The Effects of Economic Globalization on Cultures Around the World

This paper attempts to explain the possible effects of economic globalization on cultures around the world. It concludes that there is a possibility for American culture to be spread all over the world, and become the dominant culture of the globe. In doing so there is a possibility for the loss of culture in all nations and it being replaced with American culture. This paper also discusses the potential loss of national identity among nations, and especially among smaller, lesser known, and developing countries.

It also discusses possible causes for this phenomenon as well as possible solutions. Although economic globalization is often thought of as an over-hyped fad of the 1990s (Naim, 2004) it has already begun on a large scale, and the consequences of which can be seen around the world. Economic Globalization can be defined in this case as the expansion of global financial markets, the growth of multi-national organizations, and the standardization of economies on a global scale (Tavin, & Hausman, 2004). This type of globalization has a profound effect on cultures around the world.

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Culture can be defined as the shared ideals, values, and beliefs that people use to interpret experience and generate behavior, and that are reflected by their behavior. In this case, the effect economic globalization has on the artistic facet of culture will be the focal point. As the phenomenon of economic globalization progresses it will become easier for corporations to become multi-national. The first corporations that are able to succeed in doing this will create monopolies or oligopolies in their respective markets, making it extremely difficult or impossible for smaller corporations to compete, thus driving them out of the market.

With fewer companies leading the marketplace, there will be a smaller range of different products to choose from. If these corporations’ good or service is art, this will have a profound effect on culture. Varied art forms will decrease, and of the art forms that survive they will be homogenous around the world. This has already started. Because the United States is the sole remaining global superpower, it is almost always American corporations that have the means for their corporations to spread. In doing so they spread almost exclusively American culture.

Thus the more homogenous culture becomes around the world, the more it will become like that of America. This phenomenon is often referred to as Americanization. Economic globalization has and continues to create a culturally homogenous world based on American culture, which has negative consequences to both foreign nations, as well as North America. Economic Globalization has already been implemented on a large scale. In the same way the introduction of the telegraph, and the steam engine was hailed for shrinking the world, the advent of the Internet and the jet engine have done so in a colossal way (Naim, 2004).

These inventions have not only allowed economies to communicate and visit each other more rapidly than ever before, but they have allowed for the rapid movement of capital, information, and labour. Companies such as McDonalds, Starbucks, and Guinness Beer have expanded their markets to almost every country in the globe, and have maintained their stringent policies of quality control. So much so, that it is said to be difficult to tell the difference between a Guinness draft straight from the St. James Brewery in Dublin, Ireland, and one brewed and bought in North America.

The movement of labour has also been rapidly increasing. Automotive companies such as Volkswagen have moved almost all production to their plants in Mexico from where they were originally built, in Wolfsburg, Germany. Goods also move much more freely between countries now due to advances in technology and transportation, but also due to the removal of international tariffs between countries. The North American Free Trade Agreement, for instance, has decreased, and in some cases completely removed the tariffs between Canada, the United States, and Mexico (Stiglitz, 2004).

With the free movement of labour, capital, information, and goods comes a growing interdependence between nations. In the case of Volkswagen for instance the hundreds of employees working in the VW plants in Mexico are almost entirely dependant on the German economy. If Volkswagen were to for some reason go bankrupt, all of these employees would then lose their jobs. This interdependence among nations can lead to a complete loss of national identity, an extremely important part of a nation’s culture (Dougherty, 2004).

As corporations expand their hold on the global markets experiences in almost every nation become standardized. Especially when it comes to the varied art forms around the world. Huge American corporations export American culture that in turn crushes developing culture in smaller countries. This is most definitely the case in the music as well as film industries. The four largest record companies account for nearly 80 percent of the industry, and are largely U. S. owned (Van Elteren, 2004). These music giants are Universal Music, BMG & SONY Music, EMI, and Warner Music.

Because these four companies own such a large part of the market share, it is almost impossible to for local and regional music forms to compete and sustain themselves, mainly because they have no means of distribution. Also, because these companies are largely U. S. owned, and their largest market is the United States, they spend more time promoting and exporting American music than any other. On April 27th 2005 The Australian and U. S. top 40 shared 25. 7% of the same singles, and 6 out of the Australian top 10 were also listed on the American top 40 (Top 40 Charts, 2005).

Even more shocking is that over 60% of the artists on the Australian top 40 were from North America. Of the Australian top 40, 3 listings were most notably significant in regard to the spread of North American Culture. Firstly at number 16, was Kelly Clarkson, the winner of a completely American competition, American Idol. Secondly, at number 17 was Simple Plan, a band from Montreal, Quebec. This is a practical example of how this trend has indeed reached home. Finally, at number 27 was Avril Lavigne. This is significant as it clearly illustrates just how successful the phenomenon of globalization has become.

Avril Lavigne is from a very small town in Ontario called Nappanee, which has a population of 7760 (Med Hunters, 2005). Even though she is from such a small town, with the age of globalization the world is in, it has become possible for her, through these huge multi-national music companies, to export her music to the other side of the globe. These multi-national music corporations are taking advantage of their ability to distribute their music around the world, which in turn contributes to a musically and culturally homogenous world, one of American culture.

The same phenomenon that is being seen in the music industry is also being seen in the global film industry. The American film industry is by far the largest in the world, with such companies Warner Brothers and Universal leading the market. 93. 1% of all the films in the United States are made by American companies. The same can be said however for many foreign countries as well. The U. S. controls 81. 4% of the United Kingdom’s film industry, 80. 6% of Australia’s, 67. 0% of Spain’s, 65. 4% of the European Union’s as a whole, 59. % of Italy’s, and 51% of France’s (Global Policy Forum, 2005). With the American film industry controlling such a large portion of the global industry, it becomes increasingly difficult for local and regional films to sustain themselves. The reason for which is that making films requires a significant amount of money; this money is usually procured from these large motion picture companies. The difference between the film and music industry, or any other medium for that matter is that films have an inherent ability to pass on culture more efficiently than through any other means.

Films can pass on and influence such aspects of culture such as dance, art, fashion, language (such as slang), and music all at the same time. This only further encourages a homogeneity of culture. American culture continues to be spread around the world through other media as well. American television stations such as MTV and CNN are being broadcast all over the world, as are American radio stations. More recently it has become even easier for American culture to be spread, through the Internet.

American television shows can be watched and downloaded from anywhere on the planet, and almost every major radio station in the U. S. now has the ability to stream their broadcasts live worldwide through the internet. One reason the spread of American culture is a problem is because of the general lack of knowledge among U. S. citizens about other countries. Without much knowledge of foreign cultures Americans truly miss out on the many positive aspects other cultures can bring to a melting pot such as the U. S.

There is however more statistics about the U. S. so it is easier to make this claim only about them, but the problem is most likely stemming from Canada as well. Because it is American culture that is being spread around the world, if American culture was more knowledgeable about foreign cultures, it would be spreading a more diversified culture. One reason there is this lack of knowledge could be because American citizens don’t travel to foreign nations to experience different cultures. Eighty-three percent of U. S. citizens do not have a passport, and of those that do fifty percent of them are over the age of 60 or under the age of 5 (Goodman, 2005). If no Americans are traveling one can conclude that they either have no interest to travel, or lack the knowledge to know where to travel. American students have extremely limited contact with the outside world and are becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the world (Goodman, 2005). Traveling or not however, the ignorance of the American people extends further.

Eighty-seven percent of adults with a college degree in the United States cannot find Iraq on a map of the world. This is a country that the U. S. is at war with, and the citizens still have no interest or clue about it. This may come from a sense of superiority. A sense that the U. S. is the only country worth knowing about because they control so much of the world’s political and economical markets. Seventy percent of American are unable to name the president of Russia, a former global superpower who was the US’s rival during the Cold War (Goodman, 2005).

The same amount cannot name the position that Kofi Annan holds either (Goodman, 2005). Perhaps a sense of superiority comes from the fact that sixty percent of Americans believe that they have a fully functioning missile defense system protecting them from foreign nations, terrorists and rogue states (Goodman, 2005). Although the larger countries of the world, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Russia may be able to somewhat resist Americanization, this is only because they have a strong cultural background already established.

The same cannot be said for all countries of the world however. For developing countries, to use a cliche, “Resistance is futile”. As American culture sweeps the globe the smaller, lesser known, and developing countries are devoured in its path. With no way for these countries to spread their culture to the rest of the world, and with the constant importation of American culture, there own national identity and culture is destroyed in the process (Dougherty, 2004). The problem lies also with politics.

In smaller countries is it sometimes political-suicide to suggest not siding the United States, for fear of being shunned by the developed world, and thus perpetuating the un-developed status of their country (Worth, & Kuhling, 2004). Because of this, political leaders of these countries tend to side with U. S. on foreign policy, and only increase the effect of Americanization. Although in this age of globalization it may be impossible to stop Americanization or at least the standardization of experience around the world, one can change the type of experience, and one can change American Culture.

Almost undoubtedly American culture will eventually take over as the leading force around the world. Instead of trying to stop this spread, one must consider the alternative, to change American culture. If American culture were more representative of the all the cultures around the world, the standardization of experience would cause much less of a problem, because all nations would benefit from the spreading of a variety of different cultures, and not just that of the U. S. There are a few ways in which the U. S. can accomplish this task. The U. S. must increase the education of varied international art forms within their schools. American schools must teach about foreign art and music, as well as to instruct students about global events, and current political and economic topics. Another way is for America to increase the importation of different cultures. They can achieve this through traditional media such as the television, and radio, or through non-traditional ways such as through foreign exchange students.

The U. S. has more than 4,000 accredited institutions of higher learning, which accounts for about one-third of the world’s capacity (Goodman, 2005). If these institutions were to strive to bring only 100 foreign exchange students to their campuses, an immense difference would be made in the way American students view other cultures. American must also be made aware of the responsibility they have as the sole remaining global superpower.

America has the opportunity, as well as responsibility, to make the world a much better place by diversifying their own culture and spreading it. In doing so they would be making the world more tolerant and understanding of other cultures, as well as spreading the positive aspects of each different culture. In this new era of globalization the potential for a loss of culture around the world is high. As the phenomenon of Americanization expands, the world stands to lose its cultural variation in regard to all art forms, such as music and film.

There is also a possibility for the loss of national identity as well as the complete eradication of cultural and national identity among lesser known, smaller, and developing countries. Although the standardization of experience around the world may be impossible to avoid it is possible to counteract in some regards the negative aspects that come with this homogeneity of cultures. If the world, and especially America, becomes aware of their responsibility to spread a culture that represents those of all nations around the world, many positive things can be spread through Americanization.

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Sarah
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