Globalization Culture US Essay

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Global Culture

I find the idea that the world is becoming homogenized to American culture to be parochial, offensive and ill-formed, the product surely of American thinking. Nobody from any other culture would see the world in that light, because they are actually informed about the non-American world. Writers arguing in favor of the idea that the world is becoming homogenized to American culture are laughably ill-informed. They make heroic errors in judgment in their arguments. The reality that there is some evidence of globalization, but only in the most superficial ways has this actually made its influence. Consider a moment the supposition that food and entertainment are changing -- not only is this a great leap but food and entertainment are rather superficial when one considers the depth and breadth of individual cultures.

The first thing to point out is that culture runs rich and deep. America is an outlier in many respects, and there is no evidence that the cultural traits of America are to be found in other countries. Consider the different elements of culture as defined by Geert Hofstede -- power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity, uncertainty avoidance and time orientation (Hofstede, 2014). The United States has very low power distance, very high individualism, moderate masculinity, low uncertainty avoidance, and a short-term time orientation. On the time orientation, power distance and especially individualism, the United States is an outlier. Its closest neighbors in these respects are other countries derived from the English philosophical tradition -- Canada, the UK and Australia in particular. These similarities are the result of common philosophical roots in liberalism, emphasis on the supremacy of the individual, and date back to the 18th century; not the 20th century influence of America on these countries. Further, there is no evidence that these cultural values have spread in the late 20th century as the result of American influence.

The spread of something like capitalism can hardly be attributed to America either. The philosophers and political economists on whom the theory rests were British -- Smith, Ricardo, Locke, Mill -- such that the United States can scarcely take credit for the idea. Moreover, the forms of capitalism in most of the world reflect local interpretations of these British ideals (Hall, 2000). Nations that trend towards the collectivist dimension (Germany, Scandinavia, Japan) have gravitated towards a different form of capitalism than the U.S., as of nations with dramatically different governance structures like in Nigeria or southern Europe.

Nor has the American system of government gained much traction around the world. Democracy of course is a Greek ideal, not an American one, and for all the purported influence of the U.S. On spreading democracy, the form it usually takes is either northern European in influence or British. Further, today's democratic nations typically evolved as such -- it has not been imposed on them by outside powers. As a general rule, however, most nations do not really have democracy. You can sell the Chinese on Starbucks and the Russians on Big Macs, but selling them democracy and liberty has proven more challenging. When you get past the superficial levels, the influence simply isn't there.

Furthermore, the influence of American culture is overstated, even using the superficial examples. It is true that people around the world did not typically eat hamburgers -- but meat and bread is an old idea. And McDonalds itself adapts to local conditions -- it doesn't sell hamburgers in India. KFC is probably even more popular around the world than McDonalds, and this is telling. People have been frying chickens forever in many parts of the world. It may be some erosion of local culture to give them eleven herbs and spices, but it's not a big stretch -- the basic dish was globally popular long before the Colonel invaded. The influence of American pop culture, on the other hand, has been greatly overstated. Outside of the English world and Europe, nobody cares about American pop stars, and local cinema almost always outperforms Hollywood. Just because most Americans have never heard of the world's gamut of local pop stars doesn't mean they don't exist.

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Globalization is exactly that, a coming together of global…[continue]


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