Global culture is formulated by movement of ideas, images, or products throughout the world. However, there are different views about the way it spreads and influences. This essay will examine the literature which analyses the flow of ideas, images, and products across nations and cultures and evaluate this literature particularly its different views on cultural imperialism in terms of movement of ideas, especially focusing on the relations between global cultures and economy, and global culture and the role of communication technology because globalization is mainly driven by economic reason and technologies have been developing rapidly than we expect.
These articles (Morris,2002; UN, 2003; Williams, 2006) examine whether the flowof ideas are one way, from the West to the East, or multidirectional, in other words, whether there is cultural imperialism or not. These articles are based on the theory that is called ‘culture/media imperialism’ which argues “a small group of Western countries not only controlled the international media trade but also used it to transmit their particular culture and economic values, especially individualism and consumerism, to large numbers of developing nations around world” (Chadha and Kavoori, 2000).Morris(2002: 28), studying through history, challenged this view arguing that there have been hybridization because ideas flow multidirectional ways, not one directional, despite “imbalance of power”. Ideas and cultural images are transferred by physical movement of people such as war, trade, religious reason and immigration, and communication technologies. She argues that there is “little evidence” of homogenization of identity in terms of movement of cultures, conceding some cultural homogenization especially when it comes to technology (Morris, 2002: 29,30). It seems like that a homogenization is only surface structure; Deep structure of local community is resilient and has the ability to assimilate new ideas and images (Morris,2002:33). While, Williams(2006) examines contemporary situation of globalization and comes to the conclusion, which is the same as Morris, that the trend is toward multidirectional flow because there is a regional growth of Asian market and economy through media products and their exports. For example, in South Korea, they developed by selling cars but capital moved into cultural industry such as movie, drama, and internet games (Williams, 2006: 17). She focuses on the close link between economic growth and cultural power, and also its link with political image, giving the example of the United States which is losing their attractiveness due to the political issues such as the war in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay (Williams, 2006: 4). In this sense, Morris did not take into account current context and economic/political link with cultural influence.However, Morris mentions little about economic aspect of cultural movement as a driver, while the UN aligned closely to cultural imperialism view. In this view, they argues that western agencies control global media which spread consumerism especially to the youth through commodification of culture, i.e. one directional flow of ideas (UN, 2003: 19,20). The UN also focused on the relation between economy and political power and movement of cultural ideas pointing out that multinational company spreads commoditified culture to widen their market share. For this purpose, they try to unify the global culture, resulting in homogenization (UN, 2003: 26). Both the UN and Williams agree with the view that media is a tool to gain super power, meaning they partially agree with cultural imperialism. For example, France supplied their TV program for free to an African country to keep their cultural and economic dominance in that country (Latouche, cited in UN, 2003: 20). However, Williams(2006: 23,24) concludes that cultural globalization leads to mixing of cultures not homogenization, disagreeing with the UN’s argument.Another significant point that Morris(2002) did not consider enough is the role of media and technology. She argues that technology only accelerated exchange of ideas which is not related to the homogenization and claims that media is not the only way of communication (Morris, 2002: 33). However, the UN seems to support ‘media centric’ view which means media is the driver of values from the west to others. In terms of financial power, the strength of global media is extremely strong. For example, Proctor and Gamble’s advertising expenditure ($5,755million) is 10 times the entire education budget of Vet Nam ($579million) (UN, 2003: 29,30). They assert that the power of media and communication technology from the west is more influential than traditional culture, leading to homogenization. New technologies such as mobile phone and internet games seduce the youth from the mundane activities such as school (Cote and Allahar, cited in the UN, 2003)
In Conclusion, there has been research on cultural imperialism which is challenged by Morris(2002) arguing, through history, there always has been cultural hybridization. But, she did not mention much about relationship between culture and economy. Given the influence of media and technology, cultural imperialism might be plausible as the UN(2003) claims. Further research considering powerful features of internet such as openness, sharing and engagement is might be valuable.
Chadha, K., Kavoori, A., 2000, ‘Media Imperialism revisited: some findings from the Asian case’, Media, Culture & Society, Vol.22
Morris, N., 2002, ‘The myth of unadulterated culture meets the threat of imported media’, Media, Culture & Society, Vol.24
United Nations, 2003, ‘Young People in a Globalizing World’ World Youth Report.
Williams, L., 2006, ‘Soft and sexy: the image of the next superpowers’,Sydney Morning Herald, 14 Oct.
– This essay is assignment 2 of DEEP2 course in Insearch UTS written by me.