This paper is based on the impact of globalization on cultures. It seeks to answer the question on whether cultures are diminished or enhanced by the process of globalization. The 21st century world has increasingly become a global village. The whole world has been connected politically, economically and socially. It is now possible for people from different cultures to meet and interact freely. This interaction may affect these people’s cultures either positively or negatively. The author of this paper seems to suggest that globalization has diminished the world cultures more than it has enhanced them.
Are cultures diminished or enhanced through the process of Globalization?
Globalization broadly refers to the process through which the political, social and economic systems of different countries get integrated. It involves the flow of products, services, ideas, information, labor and capitals across national borders in the world. On the other hand, culture basically refers to the general way of life of a people. This includes their behaviors, thoughts, worldviews, actions, norms and values. Globalization is a controversial issue that has ignited hot debate in the contemporary world. Whereas some people feel that globalization is essential in that it enhances cultures, others feel that globalization is unnecessary since it has diminished world cultures.
The proponents of globalization do argue that globalization enhances cultures for the benefit of humanity. The borderless interaction between people of different countries leads to the adoption of positive aspects of new cultures. These may include new ideas and technologies which are gained as a result of intercultural communication. The new ways of doing things have helped in improving the living standards of people in different regions of the world. This cultural diversity has promoted international political, social and economic co-operation. This is realized through international organizations and movements. For instance, through international trade organizations, people from different regions of the world are able to obtain what they do not produce. On the other hand, they are able to sell their surplus production in the global market (Dasgupta, 2004).
Despite the above benefits of globalization, there are several reasons that can make one believe that globalization is likely to undermine cultures. To begin with, globalization has enhanced cultural imperialism. Cultural imperialism broadly refers to a case whereby certain nations impose their own cultural values on other nations. According to Herb Schiller’s Cultural Imperialism Theory, “Western nations dominate the media around the world which in return has a powerful effect on Third World Cultures by imposing on them Western views and therefore destroying their native cultures” (Gupta, 2006). Since the Western countries have money, they tend to produce a lot of media products, including films, comics, advertisements and many others. Due to poverty, the other countries serve as consumers of these Western media productions since they are not financially able to come up with their own productions. This way, the poor nations have ended up idolizing the Western ways of thinking, believing, behaving, acting and living. Thus the Western ideals and standards have been established as the universal ways of life; at the expense of the local ones. For example, as Heininen and Southcott (2010) observe, the United States exerts hegemonic influence in promoting its own habits and values through the news media and popular culture.
The process of globalization has led to lose of cultural identity. Due to the forces of globalization, people in the world are now living closer than it was before. As a result, the people of the world have tended to become more and more similar. For instance, people around the world have been oriented to the same food, music and clothing styles. This suggests that the human societies which were once very different are becoming more alike. Their uniqueness which gave them identity in the past does no longer exist. Today, people around the world have shown a tendency of identifying with the new lifestyles they are coming across. For instance, in the Third World, there is a tendency for young people to emulate the Western styles of clothing, eating and behaving. There is nobody who wants to identify with the traditional ways of life. This has led to the adoption of a new form of identity; at the expense of the old one (Hogan, 2005).
Globalization has enhanced the spread of capitalistic culture all over the world. The forces of capitalism have intensified in the recent decades due to increased globalization. Capitalism has expressed itself through increased reliance on markets and private enterprises. In almost every part of the world, the intervention of the state on the economy has reduced. There is an increased tendency towards privatization of public enterprises and liberalization of the economy. An example of the manifestation of capitalism as a result of increased globalization was the fall of communism in Europe. Communism had to pave way for capitalism due to the fact that the latter was globally considered as a more sustainable and adaptive system of the economy. On the same note, China and other communist countries in Asia had to undergo economic reform in order to be on level with the capitalist nations (Ghai, 1997).
The presence of multinational companies and corporations in many countries of the world has promoted a consumerist culture in the world. The people of the world are increasingly being lured into adopting similar lifestyles in terms of product consumption. A good example of how this as taken effect is the coca-colanization. “Coca-colanization” is a term used to refer to the taking-over of the world by the Coca-Cola Company. All in all, the international companies and corporations have taken advantage of the basic material desire in order to promote what are now considered as “standard” commodities. Although these commodities come in a variety of choices, they are only meant to exploit the local people. The local people are only manipulated by these multinational agencies in order for them to make huge profits and strengthen the economic bases of their own countries (Ritzer & Atalay, 2010).
In most capitalist societies, the forces of globalization have enhanced consumer fetishism. Karl Marx uses the term consumer fetishism (or commodity fetishism) to explain the mystical nature of commodities and the kind of unseen power which they have over the consumer. According to Karl Max’s theory of fetishism, the exchange-value of a commodity does not in anyway relate in proportion to its use-value. The latter kind of value can be said to be inherent in the object. However, the exchange-value of a commodity can be said to be the value the capitalist society has attached on the commodity (Schultz, 1993). In capitalist societies, it is this value that the society attaches on commodities that has enhanced the manipulation of the consumer demand. Due to increased globalization, there has been an increase in countries’ exports and imports. What makes the matters worse is that people tend to value the imported commodities than what is manufactured locally. Even if the exports are of low use-values, their exchange-value tends to increase their consumption, at the expense of the locally manufactured commodities.
According to the hyperglobalist thinking, globalization has led to the erosion of economic borders in the world. There is a free flow of capital, goods, labor and information from one region of the world to another. Economic barriers no longer exist since different countries are now able to engage one another in trade relations. Laws and rules regulating the importation and exportation of goods have been loosened. This has resulted in a free trade between different nations of the world. This breakdown of economic borders which demarcate the world is an implication that the national governments of the world no longer have power. Loosing of economic power probably results in the loosing of political power. Therefore, globalization can be said to be a force that has conquered neo-liberalism. It has brought about the end of social, economic and political democracy in the world. Other critics do argue that globalization has in fact led to the collapse of nation-statehood itself (Reuter, 2009).
Increased globalization has given birth to postmodernism. Postmodernism puts a great emphasis on collective and anonymous experience. It tends to reject sovereignty and autonomy (Keep, McLaughlin & Parmar, 2000). It opposes individualism and other capitalistic views. Therefore, postmodernism tends to present a decentralized picture of the universe. Postmodernists argue that the description of reality is impossible. They tend to believe that reality is not fixed. It is rather relative to an individual’s point of view. Postmodernisms thus support the subjectivity of the truth. One of the main features of postmodernism is that it involves the mixing of various artistic media and styles. That is why it tends to put more focus on intertextuality. Intertextuality refers to the relationship between texts. It involves the reshaping of the meaning of other texts. This may include the borrowing and transformation from another text or referencing using another artist’s ideas. As a result of globalization, intertextuality is common in the world today. Borrowing of concepts and ideas is a common phenomenon in media (Moraru, 2005). If wrongly used, intertextuality may result into plagiarism. Plagiarism is a harmful act since it leads to stealing of people’s original ideas and thoughts.
It should also be pointed out that the cultural homogeneity brought about by the forces of globalization only belongs to one side of the coin and that globalization does not create this kind of homogeneity in an absolute manner. Although globalization leads to a reduction of differences between cultures and nations across the world, globalization also enhances the multiplication of differences at the domestic level. For example, through the process of immigration, people find it necessary to travel to other countries. They go there to work, study, do business and other activities. Under such circumstances, people from different countries of the world get to interact. In the coursed of their interaction, it is common for people to get confronted with new cultures, religious beliefs and ways of behaving. When the immigrants get back to their countries, they normally face a dilemma due to the fact that they are already changed by the new cultures they encountered in the foreign countries. They find it difficult to fit in their indigenous cultures. These people end up adopting the fragments of the two conflicting cultures. In such a case, globalization can be said to contribute to the heterogenization of cultures (Hopper, 2007).
The negative impact of globalization on cultures so far outweighs the positive impact. Globalization reduces the powers of national governments and increases those of multinational business companies and corporations. It leads to lose of cultural identity since people tend to imitate new ways of behaving and acting. As a result, there has occurred cultural imperialism in the world. Western cultures have been falsely promoted as the ideal and universal ways of life, at the expense of local cultures. All these reasons are enough to ascertain that globalization is an unnecessary evil that diminishes cultures.
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