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Global Culture: hegemony or plurality


(3) Young couples: clean, soft music, romantic, a place for courtship ... out knowing who/what to thank; Valentine's day w/out knowing who St. Valentine is ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Global Culture: hegemony or plurality

Global Culture hegemony or plurality?
Yin-wah Chu Sociology, HKU
What is globalization?
  • Contemporary social changes
  • Revolutions in information and communication
    technology (ICT)
  • Decline of socialism/communism
  • Resultant impacts on the
  • Economy
  • Polity
  • Culture
  • Society

What is globalization?
  • Revolutions in ICT (David Harvey)
  • 1500-1840 horse-drawn coaches, 10 mph
  • 1850-1930 steam locomotives, 65 mph
  • 1950 propeller aircraft, 300-400 mph
  • 2000 jet passenger aircraft, 500-700 mph
  • Perhaps we may add TV the Internet
  • Result time-space compression

What is globalization?
  • Impact on the economy
  • Globalize economic production exchange
  • IBM computer architecture designed in the US,
    hard disk drive produced in Singapore, keyboard
    in Malaysia, memory chips in Japan/Taiwan/Korea,
    computer assembled in China
  • Daily transactions in the global capital market
    more than US1 trillion

What is globalization?
  • Impact on the polity
  • Nation-state cannot solve transnational problems,
    e.g. pollution, human trafficking
  • Emergence of transnational political
    institutions, e.g. WTO, WHO, UN
  • National identification replaced/competed by
    local, regional, or global identification, e.g.
    global citizen

What is globalization?
  • These changes CANNOT be understood from the
    perspective of inter-national system, e.g.
  • Hence the term globalization
  • Globalization radicals ? the global exerts
    central dynamics
  • Globalization transformationists ? complex
    interactions among global, national, local …

What is culture?
  • But, of course, todays focus is culture
  • What is culture?
  • Art, music, drama, religion …
  • But also mundane practices and consciousness,
    e.g. voting behavior, views of authority, dine
    and wine, self-adornment
  • I.e. ????

What is culture?
  • American Heritage Dictionary
  • The totality of socially transmitted behavior
    patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions and all
    other products of human work and thought
  • These patterns, traits, and products considered
    as the expression of a particular period, class,
    community, or population

What is culture?
  • Birmingham School
  • Cultural as a totality of meaningful practices
    constituting a way of life
  • Ulf Hannerz (1992)
  • Culture … above all a matter of meaning … ideas,
    experiences, feelings, as well as the external
    forms that such internalities take as they are
    made public, available to the senses and thus
    truly social

Debates on global culture
  • One major debate concerns
  • The spread of global read American culture,
    e.g. Coke Cola, McDonalds, Disneyland, Levis
    jeans, …
  • Has globalization enriched or impoverished
    culture around the world?
  • Cultural imperialism/hegemony or cultural

1 Cultural Imperialism
  • Late capitalism
  • Individuals find no meaning in work, but depend
    on consumption to express and assert ones
  • Capitalisms search for profit ? find new markets
    to conquer, transform culture into commodity
    items of desire to be bought and sold.
    Dominant corporations mostly from the US rely
    upon the global media to achieve the purpose

Cultural Imperialism
  • Global media corporations
  • Global media market dominated by 10 transnational
    corporations Time Warner, Disney, Bertelsmann
    (Germany), Viacom, Telecommunications Inc., News
    Corporation, Sony, Seagram (formerly Universal),
    General Electric (formerly NBC), Dutch Phillips
    (formerly Polygram)
  • Flow of media from the West to the Rest

Cultural Imperialism
  • Promotion of global cultural items
  • McDonalds, Coke Cola …
  • Would also incorporate foreign or ethnic culture
    to introduce seasonal variation ? a means to
    satisfy the search for the exotic
  • E.g. Mulan (filial piety versus feminism) or
    ethnic tourism (stereotypical practices presented
    to tourists as indigenous take local culture out
    of context so as to satisfy consumption need)

Cultural Imperialism
  • Global culture does not exert superficial impacts
    alone, they also shape peoples consciousness
  • in practically everywhere, people watch Dallas
    on TV, wear blue jeans and smoke Marlboro as a
    sign of free, untouched nature (Ulrich Beck
  • the meaning of good, appropriate, success

Cultural Imperialism
  • Destroy indigenous culture
  • Decline of tradition e.g. sexual liberation
    propagated by Hollywood movies and decline of the
  • Distortion of local culture, e.g. the case of
    ethnic tourism

Cultural Imperialism
  • The idea of cultural imperialism (Herbert
  • Culture becomes more homogeneous
  • Not in the sense that all cultures are
    incorporated equally, but biased towards American
    culture and those presented in English
  • The complete opposite of diversity

Cultural Imperialism
  • Cultural Imperialism
  • A new form of exploitation that results from the
    export of popular culture from the U. S., Japan,
    and Europe. Popular culture portrays images of a
    good life ? consumption
  • More important than political or military control
    in the postmodern, post-socialist, postindustrial

(2) Cultural Diversity
  • Globalization
  • Unprecedented increase in awareness of lives in
    other cultures social and political ideas, forms
    of entertainment, cultural products
  • Availability of greater choices and exciting
    combination of the global and local

Cultural Diversity
  • Against cultural imperialism
  • An indigenous past?
  • Domination of global media?
  • Which TV channel do most people watch in HK?
  • Global products sold without regard to local
  • Disneyland in Tokyo ?
  • Newsweek in Asia and the US

Cultural Diversity
  • Consumers passively consume products given to
    them? Or bring their own cultural resources to
    make sense of the culture?
  • i. Cultural hybridization foreign cultural
    imports are assigned fresh meanings within the
    receiving culture

Cultural Diversity
  • E.g. In pre-revolution Iran, Dallas was
    considered corrupt in post-revolution Iran,
    Western pop music circulates underground and used
    by people to distance themselves from the regime
  • E.g. Women from Trinidad talked about a US TV
    program, The Young and the Restless, to
    reinforce their beliefs in what marriage means
  • E.g.??? ?????????? MingPao April 3, 2005

Cultural Diversity
  • Globalization of HK-Chinese food is another topic
    that we cannot explore in depth today

Cultural Diversity
  • ii. Cultural synchronization people can belong
    to a number of cultures simultaneously.
  • E.g. watch TV as a means to distance from our
    everyday life.
  • E.g. Korean women politicians developed a dual
    system of dress hanbok to signify nationalism
    and Western dress to symbolize material success
    and careerism

  • The case of the McDonalds has been studied quite
    extensively and can be used to illustrate the
    case for and against cultural imperialism

  • McDonalds (G. Ritzers McDonaldization)
  • (1) efficiency fast, method of production
    scientifically proven
  • (2) predictability a world of no surprise
    standard menu, taste, décor, service
  • (3) quantity rather than quality
  • (4) non-human technology

McDonalds /Hong Kong
  • Global
  • (1) Standardization food, interior design,
    layout etc.
  • (2) Initially presented itself as uncompromising
    American food
  • - no Chinese name at first
  • - transliteration later
  • - no Chinese food

McDonalds /Hong Kong
  • (3) Standard of cleanliness clean washrooms in
  • (4) Customer discipline line up for food
  • (5) Idea of a regular meal (a) exotic to
    ordinary (b) snacks versus meals customers
    middle-class, like exotic American culture ? all
    ages, all social classes, look for a simple meal

McDonalds /Hong Kong
  • Local?
  • (1) Resistance of McDonalds? Involve in
    community activities hard to attack
  • (2) Local choice of food fish burger and plain
    hamburgers rather than Big Mac as favorite, other
    local favorites e.g. shogan burger, chicken wings

McDonalds /Hong Kong
  • (3) Consumer discipline service w/ a smile,
    busing own tables, hovering, napkin wars
  • (4) Fast food restaurant? US customers stay no
    more than 20 minutes on average HK study room
    for high school students, gathering place for
    senior people ??????

McDonalds /China
  • McDonalds opened its first store in Beijing in
  • McDonalds enjoyed tremendous success
  • Chinese attempts to imitate McDonalds, but failed

McDonalds /China
  • Who go to McDonalds and why?
  • (1) Young professionals a mark of middle-class
    status (in 1992), feeling of connection to the
    world …
  • (2) Single women morally suspect in
    traditional restaurants. Greater equality in
    McDonalds order own food, no fear of being
    dominated in conversations

McDonalds /China
  • (3) Young couples clean, soft music, romantic, a
    place for courtship
  • (4) Parents with young children childrens
    choice of restaurants

McDonalds /China
  • Fast food a cultural construct - includes the
    food and nonfood elements, e.g. eating manners,
    environment, patterns of social interaction
  • McDonalds in Beijing food, décor … embody
    global standards
  • consumers expropriate the global elements for
    their own purposes

  • Cultural imperialism?
  • McDonalds changed the Asian cuisine and consumer
    behaviors, yet …
  • HK people embraced American fast food w/out
    losing cultural traditions
  • HK and Mainland Chinese consumers also
    transformed their neighborhood McDonalds into
    local institutions

  • James Watson younger people in Hong Kong are
    fully conversant in transnational idioms, which
    include language, music, sports, clothing,
    satellite televisions, cyber communications,
    global travel … not possible to distinguish b/n
    global and local the transnational is the local

Debates on global culture
  • We have so far focused on the globalization of
    popular culture.
  • The approach that emphasizes cultural
    plurality, especially its questioning of pure
    indigenous culture and its attention to human
    agency in the consumption process, is appropriate
    and should be taken adopted in any study of

Debates on global culture
  • However, the globalization of culture extends to
    other dimensions, esp. to its political
  • Cannot overlook the inextricable relationship
    between culture and the nation-state
  • Samuel Huntingtons Clash of Civilization
  • Francis Fukuyamas The End of History

Debates on global culture
  • The argument of human agency pales against the
    fact that African languages are disappearing
  • In the next century, about 90 of the worlds
    6,000 languages would disappear and with them
    their knowledge, customs, and culture
  • Of this 6,000 plus languages, 1/3 are spoken on

Lung Ying-tai
  • On Taiwan governments proposal to adopt English
    as an official language
  • She writes beautifully concerning her experiences
    in Europe.
  • Modernization and globalization have not led to
    the destruction of tradition.
  • Indeed, modern technology has been used to
    preserve tradition.
  • Tradition is not nostalgia, but a necessity in

Lung Ying-tai
  • The more developed a country, the more are its
    people confident of its tradition
  • Asian countries tend to borrow other countries
    culture without knowing its meanings
  • e.g. thanksgiving w/out knowing who/what to
    thank Valentines day w/out knowing who St.
    Valentine is …

Lung Ying-tai
  • For her, internationalization or
    globalization means an understanding of self
    and the other
  • Self-understanding so that one knows what values
    one should hold on to
  • Understand the other so that one can use the
    language and logic understandable to the other
    and express the uniqueness of the self
    language, culture, viewpoints

Lung Ying-tai
  • Knowledge is the foundation to attain such an
  • A total conversion to foreign culture is not
    useful. An indulgence in ones own culture is
    also counterproductive

Lung Ying-tai
  • Hong Kongs cultural policy
  • Domination of central value
  • Economy, wealth generation, efficiency,
    development, globalization as indicators of
    social progress
  • Result
  • A monolithic face tidy, orderly …
  • A government that does not respect history
  • A West Kowloon Cultural District that has
    little to do w/ local people, local culture

  • Criticisms of cultural imperialism true enough
  • Human agency
  • Absence of an indigenous past cultural
    cross-fertilization is the essence of art static
    art is dead art
  • Tyranny of the nation nations have tried to
    eliminate other culture/languages in their rise
    male domination in most traditional societies

  • Cultural enrichment
  • Material non-material culture coke,
    McDonalds, Titanic …
  • Ideas of egalitarianism through books published
    in foreign languages and as they are embodied in
    the consumption of McDonalds

  • Globalization occurs w/in particular
    political/economic/cultural structures
  • But each country can protect those elements of
    its culture it most prizes … If only people can
    generate enough local concern and political will,
    free societies will always device ways to
    guarantee cultural plurality and deny hegemony to
    any single over-mighty cultural threat

  • Hegemony or plurality?