Effects of global?zat?on on culture Essay

THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL

Globalization aims to increase people’s standard of living, it gives them the opportunity to enjoy foreign products and ideas, and adopt new technologies to their lives. Some people consider it as a danger, since it may destroy and replace the local culture, causing assimilation. Others consider that globalization brings multiculturalism which promotes peace and understanding among  people. It is said that ideas from the west which people believe to be global are taking over local customs.

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I do not agree with this idea, because globalization does not only provoke resistance, but also the universal ideas involved in globalization are understood differently according to a society’s point of view. Some think globalization forces all people into a consumerist culture at the expense of cultural diversity. However, I believe that everything is a product of multiple cultures. The exchange of cultural ideas coming from very different places increases diversity.

Besides, diversity is promoted through international organizations. Respecting every society’s cultural characteristics is a part of globalization.

Another argument against globalization is that the US promotes its values and habits through the media. This is called Americanization. I do not believe that America has such a strong influence on the world that every society must unresistingly accept whatever it has to sell. There is no doubt that culture is affected by globalization, but it should not be considered as a loss, because it gives people freedom to maintain their identities in a global world and it does not destroy local cultures, they still have some identity, but people do not participate in that culture in a very traditional manner any more.

Opponents of globalization believe that globalization is a threat to the world, because it destroys local cultures and values and habits  promoted through popular culture, especially by America, cause similar lifestyles. On the contrary, I believe that globalization widens people’s choices and people do not directly absorb things which are thought to be global. They first interpret them according to their local traditions before they accept them. Even manufacturers in the global market customize their products or services in order to suit cultural and religious traditions in different countries. For example, American fast food chain McDonald’s plan its menus to suit each unique culture and local taste in the countries they operate in. Norway is the only country where McLaks salmon sandwich is produced, one can order a big mac without beef in India at a McDonald’s restaurant because Indians do not eat red meat and so on. (http://bizniaga.blogspot.com 2006) Benjamin Barber, an American political theorist best known for his bestseller Jihad vs. McWorld, thinks that fast food is not only about food. The idea of fast dining spoils social behaviour. People are no longer able to spend 2-3 hours having lunch with their families. (http://www.docstoc.com 2003) In my opinion, McDonald’s cannot destroy slow dining on its own. Whether people like this kind of lifestyle or not, whether it destroys social values or not, fast food restaurants are opened due to people’s demand and the necessity of busy people in today’s industrial economy. As the number of fast food restaurants increase, so do slow dining restaurants. The continuous growth of the market gives people various options to choose from. One’s decision depends on how much leisure time or how much money he has got to afford which type of restaurant. One of the many aspects of globalization is the spread of American culture, but globalization does not mean Americanization of the world. Americans just have a more modern style of living and their products in the world markets are successful. This only proves that there is a popular trend going on. Besides, the American influence on culture around the world is not as great as some claim. Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University, states that for instance, “American books do not typically dominate fiction bestseller lists abroad. Hollywood cinema has usually relied on international inspiration and should be considered as much a cosmopolitan product as an American product.” (Creative Destruction 2002) Furthermore, globalization is a natural process. One can see numerous things which are products of cultural exchange in almost every aspect of life such as paper, which was invented by the Chinese and spread through the Islamic countries and later to Europe or the potato which was a typical crop in South America carried to Europe by Spanish conquerors or English language which has lots of everyday words originated from  Sanskrit or Hindi such as “hand”, “mind” or “service”. All civilizations are multicultural. For instance, Western cultures are a combination of international trades. Their science comes from Middle East, languages from Europe and roots of philosophy from the Greeks. Globalization brings quality and freedom of choice. Many cultural models may exist, but it does not mean that any of them will dominate others.  Globalization gives societies the opportunity to be able to see the values of others, revise their existing values and make any changes to them by making adaptations to their local customs.

My next claim is that globalization does not cause the extinction of local cultures, because while many different ideas spread all around the globe and world cultures integrate by means of globalization, it also creates  resistance and reactions. There are many states and people who want to protect their national culture from globalizing forces. For instance, the French government restricts the number of foreign films running in France in order to protect French language and the local cinema industry. Everyone can also encounter many forms of resistance against globalization in their daily lives. Since there are a lot of people who feel afraid of globalizing pressures that might take over their local culture, people continuously receive reminders that they belong to a nation. This approach can be noticed through things like national flags on public buildings, postage stamps and national cuisines. The spread of local music, arts, traditions and regional dialects is on the rise more than ever before. Immigrant families usually settle in areas with a high population of others from their home country and continue to preserve their traditional customs instead of integrating into the new society’s customs. In addition to that, even though international events, such as the FIFA World Cup aim to bring nations together, they arouse negative nationalist feelings since countries compete with each other. Douglas Kellner, a professor at University of California, points out that since 1990s, acts of resistance to globalization  have increased dramatically in “fascist groups” and” ultra-nationalist” and “xenophobic politics” in European countries. And the political parties supporting these ideologies have received more than 15 percent of the votes of nations such as Norway, France and Italy. “Highly conservative and reactionary forms of religious fundamentalism” are also on the rise  against “the globalization of Western culture” and there is more extreme resistance to the globalization of modern secular culture and democratic politics” as in the example of Taliban in Afghanistan. (http://www.gseis.ucla.edu n.d.). People naturally react to the global financial crisis with rejection and despair, and they blame globalization for it. Globalization is neutral and inevitable, and whether it seems good or bad solely depends on the acts of societies. Some people can show lots of negative reactions to globalization from isolating measures, to riots, and even the reappearance of nazism, but they all result from the misunderstanding that globalization is to blame, not theirselves. For this reason, the sooner people learn about the current situation, their place in it and change their attitude from self concern to a global one, the sooner they can influence the entire system positively and make sure it will not collapse.

One aspect of globalization occurs as a result of the activities of media. It is not possible to deny the affects of globalization on culture which is highly influenced by technological advancements. It is also obvious that Western entertainment productions dominate the global media market place and influence other less civilized parts of the world a lot.  Thomas Tufte, a professor at Roskilde University, did an analysis within a research project related to media development and collected data extending a period of more than a century. In the late 1990s, he observed the latest 3-4 generations of family members and found out that the families’ ethnics and class backgrounds changed to a great extent after satellite and cable TV were introduced on a large scale in Brazil (http://www.nordicom.gu.se 2008). Despite this fact, it is still not enough to prove that Western media destroys local cultures, because there are many factors to disprove it. When media markets its products such as films or tv series, it is concerned with economic profit. It does not aim to produce something to affect a society’s cultural structure. Only the consumer culture is highly encouraged by the media by television programs, music videos, video games, and even the 24/7 news cycles incorporate advertisements for particular products or services. Often, these companies have contracts with the manufacturers of said products and services, so they are obligated to peddle them to its audience during regular programming. Media companies, themselves, are corporate entities, so technically, the media is both a product of as well as promoter for consumerist culture. It does not influence how people find purpose and meaning in life. Globalization through media also creates popular culture which is perceived as negative by some people. For instance, Roland Barthes, a French social theorist and philosopher thinks that “The bastard form of mass culture is humiliated repetition… always new books, new programs, new films, news items, but always the same meaning.” (http://quotationsbook.com n.d.) On the other hand, I believe that people from different nations discover each other through popular culture that promotes understanding among them and they become more tolerant and open to different ideas and cultures. And this process let people keep their identity while maintaining new identities, as well. For instance, a Greek-Turkish production of series shown on tv has changed the image Turkish people have of the Greeks and vice versa and removed existing prejudices more effectively than any number of diplomatic efforts could manage to change. Moreover, it is not very logical to think that people lose their identities. They just learn new things from other nations. They start enjoying different types of art, music, films or food from foreign cultures. They get opportunities to interrogate reactionary values and old-fashioned cultural attitudes in their own societies. Besides, globalization is greatly observable everywhere especially due to the internet technology. The Internet provides a common platform for countries from all over the world and they are able to communicate and share information there. In last a few years, internet usage in the Middle East has doubled. It has been a place where lots of goverments punish and censor speech against the regime.  Human rights organizations in the Middle East are now able to distribute information a lot more efficienty than before thanks to the internet inspite of restrictions on access to local media. Arabic women who are not usually allowed to participate in discussions in daily lives are now able to communicate with the masses in chat rooms. They also have the independence to publish their news and ideas and spread them to the rest of the world through web sites that can also help them get more foreign people to recognize their lifestyles, personalities or beliefs. That is very important for them to erode the inaccurate Middle Eastern image in other people’s minds. After all, I strongly believe that this progress has been made thanks to globalization and it should not be underestimated. Globalization in terms of popular culture and exchange of ideas occuring by means of technology and media should be seen as progress, not loss.

Although now we have new mixtures of culture due to globalization, It does not mean that the globalization process leads peole to lose their identities. Global culture offers people many different tastes and  those values and habits adopted from other cultures are essentially interpreted differently in accordance with local customs and society’s perception of life which also indicates the existence and importance of cultural difference. Everyone must accept that the entire human race is interconnected and ignoring other cultures is not possible. The key to benefit from a globalizing world is thinking globally and acting locally.

List of References

Barber, B. &  Cowen, T.  (2003) Cato Policy Report. Globalization and Culture. Retrieved from http://www.docstoc.com/docs/9002/Globalization-and-Culture on March 4, 2009

Cowen, T. (2002). Creative Destruction. New Jersey: Princeton University Press

Hakimi, A. (2006). McDonald’s. Retrieved from http://bizniaga.blogspot.com/2008/06/in-business-world-merger-and.html on May 15, 2009

Kahn, R., & Kellner, D. (n.d.). Resisting Globalization. Retrieved from Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, UCLA Web site: http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/kellner/essays/resistingglobalization.pdf on May 5, 2009

Roland, B. (n.d.) Quotes about Popular Culture. Retrieved from http://quotationsbook.com/tag/popular_culture/ on May 15, 2009

Tufte, T., Prof. (2008). Plenary Session I. Global, Hybrid or Multiple? Media Flows and Identities in the Age of Satellite TV and the Internet. Exploring Cultural
Globalization, 2(ISSN 1403-1108), article 3. Retrieved from
http://www.nordicom.gu.se/common/publ_pdf/269_tufte.pdf on March 14, 2009

 

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