Archive for the ‘Globalisation’ Category

Mariah Carey at the premiere of Tennessee at t...

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Globalisation:  Culture

In addition to changing where people live, globalisation has affected the way people behave.   Globalising culture has caused shifts in music, clothing and language.  Globalisation has homogenised culture.  Pop songs and baseball caps from the USA are ubiquitous the world over.  Many people do not see much of a problem with this merging global culture, but there are individuals that see it as a threat to local culture.  Some people complain that the emerging global culture is too ‘American’.  Whether or not one sees it as good or bad, barriers between cultures are dropping alongside barriers to trade.  As the world’s people become more integrated, so does their taste in movies, fashion and music.

Will people in Ethiopia be familiar with North American music?  Doubtless there are some artists who have gone global.  They are normally ones supported by large music labels.  Names such as Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Brittany Spears span the globe.  They are name-dropped as a way to connect with individuals from lots of different countries.  Changing technology has made it easier for music to be shared across large spaces.  It is much easier for people in remote corners of the world to access the latest American music.

Fashion is another piece of culture that is becoming one.  Kyoto must have been a wild place a couple of hundred years ago when everyone was wearing kimonos, yukatas and jinbeis.  Nowadays this garb comes out for special occasions, but Western clothing is the norm.  T-shirts and jeans have come to dominate global fashion.  Clothes are manufactured all over the world.  Different countries specialise in different stages of the manufacturing process; the dying, the zippers, and the pockets of a pair of jeans may be manufactured in different countries.  But the finished product is worn by all.

Whether this homogenisation reflects a degradation of local culture is unclear.  Fashion in Tokyo is different than in Toronto despite the population in each city wearing Western garb.  Local cultures adapt things to suit their needs.  Bollywood adapted the Hollywood formula to produce movies for a local culture just as Tokyo fashion designers adapt western style to suit local tastes.

Language is another aspect of culture that is seen as converging.  The desire of people around the world to learn English is usually cited as evidence of this.  English is seen as the international language of business.  Many people choose to study English as their second language so that they can communicate with people from different countries.  A Thai who meets a Korean on vacation in Japan will often communicate in English.  English is also the most commonly used language on the internet.   But the chart below from globe-reach.biz indicates that Chinese may one day challenge English for dominance in the digital universe.  Homogenisation may not be the best word to describe how globalisation is affecting language, but a sort of linguistic oligarchy is evolving.

The blog post on globalisation prior to this one considered how globalisation can be seen in people.  People move around a lot more today, and they tend to like living in cities.  This urbanisation is accompanied by shifts in the music people listen to, the clothes they wear and the language they not only speak, but also use on the internet.  Culture is becoming globalised, or at least there is a global culture which is coming to exist alongside local culture.

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Urbanization in Asia

Image by United Nations Photo via Flickr

Globalisation:  Dominance and Resistance

The conventional objection to globalisation has been that global trading rules favour rich countries and disadvantage poor ones.  Sure the WTO provided a framework of global trading rules, but these rules block African countries from developing domestic industries.  For example, African agriculture is blocked from Western markets by rules designed to preserve the livelihoods of Western farmers.  Another example is the lack of an African manufacturing sector owing to the massive importation of second-hand clothes from developed countries.  The belief that global trade regimes favoured developed countries led to a North-South divide in WTO negotiations.  How could the ‘South’ ever dislodge northern dominance?

But conventional wisdom has changed.  Cracks have appeared in the dominance of global trade by ‘Northern’ countries.  The challenge has come from a bloc known as BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China).  BRIC represents the future of global trade, with economies of scale that cannot be matched by the shrinking populations of North America and Europe.

Globalisation has led to changes in the way the humans live.  One change has been the urbanisation of the world’s population.  Rural populations have gradually been moving into cities.  Cities have been expanding into what was once good farmland.  Growing urban populations have put pressure on the supply of adequate housing, employment, education and sanitation.  In the Afar I am moving to a town of 20 000 called Asaita (alternately spelled Asayita).  Asaita is in an area that has traditionally been inhabited by the pastoralist Afar people.  It will be interesting to see how the people are dealing with the pressures of urbanisation.

A potential downside of urbanisation is the spread of disease.  Running a city requires good organisational capacity.  How will clean water be supplied to the people?  How will rubbish be removed?  Alongside these sanitation issues there is the spread of HIV/AIDS.  The movement of people and urbanisation have produced good conditions for the spread of disease.   Movement of people has also led countries like Canada and Australia to restrict the movement of people from less-developed countries.

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