The Myths of Cultural Globalization

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"Globalization, both as an ideology and process, has become the dominant political, economical and cultural force in the 21st century." Quote from "Globalism: The New Market Ideology" by Manfred D.Steger Two powerful scenarios dominate the public discourse about the cultural consequences of globalization. The one very common scenario represents globalization as cultural homogenization (for example Benjamin Barbers McWorld vs. Jihad). In this scenario the culturally distinct societies of the world are being overrun by globally available goods, media, ideas and institutions. In a world where people from Vienna to Sidney eat BigMacs, drink Starbucks coffee, talk about human rights and work on their Apple computers, cultural characteristics are endangered. As these commodities and ideas are mostly of western origin, globalization is perceived as westernization in disguise. The other scenario is that of cultural fragmentation and intercultural conflict (encapsulated in Huntington's Clash of civilizations and most recently "confirmed" by the ethnocides in Africa).

But can we really reduce the processes of cultural globalization (i.e.

the process of world-wide interconnections) to these two stereotypes?

What about the meaning that local people attach to globally

distributed goods and ideas? Why do people drink Coca-Cola and what

sense do they make of the soap operas they watch? Do they really trade

in their century-old lifeworlds for the kinds of Madonna and Bill

Gates? And how does the homogenization scenario fit with its rival,

the imminent cultural fragmentation?

In order to gain a clearer picture of contemporary global cultural

changes, we have to study cultural practices worldwide. Objectively

measurable figures concerning death rates, intercultural marriages and

market-shares have to be understood in their wider social context.

They have to be related to specific worldviews, gender relations and

the local meaning of death and wealth.

An ethnographic approach to globalizatio...

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...n even sharper light,

lead to discontentment, insecurity and make people vulnerable for the

gruesome practices of urban warfare and ethnic cleansing. On the other

hand: the availability of many different worldviews and lifestyles can

lead to a fruitful dialogue and be experienced as an enormous chance

for self-realization and the enrichment of society.


Anwar, Sajid (2002) "Globalization and national economic development: Analyzing benefits and costs"

Journal of Business and Management Vol.8, Iss. 4; pg. 411

Held, D. (1999) "Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture" Routledge , New York

Milward, Bob (2003) "Globalization" Edward Elgar Publishing, USA MA

Steger, Manfred D. Globalism: The New Market Ideology. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2002.

Wolf, Martin (2004) "Why Globalization Works" Yale University Press, New Haven/ London

McDonald, Frank/ Mayer, Michael/ Buck, T. (2004) "The Process of Internationalization" Palgrave Macmillian
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