Introduction
Introduction

Globalization101.org has defined the phenomenon of globalization as the “acceleration and intensification of economic interaction among the people, companies, and governments of different nations.” Most studies of globalization tend to focus on changes occurring in the economic and political spheres. The details of those issues, such as tariff rates and international agreements, have fallen within the traditional province of government bureaucrats and political leaders.

However, the dramatic changes wrought by globalization have forced policymakers to respond to public pressures in many new areas. Observers of globalization are increasingly recognizing that globalization is having a significant impact on matters such as local cultures, matters which are less tangible and hard to quantify, but often fraught with intense emotion and controversy.

Jeremy Rifkin, a prominent critic of globalization, writes that:

The powers that be have long believed that the world is divided into two spheres of influence: commerce and government. Now organizations representing the cultural sphere — the environment, species preservation, rural life, health, food and cuisine, religion, human rights, the family, women’s issues, ethnic heritage, the arts and other quality-of-life issues — are pounding on the doors at world economic and political forums and demanding a place at the table. They represent the birth of a new “civil-society politics” and an antidote to the forces pushing for globalization.

Generally speaking, issues surrounding culture and globalization have received less attention than the debates which have arisen over globalization and the environment or labor standards. In part this is because cultural issues are more subtle and sensitive, and often more confusing.

“The homogenizing influences of globalization that are most often condemned by the new nationalists and by cultural romanticists are actually positive; globalization promotes integration and the removal not only of cultural barriers but of many of the negative dimensions of culture. Globalization is a vital step toward both a more stable world and better lives for the people in it.”

– David Rothkopf, “In Praise of Cultural Imperialism,” Foreign Policy June 22, 1997

“Many societies, particularly indigenous peoples, view culture as their richest heritage, without which they have no roots, history or soul. Its value is other than monetary. To commodify it is to destroy it.”

– Maude Barlow, “The Global Monoculture,” Earth Island Journal. Autumn 2001

Next: Globalization and Local Cultures