It is not a latent fact that we live in an age of globalization today. From ideas to initiatives and choices to companies, almost every sphere of our lives has become increasingly global in nature. Although discussions about globalization focus more on its political and economic aspects, it is the cultural facet that has permeated into our lives most closely.
Cultural globalization can be understood as a phenomenon of the diffusion of commodities and ideas, reflecting a standardization of cultural expressions around the world. It is propelled by the advancement of information technology. It may be seen as a trend towards cultural homogeneity that will eventually make human life all across the globe essentially the same. This argument has been contested on the ground that although homogenizing influences do exist, they cannot be seen as creating a single world culture. There is a diffusion of cultures and identities, along with recognition of the uniqueness and diversity that exists in each culture.
Manifestations of cultural globalization
Since cultural globalization involves the spread of language, the arts, food, ideas, and technology, its impact is felt by people all over the world in myriad ways. Cultural globalization can be seen in the popularity of international cuisines like Chinese, Thai, and Mexican. An outlet of McDonald?s can be seen is almost all corners of the world. In clubs and restaurants, music from different countries can be heard, despite being in different languages. Business leaders from around the world gather in China, Japan, the U.S, and the U.K. to exchange views, opinions, and developments in their fields. Denim jeans have become staple attire for people even in the eastern part of the globe.
The words or phrases being used nowadays also reflect a kind of cross-cultural influence. ‘Ok’ or the thumbs up sign is now used all over the world, thanks to the Western influence. Words like ?Namaste?, ‘taco’ or ‘hola!’ are used by people all over. Language has always played a very important role in the politics of the day. Today, when the world is interconnected, words of one language seem to have seamlessly been incorporated into other languages.
Impact on local cultures
It would be na?ve to assume that cultural globalization has only to do with transmission of cultures across borders, without any impact on the local culture. The globalization of production and distribution of goods and services is indeed a welcome development for many people, as it offers them access to products that they would otherwise not have had. However, equally important is the fact that the changes brought about by globalization threaten the existence of locally made products and those who produce them. It has been experienced in many places that the new availability of foreign food in a market?often at cheaper prices?has resulted in the displacement of local farmers who have traditionally earned a living by selling those self-made products locally.
It is obvious that globalization has more to offer than simply increase the availability of foreign-made consumer products and disrupt traditional producers. It has increased international trade in cultural products and services, such as movies, music, and publications. Today, a Hollywood film is released simultaneously all over the world, unlike previously when foreign viewers had to wait for days before getting to watch a Hollywood film. The expansion of trade in cultural products is increasing the exposure of all societies to foreign cultures. And the exposure to foreign cultural goods undoubtedly brings about modifications in local cultures, values, and traditions.
The globalization debate
The debate over whether cultural globalization has a positive or negative impact is an intense and dynamic one. Proponents of both sides have put forward compelling arguments in favour of their stand. There have been various reasons given to prove that globalization has undermined cultural diversity. Multinational corporations promote a certain kind of consumerist culture, in which standard commodities, promoted by global marketing campaigns create similar lifestyles. This results in negating the diverse cultures that exist all around the world and seeks to homogenize them. Many people believe that the process that is being seen right now is actually cultural imperialism by the West under the garb of globalization.
Those on the other side of the spectrum support cultural globalization, saying that it encourages interaction across boundaries leading to the integration of cultures and practices. They argue in favour of cultural flows and the spread of ideas and images that provide impetus to a sense of global unity and affinity. Those on this side of the debate refute the argument of homogenization that is curbing cultural uniqueness by saying that global norms or practices are interpreted differently according to local traditions. They promote the concept of glocalisation, which is the coming together of the global and the local. The pairing of denim jeans with khadi kurta is a case in point. Diversity is now looked upon as a global value, promoted through international organizations and movements. Cultural exchanges promote respect for such a virtue.
The best of both worlds?
While cultural globalization has proved to have both positive and negative implications, it is a reality that defines our existence today. Therefore, it would only be prudent to strike the right balance between adapting to global trends and preserving our traditional roots. It is important that we learn to respect diversity of all cultures that we get introduced to. Globalization would be our ally and aid in this process of developing a sense of regard for different cultures. It is also important that we do not let go of our values and traditions and be proud of them. Globalization would help us promote our distinctive culture, by connecting us to the world at large. Ultimately, globalization would be whatever we make of it.
– Contributed by Anushna, a Student of Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Political Science
Picture Credits: McDonalds India