The purpose of this essay is to examine the effect of globalization on national culture and to assess the importance of national culture in the light of cultural globalization.
In order to understand the meaning of globalization a workable definition is required. It is widely accepted that the world is changing more rapidly in the century; top technology has created the ability to communicate across the world in a matter of seconds. Globalization is about concepts, events, economies, ideas, information, entertainment, all going round the globe without recognizing nation boundaries.
This changes people’s lives in relation to how they’re shaped by events and the authority of nation states is facing a very strong challenge.
Nation states appear to be unable to influence global change and are put under immense pressure to be flexible and competitive as Giddens 1999 puts it, ‘they are too small to solve big problems and too large to solve small ones’. Some writers believe that globalization gives us some idea about the meaning and existence of the world we live in.
Globalization creates ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ within states, social classes, gender groups, continents and the government. Others argue that globalization is not a significant break from the past but a continuation of past exploitation.
Social relations are now associated with intensification of flows and networks that ignore nation states. The US for example is at the centre of electronic flows and communication networks and from this a shared space has been created so we can be affected by such things as famine, war, terrorism even though they happen in another part of the world.In recent decades there has been a phenomenal in cultural goods across the globe and the intensity of this flow increases each year and this ignores national boundaries. The quantity of cultural trade in terms of exports and imports has increased from over 6,000 million in the 1970’s to almost 40,000 million by the end of the 1980’s.
These goods included printed material music, visual arts, cinema, photography and the media. Information and communication technologies have depended on the dramatic increase of communication hardware. The increase in TV ownership has increased 4 times in the last 20 years.These are mixed perceptions about globalization, some may argue demise of national cultures will be an inevitable consequence, and on the other hand there’s an argument for ‘the global village’ Mcluhan 1960 which altercates the benefits of new technology providing instant inexpensive global communication.
This concept has become more powerful in recent years and has been growing with increase use of the internet. Rheingold 1995 has been a major advocate of this concept of global communication, where communication space is free from state control.Rheingold supports the work of Habermas where he sees the free exchange of information and international discussion being manipulated, for example news, media, government, big business and information management, but he sees the internet as a means for ordinary people to express their opinions and engage in rational debate which will bypass institutions. Websites and email can be used as democratic possibilities for instant multimedia information from alternative movements to conservative, all organizations have established websites enabling them to by-pass the official media.
One such movement is the Mexican Zapatistas which is grown unregulated by officials through the internet. In 1986 a home office report highlighted the crucial role in the de-regulation of the UK media which meant the public were free to chose from the growing number of programs and be free from the cultural elite of the BBC. As an alternative as the more pessimistic or realistic perceptions on cultural globalization; firstly there is an increase in inequality of access to where culture is distributed and communicated.The second argument is that ownership of media corporation is being concentrated onto one or two corporations and these have promoted leisure, entertainment and information sectors so the same media is being stretched across the world without any new alternative input.
Rheingold argues that communication has global benefits, however, the increase in communication technology is coinciding with an increase in global inequalities as we have seen in the quantative data on ownership. Notions of community are very different when you compare with inequalities and the break-up of societies.The increase of these inequalities can lead to ‘information rich’ and ‘information poor’ depending on whether or not you had electricity. Another argument against globalization is the small concentration of ownership of the media where fewer voices can be heard.
International infrastructure is dominated by 10 corporations some of these include Warner Brothers, Sony and Disney. Global corporations distribute western culture to the advantage of the USA and western nations. Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer were two German Jews who escaped to the US during the Second World War.They wrote critical papers which saw capitalism as a manipulating force which is increasingly bought and sold.
This cultural imperialism and its policies show an imbalance where dominant cultures threaten smaller more vulnerable ones. They also wrote about the ‘Americanization’ of Europe which has its routes in the stationary of US troops in the UK during the war Hebdige. News agencies are controlled by western corporations for profit and control 80% of the world news with only a quarter of the news being about developing countries Masmoudi 1979.Herbert Schiller argues that cultural imperialism is obvious and that global culture is not something which draws in any of the diversity of world cultures and therefore is imbalanced.
This is supported by the evidence when you consider the globalization of corporate names such as Coca-cola, Levis, McDonalds or MTV. Language is also important for the effective spread of this culture, US imperialism and the historical influence of the British Empire has made English the dominant language and is internationally associated with affluence.English commands almost 50% of the worlds translations compared to 0. % of Chinese translations.
The effect of this is that English will become a homogonous on a global scale which contradicts the argument for global diversity. The growth of English language and of US and western cultural goods and practices appear to provide a non diverse colonisation by capitalist’s culture.This is a structural explanation of cultural domination and it appears to subordinate and produce inequalities among the producers of such goods and the consumers from different cultures. So therefore cultural imperialism is important to our nderstanding of globalization of western culture which reduces diversity and serves only to meet the economic interests of the US and the west.
Anthony Smith 1995 was a well known writer on nationalism writing about the history of national culture which had evolved over centuries.These cultures also had strong identities with deep rooted beliefs and practices that engaged each individual. These identities are pitomized by the Disney cartoons which don’t reflect reality but extol political and cultural values of the USA. However these cultures have been transformed from as far back as the Victorian period when the Telegraph was invented.
Since then television was taken over and in the 1950’s the BBC and ITC produced a competitive form of broadcasting. In 1999 two thirds of the UK households had cable or satellite which introduces such channels as MTV and Disney, other developments broadcasting with the imports of soap operas such as Neighbours. However, other countries for example Ireland and India challenged this global broadcasting and produced domestic material in their own languages, this indicates a resistance by national cultures to global culture. ; in the UK another national institution, The Financial Times competes with The Wall Street Journal.
Britain produces The Financial Times which competed with The Wall Street Journal and the UK’s press is almost exclusively produced at home. However, 90% of newspapers sold in Scotland are produced in Scotland with The Glasgow Herald and The Scotsmen outselling London newspapers. This supports the case for national identity reacting to the global swamping of the culture. Regulation of news in the UK is controlled by the BBC and ICT; however international news available on the internet is regulated by the world’s trade organization.
It can be argued that new technology makes effective regulations impossible.With regards to TV broadcasting it can be argued the world’s audiences are minimal, so the notion of global television does not exist. The press in each country is usually national in its cultural influence and organization and is regulated by the nation state from which it emanates. A prominence criticism of globalists is from transformationalists where they argue that cultural imperialism focuses on a power of elitism where ideas and one way flows of thinking dominate.
However, this view ignores that many imports of US programming have counter flows of regional programs, for example Telenovelas which is a Latin American soap opera.Sinclair sees the world as divided into linguist regions and argues that we must distinguish ‘local and global’ form ‘regional and global’ programming. The difference to mark the common language and culture and creates an imagined community in which people can identify themselves. We need to also distinguish between countries that have no need to import programs such as Brazil, UK, Japan from those that need additional programming for example Canada and Australia compared to those who don’t produce their own programs for example Africa and many parts of Asia.
We also need to examine audience ratings to compare viewing figures for home grown and imported programs. Statistics so far indicate a high preference for home produced programs. As we have seen in this essay the world is increasingly saturated with global media and communication systems. Cable and satellite are the main mediums through which positive globalists argue the advantage of the global village offering more diversity and chance to consumers.
However, pessimistic globalists focus on the ultural bias and inequalities of this phenomenal arguing that it leads to cultural imperialism that acts solely in the interests of the USA and the west.Another perspective is from internationalists who point out the limits to global broadcasting and the resistance of national TV stations and the press. To add complexity transformationalists focus on the sense cultures make of imported TV and this appears more complex than globalists would have us believe. Again they point out that national cultures main stead fast and it is the perception of globalization that these cultures will not be swamped.
All perspectives acknowledge that national culture is in competition with global culture and the ever increasing advances in technology make it more difficult to retain national identity. Also global corporations compete vigorously for world markets whilst many nation states struggle to go back the flow of liberal economic ideas. The feature is uncertain but ultimately rests with the individual consumer and how these new technologies and products affect their lives.
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