In the era of imperialism, empire authorities controlled people in their colonial territories by attaching great importance to imperialism culture. Colonial people were easier to be ruled when they adopted same culture and received same education as in the imperial nations. After the World War II, the colonial nations declared independence one after one and the era of imperialism came to the end. The center of world has been transformed from Europe to US. However, the ex-colonial nations often found it difficult to detach themselves culturally from the developed capitalist countries. Furthermore, many other developing countries are also losing out in culture trade with the developed countries. Instead of using military force to dominate the culture of colony, the economically powerful nations, mainly US, exported value, culture and ideology through mass communications to every corner of the world. The theory of cultural imperialism emerged in 1960s in response to the global media expansion of the US.
This essay firstly reviews the development of cultural imperialism theory presented by some renowned scholars from the 1960s-1990s. It then goes on to discuss the theory's applicability to the 21st century, also known as the era of globalization. In this section two categories of opinions are analyzed - one insists that culture imperialism is still prevailing in the form of cultural globalization, while the other claims that culture globalization has replaced the cultural imperialism.
REVIEW OF CULTURAL IMPERIALISM THEORY
Background and evolution of the theory
The cultural imperialism theory arose from the following reasons. First of all, during the cold war, the United States and the Soviet Union competed to expand into developing countries. The declaration of independence did not really make the ex-colonial nations to break away from the super powers' control. Moreover, 1960s witnessed a period of unprecedented development of economy in the U.S. and globally. Overseas markets became the most profitable target for the transnational corporations to exploit. The developed nations and global corporations therefore took advantage of media to export their values and introduce their products. In response to inequality of the information flow, many developing countries for the first time called for a ‘more equitable flow of media’ in the 16th session of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) General Conference in 1970 (McPhail 2006). In 1980, UNESCO adopted and published ‘Many Voices, One World’, also known as ‘The MacBride Report’ with its core to promote the establishment of ‘New World Information and Communication Order’ (NWICO).
Another important reason for the rise of cultural imperialism theory is the fast progress of science and technology which has greatly promoted the development of the media (Zhang 2010). The invention and wide adoption of television, for example, have made the events happening in any corner of the world presented almost simultaneously in front of the audience. However, most of the new technologies were held in the hand of the Western powers, especially the U.S.
When its media dominance of global media system reached its peak in the 1970s, the United States had been the target of all the critiques for the cultural imperialism. However in the late of 1980s, when Sony of Japan, Bertelsmann of Germany, Vivendi of France, CanWest of Canada, and the News Corp from Australia acquired media corporations in the United States, Oceania, and some countries of Asia, the critique was dispersed from the United States to some other major developed countries, including the UK, France, and Germany (Ming 2008).
Representative figure and their works
Based on the above background, some scholars of international communication started to study on culture domination, especially American global domination....