Recent anti-globalization protests have revealed significant differences between businesses and the public in terms of how they view globalization and its effects. Some point out that globalization brings modern medicines, western communication technology, and better education and jobs. Others feel that globalization leads to cultural homogenization and are concerned about its effects on human rights and the environment. With this in mind:
- Can globalization be doing more harm than good?
- Why are Americans more informal than people of other nations?
- How could this informality cause difficulties for American managers abroad?
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The initial idea that globalization will be something where everyone will find unlimited benefits has been countered with a more realistic portrait. Globalization has become a vehicle by which capitalism has taken hold in more nations around the world. Globalization has opened more markets and enabled more people to take a hold of the marketplace and the profit associated with it. Yet, as with capitalism, the reality of economic contraction and expansion has brought with it the economic hardship intrinsic to market- based economies. Former President Jimmy Carter has articulated this realistic condition quite nicely: "Globalization, as defined by rich people like us, is a very nice thing... you are talking about the Internet, you are talking about cell phones, you are talking about computers. This doesn't affect two-thirds of the people of the world." The "rich people like us" syndrome has created a vision in which everyone seeks to gain more in way of wealth. Not all of the people who set out on this quest do so, a reality of the globalized world.
At the same time, while issues of material wealth and advancement are being reevaluated, cultural identities are also being evaluated under the globalization paradigm. In the final analysis, if everyone is embracing a wealth- based perception of reality, the issue of cultural identity rapidly disappears. All cultural affiliation becomes reduced to the acquisition of wealth and objects of wealth. A "McWorld" or world of Apple iPhones become our reality. On one hand, this has to be seen as good if it supplants violence, bloodshed, and cultural oppression. Yet, the flipside to this coin is a world where cultural identity is absent. The globalized model of the world takes the form of America, itself, something that philosophers like Baudrillard note with thought- provoking analysis:
America is the original version of modernity. We are the dubbed or subtitled version. America ducks the question of origins; it cultivates no origin or mythical authenticity; it has no past and no founding truth. Having known no primitive accumulation of time, it lives in a perpetual present.
Baudrillard's thoughts reflect that globalization is more than "all good." It is complex and nuanced. It is reality in a globalized world.
Understanding these dynamics of American managers abroad is extremely important. It is difficult to fully assume that Americans are more informal than other cultures. However, it would be interesting to apply Baudrillard's analysis of America to such a condition. A potential reason as to why Americans might not have formalities is because of its lack of memory. Formality is linked to tradition in the past, and upholding it is critical to formal expressions. For example, the formality associated with royalty is done because of its legacy. America lacks that. Its state of "perpetual present" almost repudiates links with the past, and in doing so, rejects formality for youth. For managers abroad, it becomes essential to recognize that globalization does not immediately mean the "McWorld" setting. Given the recent questioning of globalization on multiple levels, managers must recognize that they enter nuanced cultural settings which are navigating the demands of their own identity with that of a globalized world. Managerial success resides in being able to understand and successfully chart past such difficult realities through validation of cultural identities in a globalized setting.
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