March 09, 2004

On globalization

Posted by shonk at 06:14 AM in Bulgaria, Economics | TrackBack

In the comments to JC’s recent post on globalization, Eliot gets riled up:

My sense is that globalization will lead to annihilation of cultures, natural destruction, and to large corporations becoming de facto governments.

Now, first off, this critique seems a bit strange coming from the user of a camera made in Malaysia, but, given my present circumstances as a traveller, I have a bone to pick with this contention. Now, as I’ve recently, if tangentially, noted, globalization can indeed have a negative impact on culture, but it’s impact can also be exceedingly positive. As an example, I’ll merely point out that, by way of some pictures I’ve taken, readers of this blog have been exposed to a bit of Bulgarian culture that they otherwise might never have had any awareness of. Given that I’m an American who flew to Bulgaria on a German airline, took the pictures with a camera made in Malaysia and powered by Japanes batteries manufactured in China, edited them on an American-designed computer made in Taiwan whose operating system is largely based on the work of the international open source community and presented them in an open-source photo gallery whose authors appear to include an Indian and a Frenchman, I’d say this cultural experience was heavily assisted by various aspects of that international bogeyman we call “globalization”. This, of course, serves as but a single example.

All of this is not to say that globalization has a unilaterally positive effect on culture; rather I merely want to point out that the various markets, products and services that fall under the globalization rubric have made it possible for people other than the extraordinarily wealthy to experience other cultures, either directly, as I am doing right now, or indirectly, through photographs, music and video. In other words, globalization greatly expands our cultural choices. What we do with those choices is not the fault of globalization, which is not, after all, a volitional actor. Rather, if we make choices that lead to “annihilation of culture” then I would argue that the fault lies with us for making those choices, rather than with globalization, which ultimately is just a facilitator for our choices.

(I’m proud to note that with this post I’ve just sent JC his first-ever Trackback ping. Welcome to the club, JC!)

EDIT Fixed a wrongful attribution


Thanks for the ping! BTW, unless Moot Life Elliot has an alias, Elliot "the troll" Shepard is a different person. But he should still be exposed for liking French rap:).

Posted by: JC at March 9, 2004 07:34 AM

There is a logical fallacy in your point, which is to say that just because you were able, through the miracles of international travel and digital communication, to experience Bulgarian culture, does not mean that the culture you encountered is not different than an "annhilated" pre-globalization Bulgarian culture (which it almost assuredly is). But that doesn't mean that the earlier culture was better, especially in light of the fact that globalization is a continuous process, not an absolute transition from local to international; every culture, even those supposedly untouched by American language or technology, is a compost of various elements blended together from other cultures great and small. That is the very essence of cultural development through time, which currently goes by the name of globalization. And your point that globalization is essentially a factor of choices made by each individual rather than the imposition of abstract, impersonal forces could not be better taken.

Posted by: Curt at March 9, 2004 03:09 PM

You're right, of course. The Bulgarian culture I experience is certainly different than "pre-globalization" Bulgarian culture. Of course, that leads one to ask the question: what exactly is "pre-globalization Bulgarian culture"? After all, this is a country that was ruled by the Turks for hundreds of years until the late 19th century and then was strongly affiliated with the USSR throughout most of the 20th century. I suspect it would be impossible to distinguish indigenous cultural elements from international influence at this stage in the game, even aside from the Western influences that are more typically associated with "globalization."

As an aside, given JC's statement above, I apologize to "Moot Life Elliott" for associating him with the troll on Old fishinghat. Mea maxima culpa.

Posted by: shonk at March 10, 2004 07:29 AM

Exactly: that's why I said "every a compost of various elements blended together from other cultures."

Posted by: Curt at March 12, 2004 05:02 PM