The Globalization of Culture (or Cultural Globalization)

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Globalization refers to the rapidly developing and ever densening network of interconnections and interdependencies that characterize modern social life [1]. One implication is that people, and also cultures, are being drawn together. Culture is defined as patterns of human activity and the symbols that give these activities significance [2]. Culture is what people eat, how they dress, beliefs they hold, and activities they practice. Globalization has joined different cultures and made it into something different. One classic culture aspect is food. Due to cultural globalization, Americans can be eating Japanese noodles, Australians classic Italian meatballs, Europeans Indian curry, and Asians burgers and fries. McDonalds, an American company which is now a global enterprise with 31,000 locations worldwide is just one example of food going big on the global scale. Another example of cultural globalization is meditation. Originally a sacred practice for centuries in Indian culture it is now also a common activity in the Western world.

The internet breaks down cultural boundaries across the world by enabling easy, near-instantaneous communication between people anywhere in a variety of digital forms and media. The Internet is associated with the process of cultural globalization because it allows interaction and communication between people with very different lifestyles and from very different cultures. Photo sharing websites allow interaction even where language would otherwise be a barrier[3].

Some people think cultural globalization will lead to a single global culture. However, this process is considered to be uneven: the Western world, and especially America, dominates the global culture. The dominant cultural perspective of globalization today is the fear that globalization will bring uniformity and not unity. Western (American) brands like Coca-Cola, Walt Disney and Microsoft might totally dominate global culture at the cost of non-western cultural traditions [4]. In the last 50 years the US culture has dominated much of the global electronic culture (films, tv). This resulted in a huge impact of the American lifestyle and personal value system on cultures that are both remote from the US geographically and culturally. Consuming the products of this industry results in a consistent change of the indigenous culture’s values, affecting its language, its social structure and even its appearance (from clothes and cars to billboards and advertisements).

According to Unesco, globalization may be either positive or negative, depending on our viewpoint. Nonetheless, culture in general, and cultural diversity in particular, is facing 3 challenges:

1) Globalization, in its powerful extension of market principles, by highlighting the culture of economically powerful nations, has created new forms of inequality, thereby fostering cultural conflict rather than cultural pluralism.

2) States are increasingly unable to handle on their own the cross-border flow of ideas, images and resources that affect cultural development.

3) The growing divide in literacy (digital and conventional) have made the cultural debates and resources an increasingly élitist monopoly, divorced from the capabilities and interests of more than half the world’s population who are now in danger of cultural and economical exclusion.

To illustrate the current state of cultural diversity, Unesco mentions the following numbers:

- The approximately 6000 languages that exist in the world do not all have the same number of speakers: only 4 % of the languages are used by 96 % of the world population.

- 50 % of the world languages are in danger of extinction.

- 90 % of the world’s languages are not represented on the Internet.

- Some 5 countries monopolize the world cultural industries trade. In the field of cinema, for instance, 88 countries out of 185 in the world have never had their own film production.


  • Modern transportation and communication techniques enable quick and easy interaction between countries and cultures
  • Promotion of free trade
  • Loosening of old traditions and cultural structures
  • Power of big companies
  • Increased wealth enables people to buy (western) goods
  • Literacy
  • Growing adaptation of english terms: a growing number of languages used around the world is adopting more and more English terms instead of using their own words to describe words that originate in the US.
  • High costs for complete local programming
  • Internet advertising and information
  • Advertising of imported products
  • Content of TV/films/music that perpetuates further consumption of US products and brands
  • Acceptance of cheap entertainment from the US for syndication
  • Satellite TV


  • Support of indigenous culture by local governments and NGOs
  • Anti-globalists movements
  • Creating local brands that celebrate locality instead of globalization
  • Subsidizing local brands, increase price of global brands
  • Education
  • Localized programming
  • Limiting syndicated programming


1. Globalization is not a process based on equality. In fact, the Western (American) world dominates the global culture

2. The US creates the entertainment products, sells them abroad, and they perpetuate US-based model for a society. Individuals are self-brainwashed by these to accept this model and further consume that culture’s products.


  • Anthropologists
  • Unesco


Sources: Wikipedia and A quick guide to the world's history of globalization

  • 1st centuries CE: an early form of globalization can be seen in the trade links between the Roman Empire, the Parthian empire, and the Han Dynasty. The increasing articulation of commercial links between these powers inspired the development of the Silk Road, which started in western China, reached the boundaries of the Parthian empire, and continued onwards towards Rome
  • 650-850: the expansion of Islam from the western Mediterranean to India. Globally significant crops such as sugar and cotton became widely cultivated across the Muslim world in this period, while the necessity of learning Arabic and completing the Hajj created a cosmopolitan culture.
  • 960-1279: the Song Dynasty in China (and contemporary regimes in India) which produced the economic output, instruments (financial), technologies, and impetus for the medieval world economy that linked Europe and China by land and sea across Eurasia and the Indian Ocean.
  • 1100: The Rise of Genghis Khan and the integration of overland routes across Eurasia -- producing also a military revolution in technologies of war on horseback and of fighting from military fortifications.
  • 1300: the creation of the Ottoman Empire spanning Europe, North Africa, and Middle East, and connected politically overland with Safavids and dynasties in Central Asia and India -- creating the great imperial arch of integration that spawned a huge expansion of trade with Europe but ALSO raised the cost for trade in Asia for Europeans ---
  • 1492 and 1498: Columbus and da Gama travel west and east to the Indies, inaugurating an age of European seaborne empires.
  • 1650: the expansion of the slave trade gave birth to integrated economic/industrial systems across the Ocean
  • 1776/1789: US and French Revolutions mark the creation of modern state form based on alliances between military and business interests and on popular representation in aggressively nationalist governments. Imperial expansion under Napolean and in the Americas. The economic interests of "the people" and the drive to acquire and consolidate assets for economic growth also lead to more militarized British, Dutch, and French imperial growth in Asia.
  • 1885: Treaties of Berlin mark a diplomatic watershed in the age modern imperial expansion by European and American overseas empires, beginning the age of "high imperialism" with the legalization of the Partition of Africa, which also marks a foundation-point for the creation of international law. In the last decades of the 19th century, the global "white man's burden" became a subject of discussion.
  • 1929: the great depression hits all parts of the world at the same time Preceded by first event called World War and followed by first really global war across Atlantic and Pacific.
  • 1950: decolonization of European empires in Asia and Africa produces world of national states for the first time and world of legal-representative-economic institutions in the UN system and Bretton Woods.
  • 20th century: globalization in the middle decades of the twentieth century was largely driven by the global expansion of multinational corporations based in the United States and the worldwide export of American culture through the new media of film, television and recorded music. Progress in communication and transport technology has enabled us to overcome geographical boundaries and revolutionize our way of living.
  • 1989: the end of the cold war and globalization of post-industrial capitalism appears to be eroding the power of the national states.
  • In late 2000s, much of the industrialized world entered into a deep recession. Some analysts say the world is going through a period of deglobalization after years of increasing economic integration. Up to 45% of global wealth had been destroyed by the global financial crisis in little less than a year and a half.
  • In 2010 various programming agencies get together to formulate alternatives to US entertainment. By 2015 90% of the programming around the world is expected to be originating from the US.

Web Resources

1. Globalization of Culture - to what End? A "Marxisit" (i.e. critical) View of the problem

2. The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) is a private sector coalition formed in 1984 to represent the U.S. copyright-based industries in bilateral and multilateral efforts to improve international protection of copyrighted materials.

3. To see UNESCO’s view on the subject

4. About Indigenous languages under threat

5. Academic paper by John Thomlinson discussing views on cultural globalization

6. A quick guide to the world's history of globalization

7. Globalization on Wikipedia