Globalization and culture

Globalisation has not only shaped the economic,
political, legal and technological landscapes of
societies, it has also had an enormous impact on culture,
and how cultures interact with one another. Think about what you’ve done in the past 24
hours – what kind of food you’ve eaten, which
TV shows or movies you’ve watched, who has produced the music you’ve listened to,
slang you’ve used in conversation. Chances are, a large percentage of the cultural
choices you make in everyday life are a direct
result of globalisation. International travel, immigration and the ever-
expanding accessibility of the internet means that now more than ever, ideas, values,
ideologies, and forms of artistic expression and
cultural practice are readily transmitted across national and
cultural borders. Theoretically, these cultural flows go both ways. However, the process of cultural globalisation
has been criticised for being relatively unilateral in
practice. Critics of globalisation argue that just as trade
between nations isn’t truly free and equal under
neoliberalism because of existing political and economic
imbalances, the nature of the cultural “exchange”
that occurs is also heavily impacted by the same unequal
dynamics. They contend that the result of these
relationships is not a fair and equal cultural
exchange but cultural imperialism, where a small minority of powerful political and
corporate entities, predominantly from the West
impose ideas, values and modes of cultural expression onto the rest of the
world.Western nations and large transnational
corporations based in them are able to do this because they
have the economic means necessary to produce
a majority of the world’s cultural media, including advertising and entertainment. This then allows them to exert a significant
cultural influence over other, less economically
powerful countries. Proponents of this theory contend that not only
do Western nations export their cultural products, but in doing so, also impose their own values and
ideologies onto other nations. These extend from political beliefs, legal
principles and ethical doctrines, to beauty standards, education and
work, and attitudes towards health and medicine. Sociologist George Ritzer’s work on the
McDonaldisation of society provides us with some important insights into how this works in
practice. According to Ritzer, the presence of McDonald’s
restaurants in almost every country in the world
is significant because McDonald’s operational structure represents a
specific type of social organisation. He contends that McDonald’s promotes a
bureaucratic and rational approach to life that
favours efficiency and control over creativity and imagination, and that they sell this
way of thinking the world over, alongside their
burgers and fries. Importantly, like McDonalds, many of the most
popular cultural products exported the world over
have their roots in the United States of America. In the context of globalisation, there is little doubt
that America has been one of the key nations to
export aspects of its culture – in the form of fast food and coffee outlets,
popular music and reality TV shows – to other
parts of the world. Examples of American cultural imperialism include
brand name products, mass-produced food and, perhaps of primary importance, media and
entertainment. Hollywood films and Coca Cola don’t simply
provide a product to overseas markets; they sell a lifestyle and a specific way of seeing
the world, which is ultimately grounded in
American culture. It’s not surprising then that one of the most
common critiques of globalisation is that is has led
to the ‘Americanisation’ of the world. Proponents of this theory argue that globalisation
is responsible for upholding, rather than
challenging American cultural hegemony. This in turn leads to cultural homogenisation and
standardisation, as people begin to forego
diverse, localised cultural practices in favour of dominant modes of Western expression.At face value, it may be easy to
agree with the Americanisation thesis. Revisit your earlier assessment of the cultural
products that you consume throughout your day. A large proportion of them probably originated in
America, or have at the very least been
influenced by American culture. Popular American holidays like Halloween and
Thanksgiving have also started to creep into the
cultural milieu in various countries around the world, as more and more people celebrate
American holidays every year. However, Indian social anthropologist and
sociologist Arjun Appadurai contends that
globalisation should not be thought of as cultural imperialism, but that consideration should
also be given to the forms of cultural hybridity
and heterogeneity that emerge from globalisation. Appadurai suggests that all societies and
cultures adopt aspects of globalisation in
different ways and at different speeds, and so that rather than having a unifying impact
on them, globalisation manifests differently in
every single society. In Appadurai’s thesis, media and migration are the
most important factors to influence the global
cultural changes we witness today. However, the impact of these factors on nations
depends on a number of other considerations
such as the political stability of the state, the strength of the national economy and the
durability of cultural traditions. In other words, he doesn’t deny that globalisation
affects and shapes cultures, but he also doesn’t
believe that the result is an Americanisation of all cultures. Appadurai argues instead that cultural identities
are becoming less constrained by geographical
space or nationality, and as a result new and hybridised cultural
identities are emerging. This leads to greater cultural heterogeneity in
some respects, and homogeneity in others. What do you think? Does globaliasation lead to greater cultural
homogeneity, or cultural hybridity? What are some examples of each?

  1. Yes, quite right, thanks for the correction, Jack, I'll rework the video accordingly when I next get the chance… 🙂

  2. I'm a pre-university teacher teaching language and current affairs, needed a quick download on cultural globalisation, this was very helpful and well-linked to many other concepts, thank you much.

  3. is there a text about the things this guy just talked? Im that good at English and it would be helpful to read it.

  4. Does anyone know the name of Arjun Appadurai's thesis? I would like to read it. Many thanks! Great video 🙂

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