The history of the public perception of globalization is somewhat similar to the path undergone by the industry of food chemistry: once its benefits and advantages over traditional ways became apparent, it was trumpeted and praised as a glorious achievement of the human mind and determination, a sign of the boundless potential for improvement. Then, once the mounting evidence of its downside became impossible to ignore, and the public was somewhat disillusioned, the media immediately picked up the change of winds and began portraying it as a threat to the established order of things as well as the humanity’s well-being, which was not completely unfounded but still massively over-exaggerated to cater to the public mood.
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Finally, amidst this outcry of anxiety and unrest, some individuals continue their honest attempts to estimate the real impact of the phenomenon on our lives, both by critically reviewing the existing misinterpreted evidence and by highlighting the new aspects of this massively complex entity.
The articles by Gleiser and Wasserstrom are both of the latter variety. Both authors take on the complications the globalization presents from the cultural perspective but approach it from slightly different angles. For instance, Wasserstrom describes the cultural differences in perception of the globally distributed products by providing an example of a McDonald’s restaurant being a stand-out event in China as opposed to the routine approach of the American population (21).
The mentioned example, however, does not simply highlight the barrier to a successful business – instead, it has a deeper implication of globalization as a culture-forming factor. The changes may be subtle but contribute to more in-depth changes in values and tastes. Where Wasserstrom’s vision differs from the other authors writing on the matter is in the nature of the change: rather than becoming homogenized, the global society experiences a simultaneous shift that creates the new diversity instead of the old one.
Wasserstrom illustrates his assumption by exemplifying the three contributions made by the image of Mao in geographically diverse locations within one year: artistic in London, empowering in Nepal, and liberal in Northeast China (23). Such suggestions undermine the established ideas of globalization as a homogenizing force.
Gleiser’s article further expands these ideas but introduces evolutionary factors. According to Gleiser, the traditions and instincts developed throughout the human lifespan not only slow the globalization down but make its ultimate goal unattainable (9). This view notably aligns with that expressed in Wasserstrom’s article, but the appeal to human nature makes the resistance to globalization a much more feasible issue.
It becomes even more apparent once Gleiser voices his concerns regarding the “we versus them” setting the globalization currently introduces: the external factors which are capable of disrupting the established order of things are far more likely to be rejected than embraced (9). However, while it is tempting to view resistance as contributing to conservation, the assertions made by Wasserstrom actually suggest that it is a necessary safeguard that primes the cultural development in a certain path rather than stops it altogether.
When viewed from this perspective, both articles expand the area of effects associated with globalization, but not by complicating it – rather by increasing the knowledge required to properly understand the phenomenon: not as miraculous salvation or a malevolent world-mangling disaster – rather as a multi-faceted entity that needs to be understood before being mindlessly embraced or rejected.
Wasserstrom actually goes beyond the established notion of globalization in this assertion. Currently, the globalization is so strongly associated with the United States it becomes a synonym of Americanization. This is hardly surprising considering the most prominent cases of international businesses are American. Ask anyone to name three multinational companies, and you will likely hear Coca-Cola and McDonalds in nine cases out of ten. Even the author himself confirms it by using Starbucks, Mickey Mouse, and Big Macs in his article (22).
I must admit, I am biased in the same way, and was not aware of it before the thread has caught my attention. While not necessarily a serious misconception, it creates the feeling of superiority, a certain vibe of America being the pioneer and all-time leader of the process. Importantly, for the other countries, this same assertion can be viewed as negative: it will mean the antagonistic setting where an alien, external power compromises their well-being. This latter drawback of “Americanizing” globalization is consistent with the group allegiance-driven behavior suggested by Gleiser (9).
On the other hand, it is unlikely that the merging of the two cultures will result in only one being changed, no matter how dominant the other is in the field of multinational corporations. It is thus important to understand globalization as not being allied with certain parties, such as countries, governments, or companies. It is short-sighted, of course, to assert that the process is not driven by certain interests, but many of its inherent properties, including the two-way penetration of cultural phenomena and the formation of the universal meanings, are largely uncontrolled and not influenced by market penetration or a number of affiliates.
Gleiser, Marcelo. “Globalization: Two Visions of the Future of Humanity.” Jerskey, pp. 7-10. Print.
Jerskey, Maria, editor. Globalization: A Reader for Writers 1st Edition, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.
Wasserstrom, Jeffrey. “A Mickey Mouse Approach to Globalization.” Jerskey, pp. 20-24. Print.