Saturday, February 13, 2010


The December 13, 1999 issue of Businessweek Magazine stated, “Globalization is about the triumph of markets over government. Both proponents and opponents of globalization agree that the driving force today is markets, which are suborning the role of government.” One of the areas where globalization has had a tremendous impact is in the area of culture. Culture is itself one of the most important areas of human life, every human being is born into a group and that group in turn has a culture. Globalization has been praised or derided in bringing together a global culture and ending the distinct characteristics of individual cultures. Some others claim globalization is an process that has been ongoing since the dawn of human civilization and that new technology has just simply changed the speed in which globalization is occurring and the processes of globalization are inevitable and actually beneficial for cultures and diversity in particular.
The American Heritage Student Dictionary defines culture as “ The arts, beliefs, customs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought at a particular time.” By this very definition it means that culture is not something that is stagnant but something that can change with the passage of time. With increased globalization many people fear that their cultures are changing and giving way to a new global culture. The rise of the internet and the United States' position as the world's most dominant economic and military powerful nation has led to the rise of English as the world's dominant language. Many languages have died out or are expected to die out in the future. In the year 2000 only ten media conglomerates controlled more than two-thirds of the annual worldwide revenue of the entire communications industry. (Steger, 2003, p.76) MTV which is part of the Viacom family broadcasts on every continent spreading American culture throughout the entire world. American movies, music, restaurants are found all over the world and some people are very weary of this. In particular the American movie industry not only dominates the American domestic market but also many different foreign markets. Tyler Cowen uses the example “ A Frenchman rents a Hollywood movie. A Thai schoolgirl mimics Madonna. It is commonplace that globalization is subverting local culture” (Cowen, 2002).
Globalization itself is sometimes a very controversial word. The very definition and characteristics of globalization is often debated leading to different meanings. For a definition of globalization Manfred B. Steger who is a Professor of Politics and Government at Illinois State University states, “Globalization refers to a multidimensional set of social processes that create, multiply, stretch and intensify worldwide social interdependencies and exchanges while at the same time fostering in people a growing awareness of deepening connections between the local and the distant” (Steger, 2003, p.13). Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh, Roland Robertson states, “Globalization as a concept refers both to the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole.” Jan Nederveen Pieterse states in perhaps the most comprehensive definition of globalization, “Globalization is an objective, empirical process of increasing economic and political connectivity, a subjective process unfolding in consciousness as the collective awareness of growing global interconnectedness, and a host of specific globalizing projects that seek to shape global conditions” (Nederveen, 2004, p.16). The ongoing processes of globalization have changed the economic nature of the entire world. Real time updates can lead to stock transactions processed from any part of the globe. The financial happenings of one part of the world are deeply felt in another part of the world. Manuel Castells called it a state of interdependence. This has also spread into the cultures of various parts of the globe.
Tyler Cowen in his book “Creative Destruction” argues that globalization leads to more diversity and choice in the cultures of the world rather than sameness. Cowen comments that cultures have always borrowed from other cultures to strengthen their own culture. Cowen in fact points out that globalization has helped various cultures thrive and get stronger instead of simply stagnating. Cowen also makes the statement, “Market growth causes heterogenizing and homogenizing mechanisms to operate in tandem” (Cowen, 2002, p.16). Cowen points out in the example of the music of the former Zaire how it was heavily influenced by Caribbean, American, and African influences. The music of Cuba had a profound impact on the music of Zaire and heavily influenced it especially. The Latin group Fania All-Stars concert in Kinshasa in 1974 was one of the biggest concerts in the history of Zaire. Cowen also mentions how the global interactivity helped art forms such as steel band music of Trinidad which was performed on discarded oil drums. Cowen also mentions the effect that global interactivity had in extending and preserving past culture such as the carpets of Persia and throat singing in Mongolia.
Of course many people are opposed to the effects of cultural globalization and are fighting to preserve and maintain their cultures. The government of France for example spends approximately $3 billion a year on cultural matters and employ 12,000 cultural bureaucrats to preserve French culture. (Cowen, 2002, p.3) In Canada, Canadian artists are guaranteed a certain percentage of radio play. Other countries fear the rise of American cultural dominance and put restrictions on American imports. And religious extremists in Middle Eastern lands fight to keep their lands and religions pure. Al Qaeda terrorists struck a blow against cultural globalization with the destruction of the World Trade Center and attack on the Pentagon on 9/11/01. These people blame America for the increasing secularization of their nations and the subversion of Islamic ideals. One of the manifestations of these feelings were during the worldwide outrage over cartoons done of the prophet Muhammad. The current American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have led many people to join terrorist forces and battle against the hated Americans and their ideals. Manfred Steger writes about one group of people called particularist protectionists who, “include groups who blame globalization for most of the economic, political, and cultural ills afflicting their home countries or regions (Steger, 2003, p.114). Some Americans fear the influx of immigrants in this country and their seeming refusal to assimilate into the mainstream American culture.
In conclusion cultural globalization is very controversial and has its supporters and detractors. Human beings have always exchanged ideas throughout human history and only time will tell what the future holds with the current nature of cultural globalization.

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