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4.4: The Changing Cultural Landscape

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    38662
  • It is understood that folk culture has been declining in the face of popular culture for some time. What is driving this decline? There are many things, with different underlying processes. Politically, in the last few centuries many placeshave been incorporated into states. These states have often pursued nationalistic policies that made life difficult for minorities of nearly every variety. The growth of a state-sanctioned national culture is the beginning of popular culture. Something as innocuous as public schooling or an official language can serve as a vehicle for promoting national values. Even if there is some overlap between the old culture and the new, the old has been prised loose from its central position in communal life. Economics also plays a role. Small, rural communities have been shrinking globally for centuries, since the beginning of the Industrial revolution. Leaving the spatial confines of a folk culture makes reproducing that culture very difficult, due to its close connection to place. When people migrate to places practicing popular cultures, the pressure to acculturate and assimilate are tremendous.

    Changes in infrastructure has also aided the diffusion of popular culture. Roads bring in outside people, as well as reduce the friction of leaving a place. The internet has dramatically reduced the friction of distance regarding the diffusion of popular culture. It took decades for tomatoes to diffuse from the Americas to Italy, but we know about a new iPhone months before it even gets released.

    The United States is huge laboratory of cultural interchange. Innumerable distinctive folk cultures were already in the Americas when the Europeans arrived. Waves of people from folk cultures arrived for decades, and they changed the larger culture of the United States.

    Places of folk culture aren’t the only places that are changing. Many places

    with an established popular culture are subject to interaction between different pop culture spheres. At one time immigrants to the United States came from folk cultures. Now they are often from areas of popular culture. The Spanish-speaking world has its own pop music stars, and chart-topping musicians from different countries will often collaborate together garnering airplay and sales around the world. World regional cuisines are subject to becoming fads as well.

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