Thursday, November 15, 2012

One-way traffic

This post is a bit academic, and is taken from something I'm putting together today, so I may as well leave in all the in-text references for greater coherence.

One of the interesting things about globalization theory is the wide range of opinion on it (Held 2000). While several critics (Tunstall 1977; Schiller 1976; Fejes 1981; Golding 1983; MacBride 1980, etc.) have argued that globalization necessarily implies a Westernization of developing societies, and hence a form of cultural imperialism, several others have also called it an inevitable by-product of the process of universal and simultaneous modernization, thereby undercutting the idea of intentionality or its relation to "imperialism" (Tomlinson 1991; Barker 1997, Giddens 2002). In academic theory, there is growing consensus that the multifarious processes of globalization imvolve complex interactions between the global (mostly understood to mean Western) and local (mostly non-Western), emphasizing hybridity, confusion and inter-operability (Giddens 2002; Pieterse 1995). Several have noted the phenomenon of global corporations and entities modifying themselves to suit local contexts and situations, in order to deliver what's important to local consumers (Robertson 1995; Madden 2002). There is a sense that the global needs to conform to the local in order to produce something that is uniquely trans-local, i.e. the phenomenon many refer to using the neologism "glocalization".

(Now, for the non-academic/ blog bit -)

Yet in all of this, there is some degree of unidirectionality. Everything seems to flow from the global to the local, or from the Western to the non-Western. Either this is a pecularity of theory, or there is something essentially true about this particular characteristic of global flows. Maybe it is indeed a one-way process. Many would argue that it isn't, and that local flows do make their way (back) into the dominant paradigms of the West. However, isn't this what we call "multiculturalism", i.e. the presence of the non-Western in Western paradigms? And this term evokes some degree of critical (e.g., Schmitt 1992) and journalistic (e.g., Andrew Bolt and others) anxiety. So, in a way, there is something universal about the flow of the global to the local, and simultaneously something problematic or disorienting or disruptive about the entry of the local into the global. A lot of these concepts are somewhat antedated now (surely because of the cotinuous success or effectiveness of globalization?), but it's still interesting to see how they relate to each other even today.  

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