What effect does globalization have on consumer behaviors and tastes? As we more easily across regions and cultures are we more adventurous in our tastes and interests or will we naturally migrate to the known?
In “The World is Flat,” New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman argues that computer technology has created a world in which, to a greater extent than ever before, individuals can compete and collaborate globally. Linked by a fiber-optic network, he says, we have all become next-door neighbors (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005). Much has been made of this so-called flattening of the world. Friedman describes the penetration of global culture into some of the most unlikely places on earth. But as the planet continues to shrink—and as the wildest dreams of Kathmandu turn into the facts of Kew, will individual cultures vanish in the process?
Many observers have noted that, quite aside from creating any cultural homogeneity, globalization is leading to a resurgence of interest in local traditions. In “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” for example, Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington argued that modernization promotes confidence in the local social order, but at the same time faith in traditional practices (Simon & Schuster, 1997).
The cultural anthropologist Keith Hart noted a similar polarizing effect in response to economic change. In an essay that appeared in “Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relationships,” he concluded that personal trust may not be the most efficient basis for economic relationships in societies undergoing major economic change. His point was that agreements based on faith (those based on no or little evidence) or confidence (those based on considerable evidence) are subject to stronger sanctions than agreements based on trust (those based on limited evidence) (Basil Blackwell, 1988).
Hart seemed to suggest that faith, trust and...