Culture and Economy

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Culture and economy are inseparable and are often by-products of each other. While economics generally refers to the production and consumption of goods and services, culture is a more difficult term to define. It refers to the general pattern of human behavior and its meaning. It can explain why certain group of people behave the way they do. It can also classify people into distinctive cultural identities. Yet, regardless of interpretation, people generally agree that culture is valuable and it needs to be protected. With the emergence of globalization and its collection of supranational markets and global goods, distinctive cultures are becoming harder and harder to recognize. Faced with the competition from American entertainment and business activities, local governments are complaining that their cultures are being eroded. Artisans around the world are faced with the choice of “getting a corporate sponsor or fold.” (Barlow 2001, 45) Neo-liberalism is the best approach to examine the issue because it recognizes the effects of complex interdependence and how it shapes cooperation which in turns fosters a shared culture. From a neo-liberal perspective, globalization is has increased economic growth in many parts of the world and has allowed consumers to have more choices, consequently creating a more homogenized global economy and culture. This however, has often been followed with critiques of “Americanization”. Upon further examination of food, movie, television, retailers, and cross-cultural exchanges, the fears of Americanization seem to be over exaggerated. Indeed, trans-national corporations haven’t taken over the world at all, they have instead adapted themselves to suit local cultures, and those cultures are very much alive. The biggest American export is arguably the English language. As the most widely spoken language in the world, English is the “langua franca of the modern era.” (Graddol 1997, 4) It is the dominant language in business (The Economist 2001). Language is the heart of any culture, and more and more people are learning English not necessarily because they want to, but because it facilitates global communication. While English is thriving, other languages are becoming extinct. (Held 2000, 63) “It is estimated that one-half of the world’s 6000 languages today will no longer be spoken or read by the end of the 21st century.” (Barlow 2001, 43) However, English is not to blame. Just because people are learning second languages, it does not mean they are forgetting their mother tongue. On the contrary, the language learned in infancy is not only the one learned best, it is also the one that provides the structure of expression upon which other languages will be based. Unless they had a truly bilingual upbringing, very few people can assume full command of a second language. Few people can integrate a second language into their daily forms of expression without conscious effort. While many countries have ELS courses, their native language is far from being replaced. For example, even though students in China are required to study English starting from the fourth grade, few adults are able to form sentences more complicated than “there is an apple on the table”. Even within English speaking countries, there exists different dialects and slangs and idioms that are difficult to correct even after decades of living in another country. Moreover, foreign broadcasts are almost always translated and edited to suit local taste. Harry Potter has been translated into 63 languages. (BBC) Currently, more than half of all web pages are not in English, and search engines such as Google come in various languages, with the Spanish version prioritizing the Spanish sites, so on and so forth. (Marling 2006, 63) Local languages are dying, but it is because native speakers are no longer passing it on to the next generation, not because English has forced its eradication. For instance, in the United States, English is...
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