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Global Culture: hegemony or plurality?: 

Global Culture: hegemony or plurality? Yin-wah Chu Sociology, HKU

What is globalization?: 

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?: 

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?: 

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 US$1 trillion

What is globalization?: 

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?: 

What is globalization? These changes CANNOT be understood from the perspective of “inter-national” system, e.g. [大長今] Hence the term: globalization Globalization radicals  the “global” exerts central dynamics Globalization transformationists  complex interactions among global, national, local …

What is culture?: 

What is culture? But, of course, today’s 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. 衣食住行

What is culture?: 

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?: 

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: 

Debates on global culture One major debate concerns: The spread of global [read American] culture, e.g. Coke Cola, McDonald’s, Disneyland, Levi’s jeans, … Has “globalization” enriched or impoverished culture around the world? Cultural imperialism/hegemony or cultural plurality?

[1] Cultural Imperialism: 

[1] Cultural Imperialism Late capitalism Individuals find no meaning in work, but depend on consumption to express and assert one’s identity Capitalism’s 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: 

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: 

Cultural Imperialism Promotion of global cultural items McDonald’s, 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: 

Cultural Imperialism Global culture does not exert superficial impacts alone, they also shape people’s consciousness “[in practically everywhere], people watch Dallas on TV, wear blue jeans and smoke Marlboro as a sign of “free, untouched nature” (Ulrich Beck 2000). the meaning of good, appropriate, success

Cultural Imperialism: 

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

Cultural Imperialism: 

Cultural Imperialism The idea of cultural imperialism (Herbert Schiller) 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 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 world.

(2) Cultural Diversity: 

(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: 

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 culture? Disneyland in Tokyo  Newsweek in Asia and the US

Cultural Diversity: 

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: 

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.黃國鉅 – [港式包裝破壞長今精神] MingPao April 3, 2005

Cultural Diversity: 

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

Cultural Diversity: 

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

Food/McDonald’s: 

Food/McDonald’s The case of the McDonald’s has been studied quite extensively and can be used to illustrate the case for and against cultural imperialism

McDonald’s: 

McDonald’s McDonald’s (G. Ritzer’s 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

McDonald’s /Hong Kong: 

McDonald’s /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

McDonald’s /Hong Kong: 

McDonald’s /Hong Kong (3) Standard of cleanliness: clean washrooms in restaurants (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]

McDonald’s /Hong Kong: 

McDonald’s /Hong Kong Local? (1) Resistance of McDonald’s? 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 …

McDonald’s /Hong Kong: 

McDonald’s /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 [去麥當勞飲茶]

McDonald’s /China: 

McDonald’s /China McDonald’s opened its first store in Beijing in 1992 McDonald’s enjoyed tremendous success Chinese attempts to imitate McDonald’s, but failed

McDonald’s /China: 

McDonald’s /China Who go to McDonald’s 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 McDonald’s : order own food, no fear of being dominated in conversations

McDonald’s /China: 

McDonald’s /China (3) Young couples: clean, soft music, romantic, a place for courtship (4) Parents with young children: children’s choice of restaurants

McDonald’s /China: 

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

Global/Local: 

Global/Local Cultural imperialism? McDonald’s 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 McDonald’s into local institutions

Global/Local: 

Global/Local 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: 

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 culture

Debates on global culture: 

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

Debates on global culture: 

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

Lung Ying-tai: 

Lung Ying-tai On Taiwan government’s 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 life

Lung Ying-tai: 

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; Valentine’s day w/out knowing who St. Valentine is …

Lung Ying-tai: 

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: 

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

Lung Ying-tai: 

Lung Ying-tai Hong Kong’s 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

Conclusion: 

Conclusion 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

Conclusion: 

Conclusion Cultural enrichment Material & non-material culture – coke, McDonald’s, Titanic … Ideas of egalitarianism – through books published in foreign languages and as they are embodied in the consumption of McDonald’s

Conclusion: 

Conclusion 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”

Conclusion: 

Conclusion Hegemony or plurality?

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