Penetration Of West In Pakistani Elite Society Cultural Studies Essay

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Culture is a broad term which has been described by various philosophers since decades. It has been claimed by Raymond Williams to be "…one of the two or three most complicated words in English language" (Williams, 1976). Different definitions of the term, culture may have distinct descriptive ways and criterion to evaluate human activity. Culture is a word stemming from a Latin word 'culture' which means to cultivate (Harper, 2008). It is defined by Findley and Rothney as, "systems of symbols and meanings that even their creator contest, which lack fixed boundaries, that are constantly in flux, and that interact and compete with one another" (Findley & Rothney, 2006). The authors describe culture to be a system of symbols having blurred boundaries. The curx however is to see how do we recognize these systems of symbols? The answer to this question is provided by Williams who says that culture can be judged or embedded in music, literature, lifestyle, painting and sculpture, theater and film and similar things (Williams, 1976). These dimensions are common to all cultures. In the foreface of the rapid globalization and the interaction in the past, these dimensions of various cultures are often influenced by each other. The following study discusses the influence of the dimensions of western culture to the respective dimensions of the Pakistani culture.

Cultural penetration is the practice of promoting, distinguishing, separating, or artificially injecting the culture or language of one culture into another. Cultural penetration can take the form of general attitude as well. In this study, the focus has been on the Western culture being penetrated inside Pakistani culture. Elements of Western culture have had a very influential role on other cultures worldwide. People of many cultures, both Western and non-Western, equate modernization (adoption of technological progress) with westernization (adoption of Western culture). Westernization can be defined as a process whereby societies come under or adopt the Western culture in such matters as industry, technology, law, politics, economics, lifestyle, diet, language, alphabet, religion or values. Westernization has been a pervasive and accelerating influence across Pakistan in the last few centuries. It is usually a two-sided process, in which western influences and interests themselves are joined by a wish of at least parts of the affected society to change towards a more westernized society, in the hope of attaining western life or some aspects of it.

Increasing globalization has increased the influence of Western culture in Pakistan, especially among the affluent, which have easy access to Western products, television, media, and food. Many Western food chains have established themselves in Pakistan, and are found in the major cities. In cities western dress is also popular among the youth and the business sector. Families do not share the same family time together and are very much sensitive about their privacy. Obsession with English is so much that many Pakistanis, who speak and write English well, are unable to understand Urdu.

Statement of the problem

The study aims to identify the factors behind the cultural penetration of West in Pakistani élite society.

It has been observed that people of Pakistani society feel pride in exercising westernized culture and tradition. They are being deviated from their own cultural norms and are adopting a more westernized approach. The main role played in increasing such behavior is because of the media, which is spreading the norms of the west. Pakistani society's lifestyles, family relations, dressing, education has changed drastically and is not what it used to be some years back.

Purpose of the problem

The study aims towards the factors which plays an important role in the influence of western culture into Pakistani culture.

Research Question

What are the main factors behind cultural penetration of west which are influencing Pakistan's élite society?

Justification of the problem

The study can give awareness to the people of our society about conserving Pakistani culture; about how it plays an important role in making them united and unified. It can help people to understand the urgency to preserve Pakistani culture by providing a documented form of material that highlights the good and bad effects of adopting western culture. Furthermore, it teaches the immature people, to realize the importance of Pakistani culture. Fundamentally, culture makes use of artifacts and rituals to pass on notions of identity, which is observed to be missing in the élite class of our Pakistani society.


Culture is the knowledge, customs, beliefs, and way of life of a group of people. Culture is represented through the art, literature, costumes, customs and traditions of a community. Different cultures exist in different parts of the world. The natural environment greatly affects the lifestyle of the people of that region, thus shaping their culture (Manali Oak, November 15 2008)

Cultural impact are the effects on individual and society on their lifestyle, language, traditions and education from surrounding environment which includes their sources of information and how it influences them is.

Culture is a bond that ties the people of a region or community together. It is that one common bond, which brings the people of a community together. The customs and traditions that the people of a community follow, the festivals they celebrate, the kind of clothing they wear, the food they eat, and most importantly, the cultural values they adhere to, bind them together. (Manali Oak, November 15 2008)

Cultures are internally affected by both forces encouraging change and forces resisting change. These forces are related to both social structures and natural events, and are involved in the perpetuation of cultural ideas and practices within current structures, which themselves are subject to change.

Most prominently, western influence is observed to be seen in the Pakistani elite society. Their complete lifestyle and mentality is of the west and they, in no manner represent to be Pakistani because of which Pakistan ruling elite have started creating a cultural vacuum by undermining indigenous cultures and languages (Dr Manzur Ejaz).

The influence of west on the elite society is mainly being transferred through media. Media is playing a very vital role in showing the western culture, which is seemingly very attractive. There cannot be two opinions on the deep, lasting and widespread impact of media on the masses. Being an agent of socio-political, economic and cultural change in our age, media can disrupt a society or can stabilize and strengthen a society (Muhammad Abbas, 2003). The elite families of Pakistan can also afford to live such a life which is full of westernized style and culture. They are moving away from their own culture and feel ashamed of being Pakistani.

Muhammad Abbas (2003) have stated that there is a need to strengthen our socio-cultural and ideological foundations was never as great as it is today. There is cultural invasion from the West and Cable TV networks. Our values are being attacked and are in danger. Media must build our confidence and faith in our values. It must create a pride in our glorious past, our culture and our way of living. Pakistan has a tremendous potential and has a status in international community especially it has high stature among the Muslim countries. We have mat beautiful normative and social value structure, which needs to be preserved, promoted and strengthened.

Muhammad Abbas (2003) also emphasizes that media, is in fact, a mirror of society which can remove negative spots in Pakistani elite society, by showing its face in this mirror. Thus media can play a diagnostic role in pointing out the negative tendencies and suggest ways and means to counter such tendencies. Media can stabilize or destabilize a society or a country and Pakistani elite society cannot be an exception. Pakistani elite families are at crossroads and in transition. The society and Pakistani culture are threatened. Their patterns of life are changing because of education and media impact and this change has to be facilitated in a positive manner.

The elite families in Pakistan live a life which is closely similar to western families. For example, the concept of family is different in West compared to other Asian countries. Most western families consist of a mother and a father with an average of 1-3 children. It is very common in most families that both the mother and father are employed full time and are at work while their children are at school or a daycare facility. Same is the case with the elite families in Pakistan. The children are used to living alone and independently without their parents at home.

Gaëlle Sévenier (2004) has stated that the spread of American culture goes through every communication medium.

The AP National Writer journalist Anthony Ted (2004) says everyone from the French to the Indonesians worry that where English goes, America will follow. Scholars Nye and Owen (2004) admitted that it is the goal of the United States to have English as the international language.

It is in the economic and political interests of the United States to ensure that, if the world is moving to a common language, it be English. According to them, not only it is intentional, but also it is a "developing reality." This spread of values language, and information is purely because of economic and political interest for the United States, the well-being of other cultures and their freedom of expression are not taken into consideration except instrumentally - can they be bought and sold for a profit or can they be used to political advantage - to the profit and advantage of the US. Daily times (2008) stated that in Pakistan, government-funded institutions are Urdu-medium, traditional culturally and have English as a separate subject. Private institutions use English as a medium of instruction and mostly follow Western traditions in teaching and rules. These two types also reflect differences in the socio-economic level of students with the former representing the lay population and the latter representing the upper social class. In short Pakistani elite society feels pride in speaking English rather than Urdu as their daily life language.

When looking at the educational sector, Daily Times Monitor (2007) reviewed that government funded institutions are Urdu-medium, traditional culturally and have English as a separate subject. Private institutions use English as a medium of instruction and mostly follow Western traditions in teaching and rules. These two types also reflect differences in the socio economic level of students with the former representing the lay population and the latter representing the upper social or elite class.

Journalist S.M. Hussain states that the elite families together represent the heart of Pakistan's ruling class. It may be instructive to paint a typical picture of such a family - education begins at English language schools, graduating with British qualifications such as O Levels and A Levels. Thereafter, one can go off to college abroad or at a top local university. Families usually have at least some relatives living abroad. Career choices include the armed forces, good civilian jobs at top organizations (gotten through family connections).

Daily times (2008) states that in view of increasing globalization, it is difficult to predict the extent of the future influence of Western culture on these Eastern cultures and their lifestyles. Due to excessive western influence, the Pakistanis have opened themselves up. Zainykhas (2009) states that the excessive Americanization has wiped off the typical Pakistani culture. The extended and nectar family system, a hall mark of Pakistani culture, has slowly died away, especially amongst the elite classes, who are more exposed to the American ways and lifestyle. The young generation seldom cares for the old parents and so, sadly, old age houses have been established. The number of practicing Muslims has decreased. Nowadays far less number goes to mosques than it did a decade back. The meal preferences have changed from Chapatti and rice to Subway, KFC and McDonalds. Instead of traditional drinks, Pepsi and coke have penetrated the homes.

Faisal. K (2007, The News) states that perhaps it is some colonial chip we still carry on our shoulder, which focuses us to acknowledge all things west as cool and hip. Perhaps we are still so much in awe of the white man that we cannot even see their faults and our own virtues. Whatever it may be, Pakistani elite society is rapidly turning into a cell phone crazy, IPod hugging, wild eyed bunch of commercial zombies who run and adopt every idiotic trend that comes from the west with utmost glee. Its not as if its just one area of the city that is affected by this madness, day by day it is seen that the entire place divided into little elite clutches of people, the have's and the have not's. It should be asked how one defines these separations, well its quite easy, the have's seem to roam about this city as if it is their own personal jungle… turning up their nose at any have not they encounter on the way. They drive the latest cars, jabber away on the latest cell phones and wear only Italian designer clothes. No matter, if they do not even know how to pronounce the designers name properly. Hence we are a race of people with a culture that spans generations of grandeur, yet we want to throw all that away just for a cozy little niche in our minds which tells us, make hay while the sun shines and to hell with the rest of it.

As a Grande Strategy, it is believed that the fundamental battle taking place in Pakistani elite society is between the secular and western-based educated pro-American elites. This westernization could eventually lead to the collapse of the established elite in Pakistan (S.M. Hussain). Hence the Pakistani ruling elite played a very shrewd but self-defeating cynical game.


It has been observed that the elite society in Pakistan are opposing their own culture and are more interested to follow western culture in their daily life. This can be called upon as western cultural penetration, which is slowly eroding Pakistani culture unnoticeably. This is referred as a problem because in the cycle of the society the new traditions are set from the upper social class and then followed by the lower social classes. Therefore it is very necessary that the elite class be very conscious towards this social issue and takes care of what they think as culturally acceptable tradition.

The study has revealed new information, which surely helps researchers in answering the research question, increasing their knowledge and understanding of the social problems prevailing in the society. It will also help them in understanding the importance of such social issues and how it can be rectified so that such problems can be ignored or minimized in the future.

As it is revealed to us that western cultural penetration exists in our society, there lie some responsibilities for us to undertake. Since it has rooted underneath the surfaces so immensely, it will not be easy to remove it from the society in a short span of time, for it requires much of hard work and struggle from everyone.

Firstly, it is the job of the parents of our society to give correct guidance from the very beginning to their children so that they learn to appreciate their own culture. It is very important to differentiate between the cultures and to accept what is ours and like it from within. The children must understand that wandering away from their own culture will never end in success and prosperity.

Secondly, all the educational institutions must also encourage their students to celebrate the national and traditional customs and festivals, rather than celebrating foreign ones. These institutions should also try to preserve the true value of Urdu as our national language. They must struggle to maintain the level of Urdu in the eyes of the students and to make them understand that it is good to speak English but Urdu must never be forgotten.

Thirdly, the responsibility lies in the hands of each individual. Every one of us should encourage and appreciate our own Pakistani culture and should feel pride in doing so. We all should try to make those people understand who think that foreign cultures are better than Pakistani culture. We should make them realize the importance of being under the label of ones own culture and country.

As media is approached by everyone, it plays a very important role in portraying our culture. It should promote and preserve Pakistani culture in all the ways possible. Media should discourage the portrayal of those programs which in any way harms our culture.

When lifestyle is considered, it is good to be advanced and technologically developed but we do not need to adopt those segments of lifestyle which deviate us from our culture and religion. Because one can only look best in exercising own culture and lifestyle.

To cope up with the identity crisis, it is important to make the victims understand that following others just for the sake of fashion is no good to anyone. One should always be confident about his/her own talent and abilities and never under estimate oneself.