Sunday, October 2, 2011

Globalization: Eating Dutch Mexican food

Globalization is always a hot-button topic. People argue about it on the most basic level, and argue about whether it even exists or not. Even for those who have determined that it does exist, there is still often a lot of controversy. One of the biggest disagreements revolves around whether globalization results in more heterogeneous societies or more homogenous societies.

Those who believe globalization acts as a homogenizing force tend to subscribe to the theory of cultural imperialism. These people believe that developed nations (most often in the Global North) push their values, culture and ideals on developing nations (usually Global South) and that is labeled as globalization. So they believe that instead of all the global cultures mixing and combining, that developing nations are losing their cultures and just becoming like the developed nations that are exerting an influence in their country. Many people refer to this as the Americanization of the world, as the U.S. has a large cultural and advertising presence in many places. In John Sinclair’s “Globalization, Supranational Institutions and Media,” he tackles the communication side of this issue. He refers to this as media imperialism, which he describes as Western states pushing their media culture on developing countries. He says media has the power to influence with their content and act as a homogenizing ideological force.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that globalization allows for a eclectic and interesting mix of global cultures that can thrive in different places all over the world. It means countries can keep their national cultures, but combine them with other facets of other cultures. This could mean eating sushi for Christmas dinner in Paris or trying on traditional saris in India while listening to Britney Spears.

Most people who believe in either side of the argument believe in it pretty adamantly and absolutely. I think that it can depend on the culture. There are possibly places where cultures have become more homogeneous. When you see streets in Mexico plastered in American advertising, it can be easy to lean this way and see globalization in a negative light. But I think there are also places where globalization creates an interesting and new culture. I think I lean more towards this viewpoint, although I can see both sides. A great example of this is the popularity of ethnic food in Amsterdam, due to its large immigrant populations. When I was living there, I thought the fact that I could go to a restaurant run by Mexicans, hear Spanish being spoken and get better enchiladas than I have found in DC yet, was pretty great! 

The question I pose is this: What differentiates between the outcomes of globalization? Since I believe both viewpoints have valid points, what is it that makes some globalization a positive, heterogeneous force and other globalization a negative, homogenizing force? That’s a study of which I would be interested in the results. 

1 comment:

  1. Like you Jessica, I believe that globalization has both positive and negative effects on developing nations. I feel strongly that Western culture does dominate other cultures in a disproportionate fashion, but it also encourages other countries to aspire to high ideals that may not be part of their cultural paradigm.

    When I lived in South Africa, I watched a popular soap opera called “Rhythm City.” This soap opera was similar to U.S. soaps in that it was saturated with overly dramatic scenes and beautiful people. It was clear from my perspective that the South African production was heavily influenced by U.S programming. Despite the overt copying, Rhythm City helped promote HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention strategies, which is essential to the country’s overall development.

    The Western influence in South Africa is a great testament to the benefits that globalization can have on a country.