Globalization is an evolving phenomenon that is complex in nature; it involves the interaction of many economic, cultural, technological and social trends of different nations. Many nations embrace economic globalization because it allows access to consumer goods not available locally. Economic globalization involves production and distribution of commodities.
However, globalization, in economic sense, disrupts local production and affects local producers. Globalization also involves international trade in cultural products such as music, movies and films. This increasingly exposes the local societies in many nations to foreign cultures. The exposure to foreign cultures, more frequently, has profound impacts on the local traditions and values. One notable impact of globalization on national cultures is the effect it has on cultural identity.
The globalization of local cultures, the effects of “increasing interaction between people of different cultures”, is more common in youth culture and the youth’s sense of identity (Turkle, 1995, p. 13). The youth comprises the part of a society that is more receptive or susceptible to influences of foreign cultural practices especially in modes of dress, aesthetics, language and ideologies.
More often, the youth are more receptive to the dominant culture, which occupies center stage in global cultural industry. Among the major concerns of the globalization of culture is that it not only results to homogenization of world cultures but also represents the U.S. cultural values and traditions. The globalization of culture that the American “pop culture” dominates has profound effects on youth cultural identities all over the world.
The Spread of American Pop Culture
The imperial nature of American pop culture among the majority of youth in the world is due to a number of reasons. The wealth of the US economy and the large size of the US consumer market, about 300 million consumers, put it in a dominant position. Additionally, the widespread of US corporations in all parts of the world has greatly affected the local cultures in other countries (Burnett, 1996, p. 109). Among the effects of globalization on culture is the spread of pop culture, which many see as actually “Americanization”.
Their view is justifiable because the US is the major producer of pop culture products, which represents the culture of American consumerism. Its global influence on the youth is significant. The spread of pop culture around the world occurs through movies, television shows, clothing, fast foods, consumer goods and entertainment.
The Western entertainment agencies produce and transmit most of the world’s entertainment products. Estimates show that the American mass media revenues constitute about 75% of the world’s broadcast revenues (Burnett, 1996, p. 117).
Burnett (1996) argues that the global media, largely dominated by the Western media, propagates an American centered culture that ignores the diverse cultures and perspectives that exist in the world (p. 111). Most of the images viewed by the young people originate from the West, which evidences the dominance of the American pop culture among the youth in the world.
The dominance of American pop culture has both economic as well as political impacts. The power dimensions of cultural globalization are evident. Burnett argues that global culture and by extension, the American pop’s culture, relates to institutional and material elements that underlie the globalization of culture (1996, p. 129), thereby implying that globalization is an economic phenomenon.
He further argues that contrary to popular belief, globalization does not involve the development of a single global culture but a political struggle for dominance. In this respect, globalization is a both political and a cultural phenomenon.
American Pop Culture and Political Globalization
Popular culture provides a platform for political struggle involving the traditionally subordinate groups resisting the interests and values of the dominant group, usually the older generation. Many of the issues raised by various groups find their way into popular entertainment in the media, in a bid to enhance their legitimacy.
Through comedy and humor, pop culture challenges discriminatory views held against minority groups such as gay people, racial and ethnic groups as well as undermining the traditional view about women’s position in the society. The American media, therefore, has promoted specific issues traditionally viewed as illegitimate to a popular level in many societies and in the process; it has transformed many societies in the world.
The popularization of culture in democratic societies like the American society provides a means for political communication. Many contemporary societies have replicated this culture in their political systems. Robertson (1992, p. 321) argues that politics and pop culture are related especially in aesthetics of style and performance much of which is fundamental to pop culture. Most societies have become more democratic by integrating politics with pop culture.
Robertson argues that pop culture provides means through which citizens communicate their collective political experiences (1992, p. 358). The new media, including social networking sites and the internet, offers a means through which the public debate their views as well as political issues hence promoting spread of democracy. While most popular shows and media spaces primarily offer entertainment, they also provide topics and themes that evoke discussions contributing to the expansion of the democratic space.
The media, as an institution, shapes the values and beliefs of the citizenry and provides an arena for political talk (Burnett, 1996, p. 127). In addition, the popular media through its many programs, allow knowledge acquisition with regard to politics. While the level of political knowledge, which media provides may have some limitations, it nevertheless provides a wide range of knowledge to the masses irrespective of their social status.
Globalization and Communication Technologies
Globalization manifests itself in different ways; the modern world articulates it through economic, political and cultural globalization. These different articulations of globalization have led to emergence of various manifestations of cultural identities in many parts of the world.
In particular, cultural globalization resulting from western cultural influence, has affected the values, traditions and the sense of identity among the various cultures of the world. Assimilation of the cultures into Western culture in the wake of cultural globalization has affected the articulation of global identities of the respective cultures.
Modern technology in transport and communication has promoted the interaction of people in all round the world in areas of education, trade, commerce and welfare programs. However, the dominance of the US cultural products in these areas has promoted the American consumerism, particularly among the youth while at the same time affecting the other cultures.
One of the main factors that drive globalization in the new world has indeed been the communication and technology, which has promoted the spread of Western culture across the world. Castells (1996, p.107) contends that globalization is a product of developments in communication technology intertwined with economic, cultural and political features.
Increased reliance on new information communication technologies characterizes globalization. The need to have a networked global society, where people from different cultures are connected through information communication technologies (ICT) accelerates globalization in the modern world.
The “global network concept” or the “cyberculture” represents the cultural neutrality acceptable by all people (Castells, 1996, p.97). However, the concept of global village removes the national boundaries and cultural differences and thus presents a form of colonialism. ICT is vital in the achievement of this concept and is itself a feature of globalization.
Globalization and communication technologies are essential in promoting prosperity and democracy in many countries. ICT provides the means of information dissemination, promotion of peace, health, social justice and gender equality. Therefore, without access to ICT, societies risk exclusion from economic and social development that comes with globalization.
However, the domination of the ICT by Western societies creates a new form of colonization as the ICT lacks a global identity. Although ICT has facilitated globalization, it has had profound impacts on political, economic and cultural features of many societies. The flow of ideas and cultural products enhanced by ICT from the US to other nations has had major economic, political and cultural implications (Castells, 1996, p. 121).
The concept of global village dominated by Western media can serve to eliminate racial, ethnic and cultural differences and bring people together. Castells observes that a new generation, free of old cultural prejudices, is emerging from the current digital technology such as the internet (1996, p. 124). However, cultural imperialism by the Western media has led to a single culture that eliminates cultural diversity and traditions.
Globalization and Business
ICT development particularly the spread of the internet has led to growth and expansion of multinational companies into virgin markets of developing countries. There is an increased drive by multinational companies to capture new markets.
Hoogvelt (1997) argues that this trend perpetuates the digital divide that exists between Western media and other nations (p. 54). It also spreads the Western culture of consumerism while benefiting a few corporations. This in turn causes inequality and emergence of ‘social class’ in the society as globalization benefits only a few corporations.
Although globalization is a multidimensional concept, its economic dimension has the most implications. Globalization creates a global economy, an economy where coordination of essential activities occurs on a global scale and in real time. Thus, capital and most capital markets are global. Additionally, the value of investments and savings in all countries are dependent on the global financial markets.
In the 1990s, multinational corporations directly employed about 70 million workers. The total output constituted a third of the total private output globally (Hoogvelt, 1997, p. 67). This indicates that multinational corporations involved in financial services, manufacturing and processing, along with their network of subsidiary companies are essential to the global economy.
Additionally, the researchers have concentrated the scientific research and technology essential in economic growth and development in research centers in the US. The innovations and technological products overwhelmingly produced research centers in the United States. US sets up research centers linked to the US research centers in foreign nations and employs local workers. This means that labor mobility is increasingly becoming global.
At the same time, a large proportion of jobs may not be global but local or regional. However, the living standards of the workers is ultimately dependent a globalized economy through production and trade relationships. The recent developments in global technological infrastructure have enhanced the global economy.
Advancement in air transport, along with the development of high-speed trains, information systems, cargo transport, telecommunications, improved manufacturing and processing are essential for global economy. For an economy to be truly global, it must encompass all territories across the globe ((Hoogvelt, 1997, p. 71). However, the new global economy is exclusive; it links up valuable systems while leaving out producers and consumers. Thus, the global economy is selective based on the dominant values or interests.
In a global economy, there exist networked financial institutions. The national Central banks, therefore, cannot adequately control the financial trends in global financial markets. Additionally, various factors influence global financial markets and these factors do not conform to common economic rules.
As a result, national governments created supranational organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF or regional cooperation agencies to manage global or regional capital flows. In sum, globalization of economies is a form of capitalist restructuring according to the dominant values and interests, which in this case are US interests.
Innovation and competition among multinational corporations characterizes globalization and is dependent on the new information technologies. Additionally, most wealthy nations including the US offer agricultural subsidies to manufacturers making US commodities cheap. Thus, small farmers in other nations find it increasingly difficult to compete effectively creating a trade conflict.
Effects of Globalization
The modern world associates social media with youth culture, and thus it serves as the agent of socialization and influences the beliefs of the young people. Globalization contributes to the spread of the dominant culture such as pop among the youth across the world. It also aims at establishing a global economy and markets by propagating the Western culture of consumerism. Non-consumerism, on the other hand, results into economic exclusion and inequality.
Furthermore, globalization increases consumer expectations, which once unfulfilled results into frustration, social alienation, and criminal tendencies and in some cases, social strife (Turkle, 1995, p. 37). In developing countries, images of American consumerism including lifestyles and items are common. This can be problematic because these lifestyles are not usually accessible particularly to the poor members of the society.
The global culture is an essential component in many youth’s lives. The youth more than any other social group rely heavily on the global consumer culture. Culturally, globalization increases the cultural divide as the youth in developing countries consume the cultural products from the US.
This creates cultural conflict as well as income inequality as the availability of resources in many nations is not comparable to the US. Globalization creates economic inequality especially in developing nations as multinational corporations and advertising agencies compete in promoting the US consumer culture among the youth. The efforts to promote consumerism serve to increase social divisions in many societies.
The global media and the new technologies allow the young people to define their identities and attitudes. Young people are consumers of global cultures, which influence their lifestyles and attitudes (Turkle, 1995, p. 34). However, since US dominates the global media, the young people model their behaviors and attitudes based on global capitalist’s ideologies.
The global capitalism, through multinational corporations, target young people for their cultural products. In this respect, the dominant US cultural values embraced by most young people promote global economic divisions with the youth constituting the majority of the poor members in the society.
The cultural impact of global economics varies in many countries. Evidently, globalization comes with increase in market power and dominance, which some players may misuse. The effects of globalization including unaccountable multinational corporations, cultural consumerism and economic inequality have a direct impact on the lives of the youth.
In global economic terms, globalization represents the values and interests of the US that adversely affect segments of the population in other countries. The youth in other countries are more prone to cultural and cultural globalization as they lack necessary opportunities and financial resources to adopt the American culture of consumerism. Thus, the experience of the youth in globalization is negative as it increases economic inequalities and social conflicts.
Burnett, R. (1996). The Global Jukebox: The International Music Industry. London: Routledge.
Castells, M. (1996). The Rise of the Network Society. Oxford: Blackwell.
Hoogvelt, A. (1997). Globalization and the postcolonial world: The new political economy of development. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.
Robertson, R. (1992). Globalization: Social theory and global culture. London: Sage Publications.
Turkle, S. (1995) Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon &Schuster.