nap rooms. A unique experience for an in-house corporate video production company, creative content, numerous work travel opportunities.  A wide variety of video programming with television-style production including, music, entertainment, food, technology, style and fashion. Very high employee turnover rate a steady stream of layoffs, including executive-level positions, causing constant worry of termination.  Too many overlapping last minutes requests often caused improper workflows and employee stress.”

“The senior management really doesn’t care much about the company except for each for their own piece.”

“Did not see growth opportunities, they all went to the pets of VP and up.  Stop promoting people who can’t get anything done.”


AREA- Greater Appalachia

The southern tiers of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois; West Virginia, Kentucky, eastern Tennessee; the Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri; the eastern two-thirds of Oklahoma: and the Hill Country of Texas.


Greater Appalachia was founded by the people from the war-ravaged British Isles, specifically Northern Ireland, northern England, and the Scottish lowlands.  Most embraced Presbyterianism.  Their experience of constant upheaval created a combative culture. Justice was carried out through personal retaliation, known as “blood feuds” – the most famous practiced by the families the Hatfields and the McCoys.  The word/verb “lynch” comes from Appalachian William Lynch, who advocated vigilante justice in the lawless backcountry of Virginia.

Their de facto currency for two centuries was whiskey (distilled corn).


Honor, Justice, Liberty, Self-Rule, Competition, Group Orientation (i.e. Clans)

So many wars and disasters fostered a warrior ethic and a deep commitment to individual liberty and personal sovereignty.  The region has provided a substantial proportion of the USA’s military, from officers like Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, and Douglas MacArthur to the enlisted men fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.  In fact, Tennessee is known as the “Volunteer State” from its reputation to willingly enlist so many men in combat. They valued individualism liberty and personal honor above all else, and were happy to take up arms to defend either.


Hierarchy, Self-Rule, Particularism – subjectivity to rule-application

“Make sure to look at everybody that does something in a department not just the top level. You have to remember that it is not always the supervisors or managers getting you the information that you may need. It might be someone that is a lower level that has come up everything you need and it is that person you should reward not always management.”

“The work life balance is the job’s biggest perks. Hours may be long during certain projects but no one is standing by the door to make sure you are in by 8.

The pay and benefits are not great, while not bottom of the barrel bad, you can find the same job (IT jobs) in the Louisville area paying over 20% more with better health insurance.

I have seen this place lay off very talented young individuals over people who had 5+ year experience who could not do 25% off what laid off person could do.”

AREA Deep South

The Deep South nation spreads across most of North Carolina; South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana; western Tennessee; and the southeastern parts of Arkansas, and Texas.


The Deep South was for at least 3 centuries (1670-1970) a caste society.  In a stratified society, class is economic and can change through hard work or marriage, whereas a caste is something one is born into and can never leave (marriage and intimate relations outside one’s caste is strictly forbidden).  However, having sex with one’s enslaved women and girls was perfectly acceptable, as long as the rich white men did it only for “fun.” South Carolinian Governor James Henry sired children/grandchildren with slaves, and said, “Slavery in the family will be their happiest earthly condition.” South Carolinian Senator Strom Thurmond (who left the USA Senate as recently as 2003, after having served for 48 years) impregnated his 16-year old black domestic help, covertly financially supported his daughter, while serving for decades as a strong advocate for segregation.

Culture Imperialism is when one culture imposes its ideals onto another culture.  The North attempted to socially engineer the democratization of the South with the Reconstruction; however, the Dixie Bloc became unified only after the Civil War because of its resistance to the Yankee-led Reconstruction.  Southerners were not ready to lose their “traditions,” “heritage,” and “way of life,” which they defended as a “Biblically-sanctioned” social system, inclusive of slavery.  Today, they continue to argue over keeping the Confederate flag prominent (See 2014 gubernatorial campaign 3-minute C-Span video, and make subtle references to the period before the war with the Latin word antebellum (ante = before; bellum = war) – such as, antebellum architecture and  “Lady Antebellum.”

South Carolina’s Bob Jones University didn’t even admit black students until 1971, and prohibited interracial dating and marriage until 2000.  A high school in Rochelle, Georgia, held its first racially integrated “private” prom in 2013; the school bowed to pressure in 2014 to officially sanction the prom.  Today, the residuals of this historical social system has worked against blacks (and women) who offer tenure (seniority), years of specialty (experience), and/or merit (MBA’s and other advanced degrees), and are frequently denied promotion opportunities or consideration.

Woodard: “The goal of the Deep Southern oligarchy has been consistent for over four centuries: to control and maintain a one-party state with a colonial-style economy based on the extraction of primary resources by a compliant, low-wage workforce with as few labor, workplace safety, health care, and environmental regulations as possible.” “They create ‘guest worker’ programs to secure cheap labor from the developing world, and poach manufacturing jobs from higher-wage unionized industries in Yankeedom, New Netherland, or the Midlands.”


Hierarchy, Particularism (i.e. Subjectivity to rule-application), High Context communication, Community orientation, Status Affiliation

The imported British ruling-class mentality of hierarchy, deference, inherited privilege, and aristocracy shaped this region’s identity.  Wealthy families assumed all of the plum and senior positions for successive generations, and openly called themselves aristocrats.  The region has been the bastion of white supremacy and a version of classical Republicanism (slave states), where democracy was a privilege provided to those not born into slavery.


Family/Group orientation, Particularism (i.e. Subjectivity to rule-application), Hierarchy, Power Distance

“There is a good work/life balance allowing for employees to spend time with family.” 

“Coca-Cola has great benefits as far as medical for both employee and family alike.”

“Management at the plant level should be based on skill sets and not friendships. Quality employee retention requires more than a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude. What exactly does HR do?”


In sum, we are each the sum of our experiences and the product of our culture.  We have been shaped and influenced by the external forces that surround us.

There’s a story behind your values.

Next, and last, in the three-part series: the West (El Norte, the Left Coast, the Far West).


Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, a “dot” person, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  Transitions made seamless.  Visit


Colin Woodard, American Nations. pp. 6, 9, 14, 53, 54, 55, 82-83, 88-89, 102, 104-105, 133-134, 144, 197, 227-228, 238-239,  264-266, 275-278, 283-284, 302

(Executive Names Withheld for Confidentiality Purposes)

*For your information only.


About Rossina

Thought Partner & Corporate Primatologist

Posted on March 16, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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