Are Cultures Diminished or Enhanced Through the Process of Globalization?

Topics: Sociology, Culture, Globalization Pages: 7 (2141 words) Published: March 26, 2013
Are cultures diminished or enhanced through the process of Globalization? An essay by Jaclyn Macdonald- 389686

Globalization offers opportunities but presents problems. Connectivity between cultures is developing at an exponential rate. This has ramifications for individual cultures. Increased interaction, principally through new media and greater global mobility creates opportunities to enhance cultures but it carries with it the risk of cultural erosion as external influences may overwhelm attitudes, beliefs and values.

Globalization is defined as ‘a process in which worldwide economic, political, cultural and social relations become increasingly connected across time and space’ (Thompson, 1995, 149). Globalization is not a modern phenomenon and has its precedents in the empires of Spain, France and Britain among others. The progressive development of economic and political ties of these colonial powers took decades or centuries to come to realization.

The rapidity of this process has been greatly accelerated by the technological and communication developments of recent decades that have facilitated a dramatic increase in global economic, political, cultural and social integration. Consequently, the world has become increasingly interdependent in the areas of travel, communications, trading and finances, all of which contribute towards frequent cultural interactions and greater mobility of people. Globalization brings about a rapidly developing and ever increasing density of the network of interconnections and interdependencies that characterize present-day social life. ‘Globalization lies at the heart of modern culture; culture practices lie at the heart of globalization. This is the reciprocal relationship’ (Tomlinson, 1999). Globalization alone does not determine the shape and character of culture nor is culture the only influence on globalization.

Edward Tyler defined culture as ‘that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities acquired by man as a member of society (Thompson, 1991). The evolution of technology, primarily new social media, has created opportunities for individuals to choose to embrace or dismiss the aspects of the cultures they are exposed to. Additionally, they can run the risk of losing parts of their own cultures to a wave of foreign influences.

‘One of the most widespread theories of cultural globalization is the idea that the world is becoming more uniform and standardized, through a technological, commercial and cultural synchronization emanating from the West’ (Lange, Meier, 2009, 56). Theorists who support cultural homogenization insist that the spread of globalization has lead to an erosion of cultures and traditions. This view infers globalization to be a euphemism for western cultural imperialism, proposing ethnocentricity will eventually eradicate individual cultures.

Identity is commonly deemed fundamental to human experience ‘Identity is people’s source of meaning and experience’ (Castells, 1997: 6). The ethnocentric view does not recognize that globalization invariably causes individual culture as David Morley comments, migrants ‘moved from a world in which . . . identity was not a central concern, to one in which they were pressed . . . to adopt a particular form of individuality’ (Rantanen, 2005). Manuel Castells writes; ‘Our world and our lives are being shaped by the conflicting trends of globalization and identity’. Opposing homogenization theories, Castells explores ‘the widespread surge of powerful expressions of collective identity that challenge globalization . . . on behalf of cultural singularity and people’s control over their lives and environment’ (Castells, 1997: 2). While homogenization theorists suggest that a ‘global culture’ will dominate all others, Castells proposes that the need for identity drives cultures to remain individual and as such, globalization thus...
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