Analysis Of History Of Globalization Cultural Studies Essay

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Globalization has been existent for Centuries and according to Ritzer, George, 2009: [pg 38] its origins can be traced to as early as the 4th and 7th Centuries depending upon the context in which one would like to place its defining characteristics and dimensions in. The Italicized words refer to processes and conditions that will be discussed further in the following chapter in order for one to understand better why various popular and academic literatures have struggled to define Globalization.

Despite its existence for centuries, Globalization only began to surface as the catchphrase for most in the Nineties because it best captured the increasingly mutually dependent nature of social life on our planet that time. (Steger, Manfred, 2010: [sp]). World society is composed of various domains and globalization occurs in various fields contained in these domains. The domains of communication, technology, ecology, economics, work organization, culture and civil society will have to be included in this list due to the sheer magnitude, diversity and complexity of the process of globalization which involves almost everyone, everything and every place, and each of these in innumerable ways. Beck, Ulrich, 2000: [sp] and Steger, Manfred, 2010: [sp] endorse how the domains in which globalization is discussed if distinguished can clear obscurity, misunderstandings and confusion about Globalization.

Globalization is a force, an era, a system, an age, a process, a condition; all definitions and labels which have different meanings that often invite scrutiny and confusion. It is best thought of a set of multidimensional set of processes which resists being confined to a single thematic framework. (Steger, Manfred, 2010: [sp])

"Like Modernization or other verbal nouns that end in the suffix -zation, the term globalization suggests a sort of dynamism best captured by the notion of

"developments" or "unfolding" along discernible patterns. Such unfolding may occur quickly or slowly but it always corresponds to the idea of change and hence denotes transformation." (Steger, Manfred, 2010: [pg 10])

Globalization, hence, can be best described as a set of social processes that appear to transform our present social condition of a weakening nationality into one of globality. Beck, Ulrich, 2000: [sp] and Steger, Manfred, 2010: [sp] have (with the definition of Globality in this instance referring to a term that signifies a social condition characterized by close global economic, political, cultural, and environmental relations that makes borders less relevant and less necessary) provided us with the basic platform to understand Globalization in the contemporary world context.

Globalization hence is a part of a greater technical and social transformation process taking place that is dynamic and forces us to analyse the shifting perceptions of time and space in which it is occurring. Lechner, J, Frank, 2009: [sp] describes these dynamic dimensions of globalization to be Diffusion, Interdependence, Organization and Culture/Consciousness. Diffusion is the simple spreading of information or things that bonds people through common practises or shared experiences. Interdependence on the other hand is described by Lechner, J, Frank, 2009: [sp] as means that actions in one place meaningfully affect others in a distant place. Increasingly these links become organized and are subjected to common rules and the connected people grow more conscious of those connections, developing a sense of shared culture that gives a meaning to their common world.

These dimensions, particularly the first two, are laying the basis to date back the history of Globalization to as early as the 4th and 7th Century for Ritzer, George, 2009: [sp]. Globalization according to Ritzer, George, 2009: [sp] may have flowed through history in cycles, epochs or even specific events. From the Romans and their far ranging conquest before Christ, the Rise and Spread of Islam and Christianity in the 4th and 7th Century, the travels of the Vikings from Europe to North America, Trade in the Mediterranean in the middle ages, Genghis Khan's conquest of Eastern Europe in the 13th Century, travels by Marco Polo in the 14th Century, Discovery of America and the Cape of Good Hope, European Colonialism in the 15th Century to the two World wars, all can be argued to be significant epochs wherein the origins of Globalization are located. The history of Globalization hence lies from Imperialism (which spans from the Assyrian Empire to the Scramble of Africa) to Colonialism to the Industrial Revolution.


In the global, digital age, globalization is predominantly thought of as an economic by-product. It is often defined as an economic process, identified with international capitalism, and as a political and cultural process. According to Ritzer, George, 2009: [sp], globalization began since the mid 20th Century. It strengthened further with the end of the Cold War and the rise of information technology in particular. The first transatlantic telephone cable in 1956, the first passenger jet in 1958, the launch of the Telstar satellite in 1962, the birth of the Internet in 1974 are all significant events that have set the basis for contemporary globalization to excel and propel. Furthermore, they have supported the criteria for the dimensions of globalization described by Lechner, J, Frank, 2009: [sp] in 2.1.

Based on these facts and the definitions by Beck, Ulrich, 2000: [sp] and Steger, Manfred, 2010: [sp] in 2.1, inferring that contemporary globalization is creating a new framework for life around the globe will not be entirely inaccurate. Doughlas Kellner in Roland, Axtmann, 1998: [pg 23] also supports this notion by stating that,

"...........the world is changing, that a new world economic, political and cultural order is emerging." Globalization is creating changes that are providing experiences to people in various dimensions from cuisine to sport to media to fashion to architecture to entertainment. It is affecting both nations and individuals alike regardless of race, culture, religion or geography. It has and is primarily affecting the domains of technology, culture, economy and politics in particular amongst the other numerous domains contained by globalization.

Key aspects of contemporary globalization have been predominantly based on economic factors. The flow of Capital, trade, goods, services and Labour between nations has facilitated the growth of contemporary globalization. As mentioned earlier, it has often been described as an economic process identified with International Capitalism and often associated with interests with their origins in the West. Steger, Manfred, 2010: [sp] describes globalization as an inevitable process of a universalizing western civilization. However, contemporary globalization, as Gerle, Elisabeth, 2000: [pg 1] states, has many facets which includes politics, economics, technology, religion and culture.

Politically and economically, contemporary globalization as previously stated has been characterized by increased international trade which in turn has encouraged investment, feminization and migration amongst a few to mention. The international economic exchange has facilitated investment by Corporates and nations from the West into developing countries which subsequently has impacted their domestic, international and trade policies. Beck, Ulrich, 2000: [sp] substantiates this statement by stating how world markets are replacing political action, especially national political action.

The revolutions in technology have often been accredited as being one of the catalysts for globalization. The developments and advancements that have emerged in the past few decades have enabled greater communication between people across the globe, helped build relationships between them, and allow an exchange of experiences and ideas between them. Technology has not only brought people closer, but also transformed world economies into interdependent systems that work in liaison with one another. Wired monetary transactions between people, nations, firms separated by latitudes and longitudes have opened a market of free flowing capital and investment.

The "Mcdonaldization" of the world or the homogenization of world culture according to Western or American standards has often dominated the cultural aspect of contemporary globalization. It has already been established that information technology has been a key catalyst for globalization, and the Internet and Media especially has been sighted as the medium for this impact on culture. These mediums are often possessed and controlled by Western or American nations which have might have been responsible for the cultural influences. This aspect as Gerle, Elisabeth, 2000: [sp] quotes does not only lead to submission, resistance and acquiescence but also towards increased hybridization and diversity with the creation of new forms in most cultural aspects such as arts, literature, fashion, music, cuisine, architecture and so on.

Ritzer, George, 2009: [pg 75] points out that although Westernization and more specifically Americanization, is often equated with contemporary globalization, Easternization is also a significant cultural aspect of contemporary globalization. The influence and role of Eastern Powers such as Japan, China and India has been particularly significant in the past two decades and their roles and impact on cultural aspects have been significantly visible in various forms such cuisine, music and fashion. This, as Ritzer, George, 2009: [pg77] illustrates, can be seen as to how focus in modern times has shifted from Ford to Toyota, from Burgers to Sushi, from Aerobics to Yoga and so forth.

It has to however be understood that both Westernization/Americanization and Easternization, especially the former, are all process that are related to globalization and not the actual processes itself. This is particularly necessary to outline, especially with regard to Architecture, where in Westernization has been the centre of focus for its impact in the field.





Architecture, in addition to being a representation of the society it is conceived, developed and fostered in. "Architecture is an integral part of culture that can be argued to be a representation of the society we live in and of our identity."(Khan, Uddin-Hassan, 2008: [pg52]). Popular and academic scholars have for centuries advocated this and history itself bares witness to this. From the Igloo houses in the Arctic to the Berber houses in North Africa to the Stucco houses in Tuscany, all have been representations of a culture of a region in a form of a building. In addition, the development of globalization through epochs in history has also been significant in the creation of various eras of architecture from Classicism to Renaissance to Bauhaus to Modernism. If architecture in the age of contemporary globalization is to be reviewed then an analysis of structures from the International Style of architecture and Modernism must be made since the architecture conceived has had its characteristics in these eras.

The trends emerging in globalization technologically, politically and economically have directly or indirectly impacted architecture. Depending upon one's perspective, this can be viewed to be either positive or negative.

It has thus far already been established in 2.2 that contemporary architecture has led to developments in technology and politics and flowing exchange of capital. This has led to competitiveness amongst corporations and nations to facilitate individual growth and development. Historically, height in buildings has been used to highlight superiority, perfection, power, supremacy and identity. This as elaborated by King, D, Anthony, 2004: [pg 5-12], gave rise to a phenomenon of competitive conditions of modern American Industrial capitalism, particularly that of the corporate and financial world. This thus helps us to trace back the birth of the skyscraper.

Skyscrapers became an exemplary symbol of economic ideologies and mode of production. The skyscraper became a symbol of this in other parts of the world as well as they sought to emerge as growing and developed countries. From Shanghai to Dubai, London to Johannesburg, skyscrapers became increasingly visible in the landscape of cities seeking to be "global." These skyscrapers are generic in design and can be placed anywhere in order to symbolize growth and economic development. (Lewis, K, Roger, 2002: [sp])

Flow of people across the globe, either as migration, tourism, travel or work, has brought about sharing of cultural aspects such as arts, food, music, fashion to mention a few. The suspects for propelling globalization (the citizens of the Western world) have been at the forefront of this flow of people, and it is perhaps the desire to accommodate and reassure these citizens which has led to the creation of malls and shopping centres. These premises, although architectural may have varied design elements, create a trend of transnational spaces in architecture that possesses the same facilities such as cinema complexes, food courts, banks, branded stores and boutiques, franchise restaurants etc.

Homogeneity has been established in the architecture of cities around the world that are at the forefront of capital investment and exchange in their respective nations. Lewis, K, Roger, 2002: [sp] in his essay Architecture and the Global City quotes how glass and metal adorn often adorn these structures and the minimalist ideologies dictate the interiors. He further highlights how this homogeneity is not restricted to architecture solely, but to urban design as well.

Cities are being modelled according to cityscape patterns that evolved from the United States. Structures of financial institutions such as banks, corporation headquarters, franchise fast food restaurants, office towers and so on are all located in the business centres of the city. Suburbs are also modelled around similar concepts of including fitness centres, cinema and shopping complexes, hotels and residential housing within them.

With the homogeneity displaced in cities across the globe, these cities are seeking to proclaim themselves as Global cities that are prime centres for the flow of finance and capital.