Globalisation integration and synergy amongst countries and the

Globalisation
and ‘Cultural Imperialism’

In simplified terms,
Globalisation can be defined as process that transcends the national borders
and breaks down the barriers to create a global economy where international
trade and exchange between countries is uncomplicated and hassle free; it aims
for integration and synergy amongst countries and the world to act as one
global economy. From the post-modernist standpoint, cultural imperialism,
cultural hybridization, post capitalism or neo liberalism are seen as the bi
products of Globalisation. Cultural imperialism, a discourse that is widely
seen as a consequence of globalisation, is substantial owing to its significant
bearing on the normative ideologies, imaginaries and ontologies that provides
the grounding conditions of the societal sphere. The dominance of one culture (westernised
culture for instance) over others or one particular culture is referred to as
Cultural Imperialism; it can take form of normative behaviour, societal
practices or even economic policy changes in cultures. In accordance with
neoliberalism, this ideology marginalises the weaker cultures: the cultures of
first world countries invade the space or gaps provided by other cultures and
gradually either transforms them or conquers them altogether. The
post-modernist approach, where the winning discourse is perceived to be the
truth or the dominant ideology is believed to be the social norm, is quite
similar in notion to the Marxist or capitalist approach which draws its
philosophy from social and economic inequality and aims to red line a large
population which do not fit into the elite circle. The common denominator in
both postmodernism and Marxism is the dominant ideology held by the ruling or
elite class being forced upon the rest of the population. From mass media to
economic policies, all of the aspects are incredibly influenced by one sector,
it is often shaded as if it benefits all the society when in reality is it for
the benefit of the elitist. As per to scholars and theorists, this dominant
ideology is eminent and very detectible in cultural imperialism since the
westernised culture is taking over the territory of other subservient cultures;
working towards the elimination of diversity amongst different communities and
make it one homogenous culture.  
Cultural imperialism has taken various forms historically, be it colonialism,
internationalism or transnational immigration. However, sociologists and
theorists believe that in essence globalisation has been the most constructive
driving force and the subtlest approach for this dominance of cultures.
“On the other side of the divide are those (non-western scholars) who see globalisation
as a metaphor for imperialism. They argue that globalisation is a mere brand
name for economic and cultural imperialism.” (Ezema, 2009)

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Moving on, the objective
of this literature review is not to make an argument for anti-globalisation or
highlight the extreme consequences of globalisation, lieu the purpose is to
explore the lost world between the two ends of the globalisation spectrum:
Mcworld and Jihad. The constitution of the reasoning is for the middle ground
approach which ensures satisfaction of some aspects of both extremes and still
finds the optimum resolution by balancing them. Mcworld and Jihad are the terms
coined by Benjamin Barber, American political theorist and author, (1995); both
the terms are claimed to be mutually exclusive and the driving forces that
pulls towards opposite ends. Where Mcworld makes an effort to destroy all
barriers between economies and regions and promotes free trade in a non-democratic
corporate market, Jihad (which translates to struggle) is poles apart and
targets tribalism with a protectionist attitude and a closed off economy. Mcworld
being the globalised end and Jihad on the Tribalisation end and both of these
opposing forces threaten the current modern democracy in the long term. It is
quite obvious that an equilibrium of this spectrum is required to create a
‘strong democracy’ and that equilibrium can be achieved through what Barber
calls as the ‘Confederal option’.
“It certainly seems possible that the most attractive democratic ideal in the
face of the brutal realities of Jihad and the dull realities of McWorld will be
a confederal union of semi-autonomous communities smaller than nation-states,
tied together into regional economic associations and markets larger than
nation-states…. The nation-state would play a diminished role, and sovereignty
would lose some of its political potency.” (Barber, 1992)
The old proverb that ‘When America sneezes, the whole world catches the cold’
fits right into the context of globalisation here and it is attested by the
aftermath two of the most catastrophic events in the global history: Economic
crisis of 2008 and the attack on twin towers (911). The fact that we live in a
post 911 world is undeniable, the attacks on pentagon and twin towers were
attacks on anti-capitalist and anti-globalist ideologies around the world (as
it was a common belief that the twin towers symbolically represented the
American capitalism). What started as a financial deregulation in the real
estate sector which led to financial crisis of the banking system in US in 2007
took a calamitous turn into the global economic crisis; millions of people
across the globe lost money, houses and faith in the system. Hence, it would be
outrageous to negate that globalisation does essentially dominate the structure
where the weaker communities are restricted by the prevailing ones.
Over the period of time, Globalisation, as a concept, has evolved and developed
branches that extends into several directions, it is only recently that deep
meaning structures and symbols have been added to the globalism theory to make
it wide spread and relatable. As new meanings and terms are added to the
concept of globalisation, many anti-globalisation protestors now argue not for
the elimination of the globalisation altogether but rather an alternate form of
globalisation. Be it Justice globalisation, Market globalisation, Religious
globalisation or Imperial globalisation, this new transformation has provided
another ideology for activists to cling to; the core concept remains the same
instead new edges are added on to it. These novel dimensions and aspects make
it easier for the activists to accept globalisation in its essence.
As the excerpt ‘Ideologies of Globalism’ states that despite the conceptual
differences, the unifying factor that binds all advocates of Globalism together
that they all tend to believe the “apparent inevitability and relative virtue
of global interconnectivity and mobility across global time and space.”
Political personas, like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, in simplistic terms
tried to convince their audiences (at different times) that there is no option
available – due to the rapidly changing dynamics – other than to embrace the process
of globalisation and move along the tide; because not only would it be
impossible to take measures against it (like Protectionism) but on top of that
it is likely to make matters worse for them (financial losses, for instance). Other
Philosophers and theorists professed their views and opinions along the same
lines, for example – Jürgen Habermas, a renowned, cultured philosopher
proclaims globalisation to be as an ‘Inevitable force’ and as a ‘fact’ that
people need to accept and also deal with its negative consequences. Habermas,
like other prominent figures, believes that globalisation is irreversible and
the question of what kind of globalisation or which branch of globalisation is
best suited to our situation is irrelevant now.
After the event of 911 – the leading and the following – the activists ruling
against the globalisation named the disaster as the ‘dark side of
globalisation’, many people thought that this event would be marked in history
as the end of globalisation and that this would finally steer “the age of cultural
particularism and economic protectionism”. However, the advocates including the
politicians and pundits turned it around and made it a case in favour of
globalisation. They appealed that the unity amongst nations was required to
fight against this kind of terrorism. Globalisation was a simply accepted
phenomenon till the first few years of twenty first century, there was no
longer the question of whether we want globalisation or not instead the focus
came onto the question that what can be done about it. Unfortunately, the
financial crisis of 2008 that spread its wings into the global economy was
another blow for globalism. The impact of American banking crisis which
originated from the financial deregulation done by the American federal system
was casted not only on the Wall street but the stock exchange markets and banks
of the many other nations due to the interconnectivity and trading system of
banks across the world. This was again countered by the same old ‘inevitable
and irreversible’ argument in the context of globalism that instead of acting
out against globalisation efforts should be made to “make it participatory and
humane to alleviate the suffering of the world’s poorest people and the
effective disenfranchisement of many of its nations” (Peter Raven in his
presidential address in 2002)
As mentioned above, neoliberalism and cultural imperialism are seen as both the
propaganda that instigated the efforts towards globalisation and its eventual
causes so essentially it comes in full circle. Neoliberalism is defined by
David Harvey (the author of ‘A brief history of Neoliberalism’) as the
‘intensification’ and ‘elevation’ of Capitalism and the primary intention of
this ideology is to further strengthen, restore the power of the elite circle
or even assign them new powers in some cases. Its purpose, as stated by Harvey,
is to further marginalise and alienate the poor and oppressed classes. So, the
three notions combined (globalisation, cultural imperialism and neoliberalism)
aims to achieve dominance over the weak and subservient nations, cultures or
class structures.
From media to economic policies; from multinational businesses to international
immigrations, somehow many of these factors have contributed, either in
isolation or with each other, to exert imperialism over other cultures. The
influence of western cultures – that have – to a great extent – homogenised
many aspects of various cultures – is evident through the changing social
norms, the loss of traditionalism (clothes, language, media etc) and the
shrinking of the local cultural meaning and semiotics.
The interconnectivity and interdependency of cultures is created by
globalisation through media, cultural activities that are practised (use of English
in many schools around the world when the mother language is different) and the
multinational companies opening around the world ( e.g. there are 36000 McDonalds
franchises around the world). The fact that the golden arches of the McDonalds
logo is more recognisable than the Christian cross speaks for itself. Multinational
companies like Nike, McDonalds, Coca cola not only gives the people a taste of
their culture (which eventually transmutes into habitual behaviour) but they
are a culture in themselves. They pose a direct threat to the local companies
and hence the local culture which is very easily swallowed by the big fishes in
the sea. It is perceived by many that cultural imperialism is a subtler way to
colonise the world in the post-colonial era. (Tomlinson, 1991)

It is true that
Globalisation and cultural imperialism have invaded and conquered the world by
such a strong grip that it is nearly impossible to subdue its effects; but in
the words of Peter Raven – which makes more sense now – that we must make these
ideologies more humane and opt for a balanced approach to achieve our goal of
equilibrium. True internationalism is in the family of globalisation but
differs from it in a sense that the states instead integration and merging, act
as separate autonomous nations that interact with each other in good form. This
perhaps, won’t stop or eliminate the dominant ideology but it might slow its
progress.  As at this point, the
inevitable and irreversible forces are accepted and the real question that
arises is that what we can we do to make it suitable to our situation.