Global Cosmopolitan Homogenization And Hetrogenization Cultural Studies Essay

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The rhetoric of shrinking spaces and the rise of mass consumer culture are the often cited characteristics of the globalization. The outcome of which is a global cosmopolitan world that is deeply interconnected, interdependent and where speed of flows (goods, services, people, capital etc) have increased thanks to the technological and scientific innovation in the era of globalization. Before making such a statement, definitional clarification becomes a must between globalization and globalism. Taking Keohane and Nye (2000) definition, globalisation is a condition of increase whereas globalism is a condition that could both increase or decrease. "Globalism is a state of the world involving networks of interdependence at multicontinental distances" (ibid: 105). It is a state of world that involves 'networks of connection' and 'muticontinental distances' for such connection to be considered global. Globalization thus refers to the increase of globalism. The increasing flows have taken place at all level economic, environmental as well as socio cultural.

Major arguments surrounding globalization has been concerning whether it is a new or an old phenomena or just old wine in a new bottle; or concerning the homogenization, heterogenization, hybridization of the world due to the increased influence and interaction of global processes at all levels. The following paper reviews the major discussion surrounding the latter argument of creation global cosmopolitan culture or whether such flows have created heterogenization and at what levels. Social globalization discussed here is in context to culture. The major thrust of the paper will be the impact of globalization on local cultures and its consequences.

What is Culture?

Culture has been defined by anthropologists as shared customs and artefacts that bring about a sense of togetherness. Ethnologists describe culture as transmission of intellectual, emotional and behavioural features through learning and interaction. Sociologists emphasis on identity based on habits and thoughts that is required for membership. (Scruton, Roger, 2007:1). Despite definitional confusions one can safely say that culture produces an identity for individuals that are constructed by their language, history, religion and environment. As a result of which internal and external boundaries are created that in way assign distinctiveness to a culture. Religion is an important aspect of culture when one speaks of 'cultural authenticity' (Murden, Simon, 2008:420) it usually refers to religious totems and religious heads who preach them.

Speaking in the globalization context, culture in its various forms has become an important agent of globalization process. According to Arjun Appudarai there have been five kinds of flows (in Beynon, John and Dunkerley, David (2000), Globalization the Reader)

Ethnoscapes: referring to the movement of people whether (migrants, refugees, exiles, tourists, workers).

Technoscapes: increased and faster movement of messages across the globe. This has resulted in a complex relationship between "money, political possibilities and availability of both high and low skilled labour."

Financescapes: this mainly refers to the flow of capital across borders on a massive scale carried out in split seconds. With such an increase the vulnerability of economies to volatile capital also increases.

Mediascapes: The inescapable influence of media through images and narratives. It can have both positive and negative impact. It could be highly informative and progressive providing a medium for the subaltern voices. But at the same time it could be used to promote fundamentalist ideas by fanatics, construct and mould choices and preferences of consumers by the Multinational corporations.

Ideoscapes: this mainly refers to flow of ideas and ideologies. Notions of citizenship, democracy, freedom, representation; welfare, human rights, equality of opportunity, Privacy of persons and property, sovereignty and patriotism, individual and collective responsibility, the value of rationality and the rational mind.

Waters introduces another dimension that is sacrispaces that refers mainly to the flow of religious ideas and associated values.

The cultural traffic is both ways north to south and a vice a versa. However the content of traffic varies. The flow of traffic from north to south has been in gigantic proportions mainly comprising of corporate traffic. Trade liberalisation has facilitated "cross border trade, consumptions abroad, commercial presence and presence of natural persons" (Hodge.J, 2001: 221). The flow from South to north is more diffused carried mostly by migration. The north to south flow is much more dense and wide; in the case from south to north it is more diffused and gets acclimatised easily. This two way flow carry symbols of globalization which carry with them whole bunch of socio cultural premises.

Culture as a carrier of globalization has become an important arena of contestation for national, religious and ethnic identity. Although reactions to contemporary globalization are seen in developed world like Japan, Europe where modern values prevail, however in Muslim countries that are characterised to be traditional and radical harbour different values of identity and society. In such a scenario Lieber and Weisberg (2002) point out to intense reactions redirected at external targets through forms of transference and scape goating.

The major debate of the impact of globalization on culture seems to be between those who consider globalization as enriching and aiding a cultural community in development on one hand and the pessimist view that considers it as an evil that corrupts so called 'authentic culture'. Samuel Huntington in his writings on the 'Clash of civilizations' states that "with the end of the cold war and its contest of ideologies and as a result of disruptions brought by modernization, urbanization and mass communication, the fundamental source of international conflict will not be primarily ideological but cultural."(pp ibid: 3).

Cultural resistance to globalization has been mainly in context to rational and scientific notions western modernity. Two types of impacts come into view economic impact of modernity. The most commonly referred is the consumer culture spread by the MNC' through media and entertainment industry. The second impact mainly refers to the western values of reasoning, secularism, religious tolerance, democracy, liberty, rule of law, gender equality, human rights etc. Thus there is resistance to such western ideas that challenge religious unscientific traditions that many communities consider as important identity marker of culture. The Islamic revival of 1970's, Hindu revivalist RSS, VHP that challenge secular foundation of India. In China the rise of Falun Gong movement inspired by Chinese guru in U.S.A post relaxation of communist totalitarianism. In Russia and Eastern Europe, the revival of orthodox and other christen sects. Murden.Simon: 420.

Destabilizing Effect: Modernity = Westernization?

Octavio Paz outlines that 'socioeconomic modernity is the fate of all cultures in that they are integrated at a structural level in the orders of the nation-state system and the global capitalist market but this integration which is structural fait accompli, not a cultural option- alters the terms of culture irrevocably, since it entails a one way agents journey from tradition to modernity'. Cultures are condemned to modernity not simply by the structural process of economic development but by the process of self development. The enlightenment project has not resulted in emancipation as seen in the alienation, anomie, and iron cage of instrumental reason. (Tomlinson, John 1991:142). Such a critique of modernity could appear as a critique of homogenization or equating modernity to capitalist society. Tomlinson rightly argues the importance of capitalism in making of modern societies but it is a certain inflection of modernity and not vice versa. He calls for a critical approach that probes the embeddedness of modernity's discontent in a political economic system which simultaneously offers attraction over traditional societies.

Amratya Sen refutes the very argument that considers liberalism and reasoning as exclusively western .According to him such ideas did exist in the past in non western worlds. The usage of the term western may create anti western sentiments in some societies which are seen in the way of glorifying Asian values and Islamic ideals. For him part of the reason lies in the anticolonial sentiments and the alienation faced that have lingered on for generations. He underlies the humiliation faced in the form of racialism, slave trade, physical abuse that harboured such antiwest sentiments. This gives rise to a 'colonized mind' where there is both admiration and resentment of west. However where the latter dominates it gives rise to: "needless hostility to many global ideas under the mistaken impression of western ideas, distorted the intellectual and scientific history if the world, the support it has given to rise of fundamentalism and terrorism." (Sen.A 2006:84-89).

Alvin Edgall points defines culture as "values, attitudes, beliefs, mindsets, central tendencies, worldwide views and orientations that are prevalent in a given society." Giving emphasis on the importance of culture as guide to institutions, as underlying principle of economic activity and as social capital, he cites Tu Wie Ming who discusses alternative forms of modernities owing to its success to Asian values. This suggests that imported institutions and ideas are 'filtered and modified' by culture of the native place. Thus questioning the idea of equating modernization and westernization. It becomes important to emphasis here that different communities may identify culture differently and the importance they give to different aspects of cultures as well. In parts of Middle east, South Asia and Africa have resentment against west is due to their problems with modernity of the west that impinges on their identity. In East Asia and Latin America it is cultural alienation generated by proliferation of American culture that creates a sense of unease. But often it concerns the intellectual elites than general public. (Wieser and Lieberg, 2002)

Mendes and Soares (1996) while discussing cultural pluralism, identity in globalization highlight the inappropriateness of communal emphasis as a reactive to globalization, it was also a way of establishing a sense of identity within the globalization arena.

From the above arguments it is clear that none refute the claim of central importance of culture and its fluidity to reshape by both internal as well as external factors.

Cultural Homogenization

Globalization of culture entails two opposite views, it could either be progressive or it could erode local cultures and threatens its existence. When one talks in terms of globalization of culture it mainly refers to the spread of consumer culture fed through technologies and global media houses to the public. David Held (2003) points out to pop music, television, cinema and tourism as principal agents of globalization. A major addition to this category would be the cyber space where blogging has helped create a sphere of public reasoning and discursion. Benyon and Dunkerley point two way dynamism between the global and local, the global impacting the local and vice versa.

Riesar and Davis invented the term 'globalize' that was tantamount to universalization. This has further reinstated neoliberals and hyperglobalists. This has given rise to what is called cultural convergence characterised by global markets, mass media and cyber space that have created homogenised world. The creation of Bretton woods institutions and the United nations have further provided impetus to this project that seek to promote global governance with convergence of ethical and moral principles. Another major shift has been the change in the role of the state with increasing role of capital forces that have given rise to consumerism. The optimist argument of such homogenization talk interms of cosmopolitan global culture.

Held argues that there is nothing new about globalization but the current stream of globalization has given rise to a highly networked and organised links in the form of global economy where markets rule the roost but at the same time new regulatory forms of governance have also come into place. In consequence has given rise to a host of global problems concerning issues on environment, economy to sovereignty that has reshaped global "politics that today is not only anchored in traditional geopolitical concerns of power, security and trade but larger social and ecological questions"(ibid: 467).

The rising cosmopolitanism of belonging to a single order. In a world where nationalistic feelings are subsiding while cultural identity is emphasized it is important to accommodate four principles of cosmopolitanism

Individual egalitarianism or individualistic moral egalitarianism where all human beings belong to a 'single realm' where each individual is to be treated equally.

The principle of reciprocal recognition that seeks tolerance from all individuals belonging to that single ethical realm.

The principle of consent that calls an uncoerced political process where free interaction of individuals is possible.

Principle of inclusiveness and subsidiarity which calls for giving voice to those who are more affected by public decision making.

Although he does recognise the pessimism against globalization but he also seems to firmly believe in a cosmopolitan accommodative world based on the above mentioned principles. The common overlapping issues over divergent interests help create cosmopolitan governance and social justice.

J.AScholte (1996) discusses an intercultural community that transcends the debate between communitarianism and cosmopolitanism. That is based on seven R's Relaxation, Recognition, Respect, reciprocity, restraint and resistance. All this reveals a very optimist an accommodative view about global cosmopolitanism.

The pessimistic view of homogenisation stresses on the devouring of local cultures in the wake of global consumerism; and that authenticity resides today only in museums and theatres. Domination of homogenised culture through transnational forces will be the reality. The' coca-lization' and Americanisation are terms that describe broadly the homogenizing effects of capitalist consumerism. Another major criticism against consumerism is the 'attack on authentic culture'through creation of false consciousness among people. A notable example in this regard is the commodification of culture through tourism where the local is packaged to suit the taste and preferences of western elites. This in a way thwarts indigenous culture.

Global Impact on the Local: Rise of Consumer Culture

"the sum of the processes by which a society is brought into the modern world system and how its dominating system is attracted, pressured and forced and sometimes bribed into shaping social institutions to correspond to or even promote, the values, structures of the dominating centre of the system." (Tomlinson, John 1996: 103)

The irony that globalization creates is quite astounding where water may not be able for far off distances in rural India but Coke, Pepsi and packaged food would be readily available at tiny shops.

The rise of consumer culture is often linked to spread of capitalism establishing cultural imperialism. This gets further elaborated into, first culture in service of capitalism and secondly cultural critique of capitalism producing a globalised consumer culture by commodifying action and experience. Baudillard argues that the media is not a means of communication as there is no feedback per say. He discusses media's potential in creating a hyper real world such that it absorbs the real within it. It is not true there is no response after the media reception but the nature of output is quite debatable. The problematic area actually lies in construction and moulding of preferences by the media through its various channels. Media monopoly in this context can be quite dangerous as only six media houses control almost 20-30% of what is globally televised. eg News Corp, Time Warner, Disney, Burtelsmann, Viacom and Vivendi Universal most of which are based in OECD countries. As a result of which there is a limited band of choices and choices are imposed. There is no doubt regarding the extent of media influence but it must also be noted that when alternative viewpoints are not allowed a voice media very often becomes a device for such voices to be heard.

Tomlinson in his arguments of cultural imperialism argues that there needs to be a distinction made between creating conditions for spread of capitalism and viewing it as a socio economic system (as a product of capitalist spread). This reductionist critique suffers from economic explanation rather than explaining cultural experiences. Secondly it falsely assumes that people are ideologically manipuable and capitalism relies on ideological manipulation of people. Furthering the critical theory argument suggests consumerism to be treated as a part of a wider structural context of capitalist modernity. Structural differentiation referring to the separation of domestic and work sphere. This inturn creates 'structurally imposed needs' (ibid: 132). These needs may not be real needs but imposed on them by the conditions in which they live. They also create clash of interest between differentiated roles and interest. In such conditions recognition of 'autonomous individual needs and desires becomes difficult.

Moreover the depth and extent of impact of consumer capitalism of the west is questionable. Howes also argues that treating human beings as passive recipients is highly problematic. Although there is no denial that local cultures are subject to western influences, however this westerness may be modified to suit their own needs. The use of term globalization as westernization and universalization have become redundant (Scholte.J, 2000) and that globalization should be understood more interms of deterritorialization or rise of supraterritorial linkages that are continuously influencing social space. This does not imply an end to territoriality, however there is move from "three dimensional geography (latitude, longitude and altitude to four dimensional spaces to include globality that increasingly changes the map of social relations". (ibid). This brings us to the argument of heterogenization and hybridization.

Heterogenization and Hybridisation

Cultural globalization must be understood as faster movement of both tangible and intangible in a deeply interconnected and interdependent world. Although one cannot deny the increasing presence and spread of homogenizing symbols, there has been also resurgence in protecting and maintaining distinctiveness on one hand at the same time cross cultural interaction has resulted in what is commonly used as hybridisation of cultures and reproduction of new cultures.

Tomlinson argues that the mere presence of western commodities does not imply that the local cultures and national cultural identities will be eroded. Instead there might be a reassertion of such forces. Indeed there is no contention on the global presence of such consumerist cultural symbols (that are considered as agents of homogenization) but these symbols are being increasingly being modified to suit the native needs.Peter Jackson argues that globalization is a site of contestation than an established fact. By drawing examples from China and South Africa, he emphasizes that producers are more and more modifying their products to suit native taste and preferences. In China post the Open Door Policy of 1970's Cadbury had to adopt Chinese way of doing business and products were given local names with decreased quantities of sugar and increased quantities of cocoa content. In the presence of Indianized version of Pizza-'paneer salsa' and 'chiken tikka' as well as introduction of Chilli and Garlic sauce to Mc Donald. All these examples are evidence of resilience of local cultures to the transnational products. From the above it is clear that it is not only the global but local that impacts. It can be said that the local coexists with the global resulting in hybridisation or heterogeneous voices of dissent. In a way globalization has encouraged reassertion of indigenous identities and what is also called new social movements. Eg global tourism has intensified Hawaiian sensibilities, global deforestation has triggered indigenous activism in Amazonia, the activation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) resulted in armed rebellion in Mexico's Chiapas State (Scholte,Jan Aart 1996 :578). In India the increasing social unrest against development induced displacements triggered by the proliferation of Multinational projects in the tribal belts. Expanding supraterritoriality has also been linked to increasing secessionist movements in the form of ethnic revivals by communities who were previously under a larger nation state. Eg the case of former Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. This reveals that such collective identities are becoming more and more conscious of their distinction.

Reactions of ethnic identities against globalization world mainly spread of global capitalism, biased global governance agendas and on global environmental issues has also emerged. Apart from this detteritorialization has also resulted in assertion of identities that may not be connected to a particular place and a common issue that cuts across borders binds them. For example women movements, movements against racism, gays and lesbian movements, against human rights atrocities. Scholte gives an excellent classification of supraterritorial identities based on race, gender, class and youth. There has been loosening of nationalist identity as a product of modern territorial states on one hand and rise of supraterritorial nationalism. Globalization and the technological diffusion accompanied have resulted in strengthening ties between dispersed immigrants. The nationality principle may be reasserted on a global platform through use of media, efforts are being made to revitalize native languages etc. At a more individual level Scholte talks about fragmentation of the self and the production of multiple identities and often get lost in a multiple categorizations of gender, class, race, orientation, religion etc that have become even more sharper. Kinvall (2004) borrowing from Anthony Giddensattempts to give psychological explanations to the phenomena of supraterritorial nationalism or voices of decent in an alien nation. Ontological security referring to person's fundamental sense of safety in the world and includes a basic trust of other people and existential anxiety that is "Protection against future threat and dangers which allows individuals to sustain hope and courage in the face of whatever debilitating circumstances she or he might later confront".(ibid: 746). In this sense migration is viewed as a sense of psychological process where the migrant may feel insecure and feel a sense of homelessness. Social constructivist theories emphasize on the linguistic and narrative construction of identity which has been criticised by Kinvall as being unable to explain meaning of fluid identities. There is also mention of the 'thick signifier approach' that probes "how individuals define themselves in relation to others according to their structural axis of power"(ibid) thus there in advent of heightened ontological insecurity people seek a stable identity.

This can be seen in the increased efforts to create a home like environment in a place that one may not belong natively. Eg establishment of religious places of worship where the community gathering can take place and recreate rituals of home country in foreign land by celebrating of cultural festivals. Self categorization and other social identity theories attempt to explain own groups in relation to others as well as understanding 'self' at different levels (individual, intergroup and inter species). Despite limitations a common thread running through all these theories is an attempt to explain how people form associations, try to replicate their native conditions to feel a sense of belongingness in an environment of heightened insecurity. In such conditions nationalism and religion become influential in offering save havens against such insecurities.

"Both national and religious identity make claims to a monolithic and abstract identity that is, one stable identity that answers to the need of securitized subjectivity" Kinvall

There needs to be a distinction made between religion as a cultural experience and religion as a fundamentalist expression. It is the latter form that reveals the uglier side of cultural preservation where violence becomes a defence mechanism. "What we appear to be witnessing is a deprivation of religion, global desecularization of the world with an increase in anti-secular movements and discourses disenchanted with the project of modernity and insistence on the political potential and public role religious beliefs and practices."(Karner and Alridge, 2004). Revival of protestant Christianity in Latin America and parts of Sub Saharan Africa. There have been studies conducted to show that participation in religious fundamentalism and spread of religion is quite substantial among downtrodden and unemployed youth. Fundamentalist edge of religion is further sharpened when politics enters. Eg the Islamic revolution in Iran, rise of hindutva in Indian politics. The homogenising effect of consumerism is proved wrong by the reaffirmation of religion based identities where religion becomes a potent weapon that threatens to deststabilize tolerance. The global chaos theorist argues the same stating that convergence of values and imposition that are unwelcomed that results might take the form of violence. (Dutceac, Anamaria, 2004: 3)

Leiser and Weidberg talk about culture as an arena of contestation within three overlapping popular, folk and high culture. Popular culture dominated by the so called American music, movies, fashion, music. Folk culture being destroyed to suit the foreign needs and preferences and high culture (culture associated with elites) with expression found in museums, international festivals, internet etc. (ibid: 283). Each of these become sights of contestations between different cultures. This cultural backlash varies from place to place. In developed societies reactions to Americanisation is seen more interms of policy responses. Eg France, Italy and Spain have tried to control the amount of American imports in films by imposition of tariffs. China and North Korea on western images and goods. The reaction is worse in Muslim countries where backlash takes violent forms intrusion of western influences and crisis of traditional societies in the wake of socio-ecomic changes. The terrorist attacks are examples in this regard. The west inturn defends itself by blaming inherent trouble within such societies. "It has become too useful a smokescreen for Muslim nations' many deficits? Their corruption, their incompetence, their oppression of their citizens, their economic, scientific and cultural stagnation. America-hating has become a badge of identity, making it possible a chest beating, flag burning rhetoric of word and deed that makes men feel good. It contains a strong streak of hypocrisy, hating most what it desires most, and elements of self loathing. (We hate America because it has made of identity disregard and self what we cannot make of our selves). What America is accused of? Close mindedness, stereotyping, ignorance? Is also what its accusers would see if they looked into a mirror"? -Salman Rushdie

A .Sen. (2006) explains the distinction between 'multiculturalism and plural monoculturalism'. Multiculturalism implies coexistence with interaction whereas plural monoculturalism implies coexistence without interaction. It is the latter that may fan hostilities between communities. However multiculturalism must encourage diversity and at the same time provide freedom of choice and decision making, it must not be coerced.


There has indeed been an increase interaction and deepening of networks that characterizes contemporary form of globalization however that should not be mistaken for increased homogenization or westernization or Americanisation! There is no contention on the flow of goods and availability of western goods and services in foreign lands but that does not imply moving in the direction of sameness. Local cultures develop resilience mechanism however crude in form they may be. The very fact that western goods are marketed keeping in mind the taste and preference of natives is a proof that homogenisation is not a norm. Escobar rightly exclaims that "when a border is eliminated it reappears somewhere else". (Culture sits in its place. He further two subaltern strategies place based that are attached to territory and culture and glocal strategies that utilises global networks. In sum a case can be made for hybridisation of culture or what is termed as creolization where new meanings are assigned to imported culture. A straight jacketed theory of placing individuals into one category or assuming them to be self interested individuals would be too reductionist view. Individuals have multiple roles to play and it is important therefore to examine ways by which communities try to hang on to their cultures even when they are part of translocal networks.