What Are the Notions of Cultural Imperialism?

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Cultural imperialism is a multi-faceted concept, a collection of possible causes with a common effect - the tendency towards homogenization of cultures. This essay will explore the arguments behind the possible causes, specifically, the notions of forced acculturation as opposed to the voluntary embrace of Western culture. It will refer to theories of post-colonialism and cultural hegemony.

First, it’s necessary to try to define the term imperialism. Lenin held that imperialism was the highest stage of capitalism, an unavoidable consequence of the financial might and monopolisation by the western world: “Imperialism is a specific historical stage of capitalism. Its specific character is threefold: imperialism is monopoly capitalism; parasitic, or decaying capitalism; moribund capitalism. The supplanting of free competition by monopoly is the fundamental economic feature, the quintessence of imperialism.” (Lenin, 1916, p1). He argued that imperialism was the evolution from competitive capitalism into monopolistic/oligopolistic capitalism as corporations merged and outgrew their domestic markets, spreading across the globe in search of new markets and territories to exploit. Lenin defined his theory of capitalism in five points: “… 1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; 2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital,” of a financial oligarchy; 3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; 4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist combines which share the world among themselves, and 5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism in that stage of development in which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital has established itself; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun; in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed”. Thus, he argued for the inevitability of economic globalization, and saw that weaker nations were powerless to control their own economic (and political) functions, against the will of the more powerful nation.

Cultural imperialism could be said to rest on this economic foundation. It can be described as the exertion of a more powerful nation’s culture upon a weaker one, predicated on the fact of economic domination. This may lead to the erosion and, sometimes, destruction of the indigenous culture of the weaker nation. “Once upon a time, before the era of globalization, there existed local, autonomous, distinct and well-defined, robust and culturally sustaining connections between geographical place and cultural experience. These connections constituted one’s – and one’s community’s – ‘cultural identity’. This identity was something people simply ‘had’ as an undisturbed existential possession, an inheritance, a benefit of traditional long dwelling, of continuity with the past. Identity, then, like language, was not just a description of cultural belonging; it was a sort of collective treasure of local communities. But it was also discovered to be something fragile that needed protecting and preserving, that could be lost. Into this world of manifold, discrete, but to various degrees vulnerable, cultural identities there suddenly burst “(Tomlinson. J, 1999, p.269). It becomes clear that discussing cultural imperialism is impossible not only without taking into account economics, but also the use of force. If we consider the USA (and in smaller part the UK) in recent decades invading nations with the aim of installing democracy, we can see that forced acculturation is an almost inevitable result of...
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