GLOBALIZATION AND CULTURAL IDENTITY
Revolutionary advances in mass communication and transport have led to a phenomenon known as globalization—societies are becoming more and more alike.Some people fear that globalization will inevitably lead to the total loss of cultural identity. But I don’t think the total loss of cultural identity is inevitable, despite the influence of multi-national companies and their products all around the globe.
It is fair to say that the impact of globalization in the cultural sphere has, most generally, been viewed in a pessimistic hue. Typically, it has been associated with the destruction of cultural identities. Superficially, it may look as if the global diversity of cultural identities is being lost, giving rise to cultural globalization. If people in Beijing and London look and dress the same, then that must mean that cultural differences are disappearing. However, I would argue that this is a very narrow definition of culture and that in fact cultural differences are as present as ever.
Prompted by the efficiency or appeal of wireless communications, electronic commerce, popular culture, and international travel, globalization has been seen as a trend toward homogeneity that will eventually make human experience everywhere essentially the same——“sameness” hypothesis. This appears, however, to be an overstatement of the phenomenon. Although homogenizing influences do indeed exist, they are far from creating anything akin to a single world culture. Generally, the word ‘culture’ is used to mean ‘the total way of life’ to include economic, political and social norms, values and behaviour.
Modern cultural globalization started with economic globalization—spread of transnational corporations and global commodities, especially food and drinks items like pizza and coke, and dress material such as Levi jeans, Reebok and Nike shoes, and so on.
Cultural Identity, however, is built on far more than just the films we watch or the jeans we wear. The foundation of cultural identity is shared values. When you look in detail at different cultures, you come to the realization that the things that are important to one culture can be very different from the things valued by another culture.
It, therefore, remains difficult to argue that the globalization of technological marvels is making the world everywhere the same. The “sameness” hypothesis is only sustainable if one turns a blind eye to the internal meanings that people assign to cultural innovations.
Dr Ali Ahmad
6 July, 2015.