Does globalisation pose a threat to cultural diversity? Globalisation poses a threat to cultural diversity because it is the cause of widespread cultural homogenisation. I will focus on Helena Norberg-Hodgeis 1991 book, in which she describes the recent cultural changes within a particular Indian community. In examining this text, I hope to show that globalisation truly does pose a threat to cultural diversity. In this essay, globalisation will be used as an umbrella term to describe the increased economic, cultural and political interdependence of the globe’s nation-states and their peoples.
Culture is difficult to effectively define; for the purpose of this essay, culture is the collective knowledge, behaviour and customs Of a group of people that has developed over generations. Things such as art, language and religious practices are often unique to a culture, which suggests that individual cultures possess a certain independence from others, thus creating diversity. I will make an important distinction throughout between Western culture and non-western culture, the latter referring to traditional cultures in general – the sort that encapsulate diversity, such as the culture of indigenous Australians.
Cultures are ever-evolving; change and development of cultures is a natural progression. In contrast , homogenisation and Westernisation are terms that describe negative cultural change through loss of diversity. The concepts are interconnected; however Westernisation is more effective in illustrating the inevitable social and economic consequences of globalisation. By presenting Norberg-Hodge’sevidence, this essay will reveal the large scale loss of diversity amongst vulnerable non-Western cultures due to globalisation. Homogenisation is a clear consequence of globalisation.
It describes the tendency of cultures totrend towards a niformed way of life. According to Richard Barnett and John Cavanagh, “the impact of this homogenisation on the rich cultural diversity of communities all around the world Homogenisation reduces diversity in general whereas Westernisation is a more direct form; what is occurring in the world today is hegemonisation; the cultural trend towards homogenising with Western culture. The Western, capitalist way of life is imposing itself upon cultures the world over; many are not sustainable in a world driven by Western economic and technological priorities.
Helena Norberg-Hodge is a researcher residing in Ladakh, India. She settled in the area before it was opened totourists in 1975 and has since observed drastic changes in the Ladakhi lifestyle, noting the physical development of the region: “as everywhere else in the world, development in Ladakh means Western-style development” Equally important to note are the psychological pressures felt byLadakhis who saw only the superficial successes of Western culture: ‘The sudden Influx of Westerninfluence has caused some Ladakhis… o develop feelings of inferiority”. Westernisation is a danger to cultural diversity. Professor Ali Mazrui of Binghamton University uses the term “hegemonisation” to describe he same phenomenon; the meaning is the same, as it is the Western world that has become the powerful influence: By the twenty-first century people dress more alike all over the world than they did at the end of the nineteenth century. (Homogenization). But the dress code which is getting globalized is overwhelmingly the Western dress code (Hegemonization).
The way in which Mazrui exemplifies both terms makes the distinction between the two concepts clearer, and shows how Western hegemony is potentially a threat to cultural diversity as an inevitable characteristic of globalisation. Westernisation due to globalisation causes a variety of social and economic problems. Due to changes in education, politics and technology, as well as the ever-growing international tourist market, culture is becoming a redundant term.
Nordberg-Hodge addresses these changes by introducing the reader to certain people, whose way of life has significantly changed, creating a powerful image at a personal, relatable level. Western tourism, television and technology create an appealing image of a wealthy, carefree life and it is this illusion that draws in the non-western cultures, who are oblivious to any egative aspects of Western culture: They cannot so readily see the social or psychological dimensions the stress, the loneliness, the fear of growing old.
Nor can they see environmental decay, inflation, or unemployment. On the other hand, they know their own culture inside out , Including all its limitations and imperfections. Norberg-Hodge consistently mentions the strength of traditional Ladakhi culture. This brings to light how aesthetically influential Western culture is; people become willing to abandon their present ways of life to adopt a virtually unknown, untraditional future. On the other hand, Western views of raditional cultures are of primitive, poverty-stricken peoples.
With uneducated comparisons between Ladakhi culture and their own, Western tourists fail to acknowledge “the psychological, social, and spiritual wealth of the Ladakhis”. 6 The intrinsic value of traditional cultures can be easily lost in tourist brochures and sparkling hotel rooms. The mutual inability for Western and non-western culture to relate means the more aesthetically appealing Western culture is quickly able to dominate regions and societies. However, it also creates social and economic imbalance within even small towns.