Global Culture Research Paper Starter

Global Culture

(Research Starters)

This article will focus on global culture. Understanding the characteristics, causes, and issues associated with global culture is vital background for all those interested in the study of cultural change. This article explores global culture in three parts: (1) an overview of the forces that create global culture including economic and political globalization, information technology, mass media, and the global environment; (2) a discussion of the effect that global culture, and globalization in general, has had on the Yanomami of Brazil; and (3) a description of the issues associated with the spread of global culture including ethnocentrism and xenocentrism.

Keywords Ethnocentrism; Global Culture; Global Economy; Global Markets; Globalization; Information Technology; Internet; Mass Media; Mass Society Theory; Nations; Xenocentrism

Global Culture


The process of globalization is impacting cultures around the world. Globalization is a term that has been used since the 1980s to describe the increasing interdependence and interaction between people, cultures, and the economies of different nations. Globalization has resulted in widespread cultural, social, economic, technological, and political changes. Culture refers to the collection of customs, attitudes, values, and beliefs that characterize one group of people and distinguish them from other groups, along with the material products a group creates. Culture is passed from one generation to another through immaterial culture, which includes values, norms, language, rituals, and symbols; and material culture, which includes objects, art, and institutions.

Forces that combine to create a global culture encompass the increasingly global economy with global markets, the global environment, global politics, ease of global travel, the rise of multinational corporations, the growth of global mass media, and the spread of information technologies. Global culture refers to a common culture shared by people worldwide. Like national cultures, global culture is characterized by shared values, norms, language, and material objects. It may co-exist with or replace national cultures. Critics of global culture find fault with its homogenous nature and fear the creation of a global mass culture. Critics consider global culture to be interchangeable with American, Western, mass, or commercial culture. Supporters celebrate the increased understanding and tolerance that can be produced by shared values, media, and material objects, and a shared language (Stuart, 2001).

Understanding the characteristics, causes, and issues associated with global culture is vital for all those interested in the study of cultural change. This article explores global culture in three parts:

• An overview of the forces that create global culture including mass media, economic and political globalization, information technology, and the global environment;

• A discussion of the effect that global culture, and globalization in general, has had on the Yanomami of Brazil; and,

• A description of the issues associated with the spread of global culture including ethnocentrism and xenocentrism.

Mass Media

The mass media has grown in size and influence to shape global culture. The mass media, in the form of television, movies, publications, music, now crosses national borders with ease. Its images, messages, forms, and ubiquity transform cultural practices. In some instances, local businesses and media outlets even highlight and profile American media products over indigenous media products due to the greater profits associated with American media. For example, researchers have found that Mexican cinemas show Hollywood films significantly more often than locally made films, citing profit as the main reason. Critics of global media culture, both academics and the cultural elites, assert that the American media is engaged in cultural imperialism and cultural colonization. Critics argue that the globalization of media networks is really a process of the Americanization of media networks. Critics of the globalized mass media assert that it reduces the diversity of voices and talents represented in the world media (Wei & Kolko 2005).

Critics of the growth of a global media culture tend to draw theoretical support from mass society theory. Mass society theory is an interdisciplinary critique of the collective identity that results from the mass commodification of culture and mass media's manipulation of society. Mass society theory invokes a vision of society characterized by alienation, absence of individuality, amorality, lack of religion, weak relationships, and political apathy. Mass society theory developed at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century in response to the rise of the media industry and the socio-political changes created by industrialization, urbanization, and the fall of established political regimes. Early mass society theory asserted that the new urban masses, comprising uprooted and isolated individuals, were vulnerable to new forms of demagoguery and manipulation by the media (Hamilton, 2001). While popular media existed in the 19th century, mass media, as a discrete concept, did not develop until the early 20th century with the advent of national media networks and circulation (i.e. nationwide radio and mass-circulation newspapers). For mass society theorists, the media represents and promotes the worst problems of modernity. According to early mass society theorists, mass society is characterized by a collective identity and lowbrow cultural interests. Dictatorships and bureaucracies can easily and quickly manipulate mass societies. Mass societies are thought to be vulnerable to the rise of disenfranchised and extremist politics.

Resistance to the spread of global mass culture is occurring throughout the world. For example, groups committed to cultural preservation and resistance use the Internet as a way to virtually gather and share their language and culture. The Internet differs from film and television in its low cost of digital production and in its availability and openness. People in Uzbekistan, for example, are involved in cultural resistance through the Internet. Uzbeks have adopted, possibly co-opted, a the medium to strengthen their own language, identity and culture through the creation of Uzbeck-only language websites. Researchers consider this minority language content on the Internet to be a form of resistance to media globalization (Wei & Kolko, 2005).


Economic and political environments around the world are changing due to the forces of globalization. Globalization creates a turbulent global socio-political environment characterized by competing political actors, shifting power relations, and politically driven changes in national economies around the world. New economic opportunities, including international investments and joint ventures in the global economy, are increasingly tied to trade pacts between nations. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico; the Mercosur trade pact between Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay; and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) trade zone have all impacted the global economy. In addition, economic opportunities are arising from worldwide privatization. Nations are privatizing many state-owned industries and allowing foreign investors to purchase pieces of these industries through joint ventures and local operations.

The global economy is also characterized by growth, in populations and in output and consumption per capita; the interdependence of nations; and international management efforts. Economic globalization has shifted economic, political, and environmental power from local, national, and regional bodies to international governing institutions. Indicators of global growth and interdependence include the huge increases in communication links, world output, international trade, and international investment since the 1970s. The global economy is built on the global interdependence of economic flows linking the economies of the world.

Additionally, the global economy is characterized by economic sensitivity. National economic events in one region often have profound impacts on other regional and national economies. National economies exist not in isolation, but in relationship with other economies worldwide. The global economy includes numerous economic phenomena and financial tools that are shared among all countries. Examples include the price of gold, the price of oil, and the related worldwide movement of interest rates.

The new global economy is characterized and controlled through global management or governance efforts. International organizations, both public and private, work to establish norms, standards, and requirements for international...

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