Globalization September 7, 2006

Globalization is the unification of cultures, the formation of the many cultures of the world into a single, global culture. This is facilitated, obviously, by communications technologies, the worldwide spread of media, entertainment, and advertizing, and by the restructuring of corporations so that they are no longer confined to a single factory or even a single country. But globalization per se is the progress toward a single global culture, emanating mostly from America.

Now, is this happening? Yes and no.

No: Japanese still speak Japanese, eat monkey brains, honor their ancestors in ways we can’t imagine, etc. Local cultures remain local in important respects. And some cultures actively resist the “single culture” (Islam especially, but others offer calmer, passive resistance). This is why some commentators talk about “glocalization,” the double phenomenon of globalization and local resistance (or local variation – you can get a curry burger at Indian McDonald’s for instance, or wine at the French Disneyland).

Yes: Increasingly, there is a common set of images, stories, symbols, axioms, proverbs, etc that transcend cultural, linguistic, and national boundaries. If I say “I’ll be back” to an Indonesian businessman, there’s a good chance he’ll recognize it. People in South America and Africa know about Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and many would recognize Tom Cruise. People all over the world can shop at Wal-Mart and eat Big Macs (even if they are called by another name – a Mac by any other name . . . ). Or, since this is not JUST about American dominance: In Wroclaw, Poland, a French-owned mall houses German, British, and other European companies.

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