National Cultures

To evaluate the above assertion, it is necessary to establish what is meant by ‘the globalisation of culture’. Globalisation is a much used, some might say overused term which depending on sociological outlook can be a good thing, a dreadful inevitability, something to be treated circumspectly or nothing new and therefore relatively unimportant in terms of national values. Overall though, there is broad agreement that globalisation represents boundaries between individual nation states becoming blurred as cultural, technological, economic and political links are established on a worldwide scale, transcending national boundaries to create what Ohmae called “a borderless world” (Held,2004, p17).

This occurs through the migration of peoples and the transfer of ideas, information and commodities. I will be looking first at a more specific description of globalization. Thereafter, I will consider the claims associated with the three main theories on globalisation: the Globalist, both ‘Positive’ and ‘Pessimistic’; the Transformationalist; and finally the Inter-nationalist perspective, from which the assertion in the title of the essay originates. I will then consider the validity of the inter-nationalist argument in terms of the globalization of culture. To evaluate this, I will consider the empirical adequacy of the theory, its coherence and its comprehensiveness. My conclusion will show, that while all three main theories have persuasive elements to them, overall the Inter-nationalist view would seem to be the most robust when examined closely. We will look first at globalization.

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Globalization is characterised by four key factors. ‘Stretched social relations’ created by networks of connection across the world in politics, economics and cultural spheres. The second factor is ‘intensification of flows’ transcending national barriers across all areas of cultural ‘goods’ including television and radio, cinema, music, and printed matter. Thirdly, globalization is associated with ‘increased interpenetration’ of economic and social methodologies and finally, the existence of a ‘Global Infrastructure’, economically and politically. The first theory of globalization to consider then is the Globalist.

The Globalist perspective is that globalization is a structurally based inevitability which is unstoppable. The theory divides sharply, however, into those who regard it as a good thing; the Positive Globalists, and those who do not; the Pessimistic Globalists. It is these two views which we will examine first. Positive Globalists subscribe to Marshall McLuhan’s vision of a ‘global village’ (Held, 2004, p55).

They see only the benefits of globalizing influences and welcome them. Positive Globalists believe that from the stretched social relations will come unity between peoples and an improved quality of life for all. ‘World music’ is one aspect to emerge from the sharing of cultures. The new technological revolution; the internet, mobile phones and satellite communications will enable every voice to be heard freely. Howard Rheingold (Held, 2004.p55) talked about the progressive possibilities of the Internet enabling freer speech and greater diversity.

Pessimistic Globalists however, while they subscribe to the same fundamental view of the inevitability of globalization, regard it as a negative force sounding the death knell of national cultures. They see it spreading epidemic-like across geographical and political borders. Pessimistic Globalists see the world becoming more homogenous resulting in the loss of diversity and individuality. They regard the dominance of major economies and multi-national corporations as a significant threat to individual nations’ sovereignty. Further, Pessimistic Globalists, because of unequal access to the new technological innovations such as the internet, regard globalization as widening the gap between the wealthier nations and the third world, rather than creating a means to share culture, with women and unskilled workers especially becoming increasingly marginalised in the globalization lottery.

They see cultural flows as unbalanced; English becoming the accepted global language of the internet and air traffic control, for example. One of the main theories Pessimistic Globalists site is Cultural Imperialism, sometimes interpreted as ‘Americanisation’ whereby the Western world, The United States in particular, swamp the rest of the world’s cultures. The preponderance of, for example, McDonald’s outlets, would appear to support this viewpoint. The Cultural Imperialism theory involves more than the absorption of minority cultures by the west, however, having serious implications for the economy. Multi-national corporations and their Western shareholders, say Pessimistic Globalists, will be the ones to benefit by global expansion. Transformationalism is the next theory to consider.

Tranformationalists agree with Globalists that Globalization is occurring, but question the importance and significance of it. They tend to see the effects of Globalization as exaggerated, a view which is shared by Inter-Nationalists. They do, however, feel that it is important to acknowledge globalization and its potential effects, which they regard as unpredictable and therefore, a cause for concern.

Transformationalists, unlike the Globalists, do not see Globalization as inevitable and feel that the results of it could be reversed. Transformationalists view the control of the economy, defence and politics as still being under the control of the nation-state and while accepting global and regional influences, feel that nation-states should retain this ultimate authority. The last of the viewpoints we will consider is that of the Inter-Nationalist. It is this view which agrees that ‘national cultures are still very important’, and for that reason is the theory we will evaluate.

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