|Picture Credit: UNESCO
Technology has now created the possibility and even the likelihood of a global culture. The Internet, fax machines, satellites, and cable TV are sweeping away cultural boundaries. Global entertainment companies shape the perceptions and dreams of ordinary citizens, wherever they live. This spread of values, norms, and culture tends to promote Western ideals of capitalism. Will local cultures inevitably fall victim to this global "consumer" culture? Will English eradicate all other languages? Will consumer values overwhelm peoples' sense of community and social solidarity? Or, on the contrary, will a common culture lead the way to greater shared values and political unity? This section looks at these and other issues of culture and globalization.
Articles and Documents
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As the world experiences a triple crisis in finance, development and the environment, innovative and unconventional solutions are urgently needed. Yet as new ideas and solutions to society’s problems are explored, one has to be careful not to assume the universal applicability of these solutions. What works in one country or region might not work in another. The histories and cultures of countries are so different that the paths they take are bound to differ. This piece of the spring 2012 issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review reminds its reader that solutions for today’s social, economic and environmental problems will and ought to come in different forms. (Stanford Social Innovation Review)
Brazil’s 2010 elections powerfully illustrate the lack of trust Brazil’s citizens have in their representatives and in their political system. In these elections, the largest number of votes for any member of congress went to a popular TV clown who run under slogan “I don’t know what a congressman does, but vote for me and I’ll tell you.” In an attempt to counter this political defeatism a 2008 law was passed that requires Brazilian teenagers to study philosophy. As the world’s largest scale attempt to bring philosophy into the public sphere, the law represents an experiment in democracy. Taking Brazil’s law as a starting point, this Boston-Review-article explores the extent to which philosophy can teach students to question and challenge the foundations of society. (Boston Review)
The limited public debate about advertising has attacked particular products like tobacco or alcohol, but has failed to develop a deeper critical appraisal of advertising’s broader effects. The most recent report of Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) and WWF-UK “Think Of Me As Evil? Opening the Ethical Debates in Advertising” counters this tendency. This report presents evidence that advertising increases overall consumption, promotes and normalizes behaviors that are socially and environmentally damaging and that it is so pervasive as to make the choice of opting-out from exposure virtually impossible. It invites policy makers to place the advertising industry under close scrutiny. (Public Interest Research Centre and WWF-UK)
At a time when the success of the European project is reduced to the struggle to safeguard the Euro, this piece from Spiegel Online invites its readers to look beyond the current crisis and recall , what makes the European project exceptional: the concept of a constitutional cooperation between citizens and states. According to German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, the manner in which politics is currently being done in Europe contradicts its founding ideals. When he looks at Europe today, he sees a union in which power has slipped away from the hands of the people to the hands of a handful of technocrats and market driven governments. Europe's citizens, currently being reduced to mere spectators, need to reclaim their status as "actual historical actors." (Spiegel Online)
Implicit in the modernist development paradigm is the belief that the Arab Other needs to become more like “us,” the West. The Arab Spring, however, teaches a very different lesson. It neither advocates that “they” need to become more like “us,” nor does it proclaim the inverse. Rather, the lesson from the Arab upheavals is that it is still possible to ask big questions, to participate in shaping the future, to dream big. The world is full of misery and everyone is responsible. We need to break the dichotomies: “you” can help “us”, “we” can help “you”. Big dreams should not die. Look at the Arab Spring. (Open Democracy)
Carlo Strenger, a psychologist at Tel Aviv University has voiced his concern that global pop celebrities are undermining people's sense of self-worth. He states that a global infotainment network, aided by mass media and the internet, has prompted fears of "insignificance" amongst people living in the "global village." Strenger's theory of the impacts of an increasingly globalized culture is chilling, but it seems as though he may be overstating the problem. (The Daily Mail)
Korea stands apart from the mainstream of global culture, because English is so uncommon there. This article suggests that globalization of culture requires more than open access and communications. Nations must be ready to absorb other cultures and able to communicate in established channels, to take part in globalized society.(Korea Times)
This International Herald Tribune article reports on university globalization, referring to the trend of US universities creating campuses overseas. For instance, students in Doha, Qatar can pursue a degree in International Affairs from Georgetown University. This development raises a number of questions. Is it merely a way for more students to access higher education? Or is it another way to export US culture?
This New York Times article reports that an increasing percentage of Hispanic immigrants to the US are abandoning church, suggesting that along with assimilation comes a measure of secularization. Hispanic church leaders fear that the spiritual tradition of the church, although prevalent throughout most of Latin America, may not be strong enough to withstand the influence of Americanized pop culture.
This New York Times article reports that English is rapidly becoming a global language in academia. At least 1,700 universities in countries with another host language offer master degree programs in English, and an increasing number of schools have stepped up English-language requirements at undergraduate levels as well. Directors of these programs aim to prepare students to be global leaders in this new era of internationalization, arguing that a universal teaching language is a necessary and natural consequence of globalization.
In an effort to curb illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil plans to offer free internet access to the indigenous communities which are the true protectors of their areas. Although some members of the communities fear that the introduction of computers and the internet may erode indigenous culture,others argue it will encourage the rainforest estimated 20 million inhabitants to join the authorities in the environmental management of the Amazon and open communication between the native tribes and the Brazilian government. (BBC)
Buses equipped with wireless internet servers are bringing Bollywood tunes, e-mail and celebrity gossip to remote villages in developing countries. United Villages, which runs the project, hopes the internet access will increase global awareness and open employment opportunities to rural villagers who otherwise have very limited communication with the outside world. (BBC)
This New York Times article on the Americanization of Indian education reports that a growing number of US universities are operating satellite campuses and partnership programs in India. Universities such as Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and Columbia Business School argue that this trend will expand their global reach and tap into the Indian market in response to increasing demand in Asia for higher-education opportunities.
This article by Seanon Wong takes a different approach to the globalization of culture. Rather than blaming cultural homogenization, the author argues that globalization of American fast food chains like KFC in Asia has led to the promotion and the export of local (Chinese) cuisine around the world. Wong says that "Paradoxically, globalization is responsible for their revival." (Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs)
In this sixth annual Globalization Index report Foreign Policy and A.T. Kearney rank 62 countries, accounting for 85 percent of the world's population, according to their degree of globalization as measured by 12 variables. The variables fall in the four categories of economic integration, personal contact, technological connectivity, and political engagement, revealing also the very different ways that countries are opening themselves up. Throughout the report, the authors imply that more globalization is always better. However, despite this clearly positive and seemingly uncritical view of globalization, the report acknowledges that â€œhighly globalized nations spew more carbon dioxide per capita than less globalized countries.
Reporting from a November 2006 seminar on international communication in Brazil, organizer Inter Press Service (IPS) highlights the commonly held view that stronger economic and political ties between countries of the global South have not been matched by a similar increase in South-South information flows. Some participants argued that a growing income and technology gap â€œbetween central and peripheral countries impede efforts at decentralizing rich countries power and the Northern domination of the media. The president of the Group of 77 countries at the UN instead called for more training and interaction to strengthen communication, and proposed a new Southern news network, coordinated by IPS.
Identifying three rounds of globalization, this the Globalist article argues that globalization is not a new thing.The exchange of ideas between ancient civilizations the first round fueled the rise of the West with industrial revolution and imperialism the second round. Likewise, the transfer of Western ideas feeds the present rise of India and China the third round. By these dynamics, the world is returning towards global equity, where India and China have a share of world income roughly similar to their share of people as in the early 19th century. While appreciating this return to international equity as a moral imperative, the author fails to consider to what extent the economic development of these Asian countries takes place at the expense of domestic equity and the environment.
Particularly since Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Latin America in 2004, relations between China and Latin America have strengthened. The total value of trade between them increased dramatically from US$10 billion in 2000 to US$50 billion in 2005. Similarly, the number of people across Latin America taking Chinese classes has increased substantially, this Washington Post article reports. With Latin America being the prime destination for Chinese investors, Latin Americans understand the importance of communicating in Mandarin.
Although China's booming economy influences global markets, the Chinese have not succeeded in universalizing Chinese culture to promote their image overseas. Japan and South Korea benefit from the globalization of culture, but China has yet to capitalize on the film, music, and art industries that serve the dual purpose of revenue and cultural promotion. Chinese government officials seek to encourage cultural exhibitions, especially in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games. (Inter Press Service)
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan describes the World Cup as a model for successful international politics. Annan points out four manners in which the international community could learn from the World Cup: accountability, conversation and analysis, equality, and willingness to learn from other countries. Individuals throughout the world dissect World Cup interactions with an enthusiasm and critical analysis often missing in political discussions. (International Herald Tribune)
At UNESCO's General Conference, several governments signed the draft convention on the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions. The document aims to create an alternative to the WTO's commercial point of view and to combine states' right to sovereignty with economic cooperation. To bring it into force, at least 30 countries will have to sign the document. (Le Monde Diplomatique)
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has almost unanimously approved the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions. The document, which will go into effect as soon as 30 countries ratify it, allows countries to put in place policies and measures to defend their cultural expressions (music, art, language and ideas) from foreign competition. The convention has met strong opposition from the US which fears barriers for its profitable export of music and films. (Washington Post)
While global economy is converging, cultures are diverging, claims conservative columnist David Brooks in this New York Times op-ed article. From conservatives in the suburban United States to Islamic extremists in Europe, people the world over are moving into â€œself-segregating communities, enforcing their own subcultures and identities. The widening cultural differences are leading us into a period of conflict, inequality and segmentation, Brooks warns.
With a booming education market in Asia, a growing number of US universities are launching graduate programs in the region, making it possible for students to acquire â€œa prestigious US diploma without ever having to leave home. This trend, which involves standardization of curricula and increasing exchange of professors, moves closer to a â€œglobal model of education. (Wall Street Journal)
The World Bank and other International Financial Institutions often consider development as the only way forward or the inevitable future for underdeveloped societies. But often, development means that the Bank places one culture's traditions and values above anothers. Indigenous populations are taking a stand against the World Bank's culturally insensitive development policies and demanding a veto over projects on their ancestral lands. (Inter Press Service)
At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the Muslim world faces no greater challenge than coming to terms with globalization, says this Zaman Online article. While failed immigrant integration policies in Europe and media attacks against Muslims in the US after 9/11 have strengthened their sense of religious identity, Muslims can no longer overlook human rights in upholding their culture. A sense of legitimacy is essential to upholding self and collective identities, and the language of legitimacy today is human rights and democratization, the author argues.
Fueled by the Internet, the spread of US culture and economic globalization, English takes hold in Mongolia. By making the country bilingual, the government hopes to find a shortcut to development and survive in a world of increasing competition. (New York Times)
In spite of protests and accusations of corruption, Mexican state officials have issued permission for Wal-Mart, the biggest private employer in Mexico, to establish one of its subsidiaries next to ancient Aztec ruins. Opponents call this the new conquest, others state that the project means driving the stake of globalization into the heart of Mexican antiquity." (New York Times)
The rising United States of Europe is in many ways challenging the supremacy of the American Dream. This article argues that the developing European dream, articulated in a draft of the new European constitution, is the first transnational vision in which a â€œnew global consciousness is generated. (Globe and Mail)
Sports are not just games beneath the surface lies a great deal of politics. This article highlights how the Olympic Games reinforce the political and cultural distinctiveness of individual nation-states and can be seen as a substitute for war, as physical prowess becomes a measure of a nation's standing on the international arena. (Yale Globe)
Governments, religious organizations and educational institutions are sponsoring programs around the world to bring immigrants' children back to their countries of origin, for educational and cultural experiences. While directors hope the programs will reinvigorate participants' connections to their countries and cultures, the children have mixed responses, many seeing the trips as "free parties." (Washington Post)
As the unrivaled global superpower the US exports its culture on an unprecedented scale, spreading it speedily and inexorably to every corner of the globe. This article discusses how US cultural imperialism both threatens and enriches foreign cultural diversity.(Christian Science Monitor)
Globalization is a declaration of war upon all other cultures, says this article. Cultural, social and religious disruptions are inseparable spectral companions of economic globalization in the attempt of the leaders of the globalizing world to colonize the whole planet in their own image. (Korea Herald)