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Essay on the Impact of Globalization on Culture

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 4291 words Published: 23rd Sep 2021

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In today’s world of interconnectedness, the conception of independent, coherent, and stable cultures are becoming increasingly rare. Processes of globalization are drawing people from different cultural origins into close relationships as can be seen in the unprecedented expansion of tourism, the flourishing of multinational corporations, the emergence of new geographical unities like the European Community, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the dissemination of pop culture, the increasing flow of migrations, the growth of diasporas, the emergence of Internet communities, and the establishment of global institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations. Nevertheless even though cultures are seen as unstable and changing, this shift is generally viewed from a macro perspective, of the bigger affecting the smaller, the process of global affecting the local. The alternative i.e. the local effecting the global is not paid much attention to in globalization literature. This feature of the emerging world has been grasped and theorized by what we call glocalization theory today. The essence of the emerging worldwide phenomenon where globalization and localization are simultaneously transforming the development landscape is captured by Glocalization. The term Glocalization is very similar to the term Globalization and in fact has its roots in it.

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To understand the essence of glocalization we need to first look at what globalization denotes and the problems with it which gave rise to the glocal as opposed to the global or simply the local. Globalization can be seen as a compression of the world as a whole. But in terms of culture what has become almost commonplace is to think of globalization as a large scale phenomenon that involves the triumph of culturally homogenizing forces over all others. The ‘bigger’, is increasingly seen as ‘better’. This view has been criticized as having a lack of concern with micro sociological or local issues. Sociologist Ronald Robertson who is instrumental in popularizing the term shows that there have been attempts to propose a global sociology with ventures to incorporate indigenous sociologies into this wider imperative. The process of globalization was being increasingly seen as a tendency which overrides the locality. Thus the concept of Glocalization as Robertson puts it is was needed, as according to him universalism was being countrerposed to particularism. Glocalization essentially encapsulates the simultaneous processes of globalization and localization that are taking place in the world today. The global expressed in the local and the local as the particularization of the global.


The term has its roots in the Japanese term dochakuka which first appeared in the late 1980s in articles by Japanese economists in the Harvard Business Review. The term originally meant adapting farming technique to one’s own local condition. The idea was later adopted to refer to global-localization. According to the dictionary meaning, the term ‘glocal’ and the process noun ‘glocalization’ are “formed by telescoping global and local to make a blend” [1]. Glocalization seems to be a problematic term as it is seen as meaning different things to different people. Roland Robertson, conceptualized glocalization as, “the universalization of particularization and the particularization of universalism” [2]. Khondker expressed it as a process combining the twin processes of macro-localization and micro-globalization. For others globalization provokes revival of local cultural identities. Thus in his view ‘local’ is the provider of the response to the forces that are ‘global’.

Nevertheless what we adhere to in this paper is the Robertsonian view of glocalization which argues that any focus on the global must have a focus on the local for the two are mutually constitutive of each other; it is not as simple as the global being proactive and the local being reactive. He attributes this to the debates centering on the relationship between the global and the local. The global was scripted as being homogenizing because of the economic and cultural flows associated with it (proactive) and the local being a site of heterogeneity fighting to keep out globalization (reactive). Rethinking globalization in this way leads to the recognition that it is not a process that operates exclusively at a planetary scale, but is constantly being localized in various ways and with different intensities. Forces from above periodically emerge to interrupt local serenity. With local cultural stasis upset by outside forces, a re-stabilization process sets in to enable the emergence of a new culture more able to cope with the disorder brought on by, in this case, globalization

Robertson refers to glocalization as the “interpenetration of the global and local resulting in unique outcomes in different geographical areas’. At a 1997 conference on “Globalization and Indigenous Culture,” Robertson said that glocalization “means the simultaneity – the co-presence – of both universalizing and particularizing tendencies.” The process also denotes the commonly interconnected processes of homogenization and heterogenization. Theorists of glocalization typically challenge the assumption that globalization processes always endanger the local. Rather, glocalization both highlights how local cultures may critically adapt or resist ‘global’ phenomena, and reveals the way in which the very creation of localities is a standard component of globalization. There is now a universal normalization of ‘locality’, in the sense that ‘local’ cultures are assumed to arise constantly and particularize themselves vis-a-vis other specific cultures. Some have also termed this process as ‘internal globalization’ i.e. globalization is seen as not only a macro structure but to highlight the reality of micro globalization. Internal globalization means that large numbers of people around the globe are now exposed to other cultures on a daily basis without crossing borders on a regular basis, simply through the variety of communication media. Furthermore, they might encounter immigrants, refugees, or tourists in their own locality.

They might also encounter cultural artefacts and commercial establishments that bring other cultures into close proximity to their own. The increasing presence of McDonalds restaurants worldwide is an example of globalization, while the restaurant chain’s menu changes in an attempt to appeal to local palates are an example of glocalization. Perhaps even more illustrative of glocalization: For promotions in France, the restaurant chain recently chose to replace its familiar Ronald McDonald mascot with Asterix the Gaul, a popular French cartoon character. Products are embedded and then promoted within the local culture.

Dannie Kjeldgaard and Soren Askegaard analyze the whole glocalization discourse with respect to youth culture and view them mainly as consumers. According to them youth culture is an institutionalized facet of the market, emerging predominantly from Western cultural currents and diffusing globally. Early youth cultural styles diffused primarily in the West but also to other parts of the modernizing world. Youth culture, like other spheres of social life due to the process of glocalization, is increasingly shaped by and constitutes global cultural flows. They put forth Appadurai’s analysis who analyzes the global cultural economy by using the landscape metaphor to illustrate such flows within five “scapes”: “ethnoscapes” (the flow of people), “technoscapes” (the flow of technology), “finanscapes” (the flow of finance and capital), “mediascapes” (the flow of mediated images), and “ideoscapes” (the flow of ideas and ideologies). These flows increase the availability of symbols and meanings in consumers’ everyday lives in such a way that much of what is available in one place is also available in any other place. The glocalization processes constituted by these flows shape socio-cultural reality in dialectical processes between the local and the global.

Through these processes, the styles characteristic of youth culture spread globally, instigating the development of local versions of youth culture through appropriation and creolization. They are mainly of the opinion that members of the youth market interpret and rework global cultural practices and meanings to fit into their local contexts. Consumption practices are inscribed in local historically constituted cultural discourses and in particular consumers are reliant on their predominantly class-based, socio-cultural resources for negotiating global meanings and practices in their daily lives. Their study addresses several knowledge gaps by showing that the often noted homogeneity of global youth consumption practices overlooks their deeper structural differences and diverse localized meanings. These deeper differences flow from the manifestations of a transnational market ideology in glocalized forms. Identities are rearticulated in local versions, although these appropriative reworkings are never totally free of ideological influence. The ideological models carry with them preferred readings, which consumers have to negotiate.


To understand the impact the process of glocalization has on culture we first need to understand what the term culture denotes. It is in the domain of culture that we think, express ourselves articulate our aspirations and decide our mode of life. In general culture can be said to refer to the social construction, articulation and reception of meaning. ‘Culture can be seen as a lived and creative experience for individuals as well as a body of artifacts texts and objects. It embraces the specialized and professionalized discourses of the arts, the commodified output of the cultural industries the spontaneous and unorganized cultural expressions of everyday life and the complex interactions between all these’. [3] The essence of a culture is defined by its responses to the ultimate questions of human existence: death, hope, tragedy, love, loyalty, power, the meaning and purpose of life, and the place of the transcendental in human existence. But the responses to these questions are different and vary from region to region thus producing different values to the different elements relating to culture.

The responses to these questions are affected by different socio-cultural-political even technological criteria thus having a whole different outlook to the way life is lived and perceived. Again Jan Nederveen Pieterse gives us a different classification of culture. According to him in the context of the global there can be two concepts of culture. [4] One is culture as essentially territorial i.e. localized culture of societies and groups. The other he classifies as culture as a general human software which refers to it as a trans-local learning process. Culture in the first sense of the term has an inward looking sense of a place while the second is essentially in the sense of outward looking. According to Pieterse the second finds expression in the first. Culture is the medium through which individuals and collectivities organize and conceptualize their identities in time and space. Thus different views of or different ways of looking at culture can have a huge impact on the influences cultural flows will have on different societies.

Impact of Glocalization on Culture

The whole process of the global effecting the local and the local the global has ramifications in a number of spheres and in a number of ways. There are basically two contestants in the globalization debate as Featherstone and Lash note, the homogenizer for whom globalization is to be seen as a consequence of modernity and heterogenizers who consider globalization as characterizing post modernity. [5] Homogenizers tend to think in terms of a world system that leads them to look primarily at the presence of universals. Heterogenizers, on the other hand, tend to dispute that a world system exists and disclaim the validity of universals. They see the dominance of the West over “the Rest” as simply one particular system over another system. The glocalization debate does not adhere strictly to any of these extremes but shows that the whole process is a two-way dialogue – having both homogenizing and heterogenizing tendencies and tries to address the contradiction between the two. The global infrastructures of culture and communication have also contributed to increasingly dense transnational elite and professional cultures. Others have argued how this process of glocalization provides for sharper cultural consciousness.

There are certain impacts that Roland Robertson and Richard Giulianotti point out in their article dealing with glocallization. In the article they develop a four-fold typology of glocalization projects, with reference to how they affect culture [6]. The glocalization projects are:

  • Relativization: here, social actors seek to preserve their prior cultural institutions, practices and meanings within a new environment, thereby reflecting a commitment to differentiation from the host culture.
  • Accommodation: here, social actors absorb pragmatically the practices, institutions and meanings associated with other societies, in order to maintain key elements of the prior local culture.
  • Hybridization: here, social actors synthesize local and other cultural phenomena to produce distinctive, hybrid cultural practices, institutions and meanings.
  • Transformation: here, social actors come to favour the practices, institutions or meanings associated with other cultures. Transformation may procure fresh cultural forms or, more extremely, the abandonment of the local culture in favour of alternative and/or hegemonic cultural forms.

This fourfold typology enumerates how the process of glocalization has impacts other than merely homogenizing. Further Robertson in his essay ‘Glocalization: Time-Space and Homogeneity-Heterogeneity’ negates the discourse on Cultural imperialism specially by the USA and instead advocates a line of thought which recognizes the alternatives. Some of these arguments are as follows:

  • The cultural messages from the west are also differentially received and interpreted by the different locals. They absorb the communications transmitted in different ways
  • The major alleged producers of global culture (CNN,Hollywood) etc increasingly are seen to tailor products to differentiated global markets
  • National symbolic resources are increasingly available for differentiated global interpretation and consumption, for example plays of Shakespeare are variously interpreted today and is not only viewed from the British angle
  • Flow of ideas and practices from the third world to dominant societies should not be underestimated

Jan Nederveen Pieterse on the other hand views the whole process of globalization itself as a process of hybridization giving rise to a global mélange. [7] He defines hybridization as ways in which forms become separated from existing practices and recombine with new forms in new practices. The phenomenon of hybridization basically undermines the idea of cultures as internally homogenous and externally distinct. He views identity patterns as becoming more complex as people want to assert local loyalties but want to share global values and lifestyles. All this ultimately point to the fact that cultural experiences are not moving in a direction of cultural uniformity and standardization. If this was the case there would be no space for cross-over cultures or third cultures for example music today. He gives examples to show what the process of hybridization creates multiple identities such as Mexican schoolgirls dressed in Greek togas dancing in the style of Isadora Duncan, a London boy of Asian origin playing for a local Bengali cricket team and at the same time supporting the Arsenal football club, Thai boxing by Moroccan girls in Amsterdam, and Native Americans celebrating Mardi Gras in the United States.

He further points out that the cultures exported by the west are themselves mixed cultures when the lineage of the cultures is examined. Thus the whole process of glocalization has made possible what we know as creolization of global culture or even orientalization of the world today which all point in the opposite direction to that of homogenization. The glocally-mediated, normalized cultural hybrid is here to stay till other new forces emerge which can dislodge them and maybe steer the course towards homogenization again or its extreme opposite heterogeneity. Sociological glocalization’s focus on how local cultures are modified along global lines indicates the need to take more seriously how actors redefine themselves when frameworks become dislodged from their social foundations.

Hubert J. M. Hermans and Harry J. G. Kempen on the other hand analyze the impact by challenging the academic mainstream conceptions which continues to work in a tradition of cultural dichotomies (e.g., individualistic vs. collectivistic, independent vs. interdependent) formulated as contrasts between western and non-western cultures. Three developments are presented that challenge this approach:

  • the increasing cultural connections with the phenomenon of hybridization as a consequence
  • the emergence of a world system that implies an interpenetration of the global and the local
  • the enlarged cultural complexity as a result of large-scale distribution of cultural meanings and practices

Thus we see how through the processes of intermixing and hybridization the process of glocalization is at work whereby not only the global is seen to effect the local but there exists a reciprocity by which local cultures have an influence on the global giving rise to what is known as global mass culture [8] impregnated with ideas, styles and genres concerning religion, music, art, cooking and so on. Nevertheless a discussion on the whole process of globalization vis-à-vis glocalization remains unfinished without a discussion on the actors promoting globalization. These actors have a huge role to play in the process of interconnecting the world. They also realize the limits of homogenizing and are seen to adapt to local conditions as put forth by the glocalists. Enumerating the role of the actors also brings in the issue of power dynamics in the process of glocalization.


Another very important aspect when we talk of the transmission of culture is the role played by the various actors who play a part in the transmission whether from the global to the local or from the local to the global. Among them is a group of 20-30 very large Multi National Corporations who dominate global markets for entertainment, news, television etc. and these have acquired a very significant cultural presence in almost every continent. They are Time-Warner, Disney, Bertelsmann, Viacom, News Corporation, Sony, Universal, TCI, Philips etc to name a few. More important is that all these have their home base in OECD countries and the majority being in the USA. Three particular cultural markets are music cinema and television. It has created transnational corporations producing and marketing records, specially import and export of musical products and the penetration of national markets by foreign artists and music. Further this is based on a broader transfer of styles that are rooted largely in American youth culture. Under the auspices of the global music industry local musical traditions too have an audience outside their homeland under the banner of so called world music. Due to globalization there is also a diffusion of film-making capacities and organizations around the world. Also co-production has been very prevalent that is the development of the film is funded by organizations in more than one nation. Again television too has become an industry as well as a medium of globalization. Tourism is also an important method of promoting culture, but again the majority of travel movements have been within North America and Western Europe. Apart from these a number of organizations and international agencies such as the UNESCO, WTO etc have become involved in the global communications and culture or the issue of cultural protectionism etc.

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The notion of glocality is meant to transcend the binary opposition between the ‘global’ and the ‘local’ and to provide an accurate linguistic representation of their blending in real life. But in reality when cultures meet there is also a politics. Cultures may have assymetrical information emanating from the unequal distribution of wealth and political power. The global imperialism of the western countries from 16th -20th century provided the infrastructure for imposition and diffusion of western ideas, values and cultural institutions and practices across the world. Since the advent of European modernity cultural flows have been primarily from the west to the east following lines of imperial control. Flows are reversed mainly through migration but also through other cultural forms such as music, food, idea beliefs etc. But the cultural politics of colonialism still prevails to a large extent. Due to the presence of the historical and economic contexts prevailing in the world the degree to which the local, mainly of the peripheries, affect the dominant societies, mainly the west, is far less than the influence of westernization and Americanization. All the modes of cultural globalization the stretching and deepening of relationships, the movement of signs, objects and people, cultural diffusion and emulation and the establishment of infrastructure and institutions involve distinct patterns of stratification, of hierarchy and unevenness.

This is mainly because of the way people have learned history, that there exists an entity called the West and that one can think of this West as a society independent of and in opposition to other. This independence though has been challenged, and is correct to a large extent, by the glocalist, the greater influence still is directed from the west to the east – a fact that cannot be denied. This can be clearly shown when we see the role of the actors involved in the process of dissemination of information and thus changing cultures. The American film industry is fairly independent and does not depend on co-sponsors thus avoiding any dictates regarding the substance and character of the film. Also the major MNC’s have their home bases in the western nations mainly the USA and promote their own cultures through their communication channels. Even the international institutions are majorly dominated by the western powers. Thus, though glocalization is taking place, the influence of the global on the local still remains far greater than the influence of the local on the global.


Therefore we end on a note where we accept the glocalist position of the process of global-localization. The presumed internal homogeneity of cultures and their conception as externally distinctive are called into question. Different localities today are interpreting the global cultural flows differentially as has been enumerated in the paper so far. It is not merely a process of arbitrary adoption but is synthesized according to the beliefs and customs prevailing in the local cultures. For example though modern man in western society now seems to be increasingly unwilling to live permanently in a totally secularised world (an example of east effecting the west), it is rather unlikely that in parts of the Third World where the traditional social systems have been largely shaped by religion, we will see the same degree of secularisation which has characterised Western modernization. Thus the process of filtering of inflows is very crucial. But glocalization theory also emphasizes the influence of the local on the global i.e. the global as receivers of cultures too from the local and not merely vise versa.

Though this is true to some extent from the evidence available from the promotion of global mass culture etc – the degree of influence of the local on the global can be challenged to a large extent. The whole process of colonialism has played a very crucial role in this unequal distribution of resources and power. Indigenous peoples though have a sense of their traditional cultures and customs, the impact of a colonial past has left its mark in their cultural behaviour whether it be the dressing sense, the food habits or even the language spoken. In these areas the western influence becomes very vivid and stark. Thus though glocalization as a theory has its merits it is not excluded from criticisms. Overall it is a useful theory to bring out the drawbacks of the globalization process as homogenizing and overarching and it also brings out the importance of contexts and analysis at the micro-level.


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