Globalization: The Americanization of the World?
Books to be discussed:
Andrew J. Bacevich, American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy (Harvard University Press, 2002). Joseph E. Stiglitz, Making Globalization Work (Norton, 2007). James L. Watson, ed., Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia (2nd edition, Stanford University Press, 2007). Robert McCrum, Globish: How the English Language Became the World’s Language (Norton, 2010). Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World (Norton, 2009).
Globalization is the integration of the world’s different regions into a global culture, economy, geo-political arena, and communication network. It is the process by which the lines of nation states are blurred, smoothed over by new international institutions. Globalization is the undeniable destination of human history and as such permeates nearly every facet of it. It is liquid in this sense, flowing and changing to fill in wherever it flows, but there can be no doubts of the tide of globalizations source: The United States of America. At first glance, the distinctions between Globalization and Americanization are almost imperceptible. “Big Mac, Coke, and Disney” (Watson, 5) are as recognizable to Chinese and Russians as they are to Americans. The World Bank and IMF’s policies are more or less set by Washington. The American military has the most powerful armies and fleets the world has ever seen, and has effectively dominated the world from World War I onwards. The United States population which is less than 5% of the world population produces about a quarter of global GDP. Such realities might lead one to the conclusion that Globalization and Americanization are synonymous, but is this actually the case? In the discussion of the books at hand, globalization as it pertains to Americanization is made evident. Andrew Bacevich contends that the United States is the primary agent of modern globalization. It has capitalized on the opportunities it has been presented with in order to create a system of global politics and economics that is of the most benefit to itself, all the while packaging it in altruistic rhetoric. Joseph Stiglitz contends that the United States has conducted globalization by dominating the institutions of world governance and finance. It has done so to the detriment of other nations and as such, the American means of globalization is not the best strategy if true “globalization” is the desired end. James Watson holds that McDonald’s, once as iconic of America as the stars and stripes and one of the leading agents of globalization, has been assimilated into many local cultures. As such, it no longer represents the Americanized aspect of globalization, but is rather an international institution and an agent of globalization at large. Yet, some of the seemingly obvious aspects of American led globalization are not as American as they may seem today. Robert McCrum asserts that English being the world’s language arises not from American economic and foreign policies, but is rather a legacy of the British Empire. Furthermore, that America is not spreading its culture through English, it is only a tool to be used for communication. Finally, Fareed Zakaria demonstrates that we are departing from a unipolar world dominated by America. Although it will continue to play a leading role in the globalization of the world, “the rise of the rest” is diminishing its role and the United States is no longer solely holding the reins of globalization. Andrew Bacevich’s assertion is that the idea of the American empire differs only in form from traditional imperialism. Its function, enriching the mother country, is precisely the same but employs a variety of techniques to make this less evident. The United States embraces its role in history of exerting power only as a last resort. Only when circumstances totally necessitated it would America resort to using Theodore Roosevelt’s proverbial “big stick” (Bacevich...
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