4.7: Global Culture
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Globalization is the integration of the entire world into a single economic unit. This is associated with frictionless movement of money, ideas, and (to a lesser extent) people. This growing reality has created a newer type of popular culture, global culture.
Historically, popular culture was restricted to areas the size of States, or at the very most areas within culturally related spheres (e.g. the English-speaking world). United States culture was defined by a set of characteristics (language, law, settler colonial history, etc.) that translated to a few other places, such as Canada or Australia, but mostly remained place bound. This is no longer the case. As was mentioned previously, video games are designed in one country to appeal to a global market. The same is true of music, movies, clothes, smartphones and office productivity software.
At a superficial level at least, the components of life are becoming more homogeneous across large parts of the world. National popular culture producers are merging into international producers, and these international producers have global ambitions. Any sizable popular culture content distributor (EMI Records, Sony, Vivendi Universal, AOL Time Warner and BMG) is a transnational corporation. In fact, the five listed global record labels account for 90% of global music sales.
Starbucks, Toyota, Wyndham and others have helped reduce the friction of distance by reducing spatial variation. They aren’t doing this to help people, or to hurt them. Although they will cater to local needs to some degree, they are not in the business of promoting local flavors.
William Gibson wrote “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” In terms of globalization, he was correct. There are still people living in remote areas practicing something similar to a paleolithic lifestyle. On the other end of the scale there are people with great wealth who have access to powerful technologies and are able to live anywhere they desire.
Sometimes globalization even has an effect on folk culture. In many places, economic realities have forced people to perform religious activities of relive special events for tourist dollars. Attending luaus in Hawaii or watching voladores in Veracruz in a quest for authenticity is in itself changing the folk culture that is the center of attention.
This assessment may seem particularly bleak for folk culture, but it isn’t necessarily completely bad. People survive, and they try to keep the practices that are most valuable to their lives. Folk cultures have a much longer timeline than pop cultures, and have proven to be resilient.