The idea that America has been slowly eroding culture around the world and expanding their own influence has been hotly debated over the past number of years. Philippe Legrain argues in his article that Cultural Globalization most definitely does not equal Americanization. Legrain details the positive aspects of Globalization, how it increases individual freedom, frees people from the chains of their local culture, provides a hybridization of culture in many parts of the world and plants seeds of various cultures in countries who never would have gotten the opportunity otherwise.
He also addresses the fears of American culture taking over the global market and placing a monopoly on incoming media products. He finds that “For all the concerns about American fast food trashing France’s culinary traditions, France imported a mere $620-million in food from the United States in 2000, while exporting to America three times that”. Similarly, in the music scene, American born artists do not dominate and instead “the three artists who featured most widely in national Top Ten album charts in 2000 were America’s Britney Spears, closely followed by Mexico’s Carlos Santana and the British Beatles” (Legraine, 2003). While it might seem to people born in the United States that their culture is dominating the global market, foreign products are still the most popular in their respective areas.
As Legraine quotes Tyler Cowen he further explains that “People everywhere have more choice, but they often choose similar things. That worries cultural pessimists, even though the right to choose to be the same is an essential part of freedom”. The fear of losing ones own national identity plays a factor in consuming various cultural products and another reason has to why sectioned communities prefer localized music, film and literature. “In truth, cultural pessimists are typically not attached to diversity per se but to designated manifestations of diversity”; Cultural pessimists want to freeze things as they were” (Legraine, 2003).
For these pessimists, there is no way to stop Globalization in its entirety. New cultural products are being released daily to fans from around the globe, not caring whether it was produced locally or even nationally but only that it suits their lifestyle and how they want to experience it. In some areas American culture is going to simply win-out and create a higher density of appreciation while other areas are completely void of it. Cultural Globalization is in fact, not Americanization but Americanization is Cultural Globalization.
Allan Brian Ssenyonga on the other hand argues that American culture has pervaded Globalization in large amounts and the world is now at a point where Americanization is entirely possible. Ssenyonga finds that “many people, especially, the Europeans have often despised Americans, saying they have no culture. But as any sociologist will tell you, even having no culture is a culture in itself … now they seem to be selling their culture to the rest of the world as a new and improved product of what we all have as culture” (Ssenyonga, 2006). The American styles of clothing, music and fast food eating have all made a major impact on the global market and planted seeds of American culture in other developed countries.
Hollywood in particular has been dominating the global market and while India produces more films in total, their impact outside of the country is increasingly limited compared to American made products. Over time “the guys in Hollywood have made us adore the tough cigar smoking guys in the Casinos, the thin shapely long-legged women, and to dream about rags-to-riches stories that are a common tag line of the movies” (Ssenyonga, 2006). Hollywood has not just given an insight into American culture, but their own personal takes on various cultures from around the world as well.
Ssenyonga also touches on the Americans ‘War on Terrorism’, touching on the propaganda spread by the United States on Muslims and the Middle Eastern countries citing them as terrorists and proclaiming themselves to the saviours of the western world. Through the media over the past number of years, America has used its influence to persuade to only its own people but countries from around the globe that what they’re doing is right and just. He finishes the point by stating that “the global stage is at a period of American conquest in many more different way than you can imagine … Globalization has the ability to alter much more than just the movies or food consumed by a society. And the results can be powerfully positive, devastatingly negative or more often something in between” (Ssenyonga, 2006).
Most likely, the spread of American Culture is going to continue to grow and eventually become the universalized culture, one which any in the world can relate to. Similar to the spread of the English language, more and more countries are adopting classes to teach English is schools. That is not to say that English will be preferred over countries national languages but similar to American culture, a universal language for everybody to understand is a possibility.
Peter Beyer of the University of Ottawa details the distinction of globalization between the west and the non-West essentially saying that “globalization is a Western imposition on the non-West; meaning that the West is more Global and the non-West is more local” (Beyer, 1998). This distinction follows a path similar to modernization where seemingly most new inventions and products come from the West. The West simply puts out more information, media and technology products that can be consumed internationally rather than smaller countries in Asia and Africa who mainly produce for local communities and populations. The simple matter is that the United States flexes its social power on smaller, and lesser developed countries with their own media and physical products. Those smaller countries then have no choice but to accept the Americanization as it out performs their own.
Additionally, Beyer identifies that “money is then one of those technical means that forces globalization, not by negating, but by bringing together and recontextualizing those aspects of human life that are particular and greatly variable” (Beyer, 1998). Globalization is now more a search for a shared society between various cultures and traditions rather than staying sectioned off without outside influence. Communities will of course sometimes choose to indulge in foreign products but through overwhelming consensus, American products are more likely to be adopted into foreign homes because local subsidiaries just can not compete.
The content that the American market produces is a direct representation of what the culture is like currently. As countries produce more and more consumable content, their main consumers are going to be their own population. And so American media products are created in the image of the United States in a way to will sell to local audiences. Furthermore, with the increasing Americanization of the non-West, those same cultural products are becoming more and more culturally valid in countries such as Russia, China and Japan.
Mita Banerjee in ‘Cultural Studies and Americanization’ studies the impact and increased circulation of America studies in foreign countries, mainly Germany. She begins by studying a German advertisement which features what Banerjee calls ‘A Black Hippie’. She goes on to explain that on first glance the advertisement screams of American culture and the African-American hybrid has become so popular in the past decades. “Why, in other words, should the black hippie in the poster be a black American hippie? … It may be interesting to consider whether the hippie in the poster could be read not as a black American, but as a black German hippie” (Banerjee, 2009). The through then becomes, why did this German ad bring up notions of American Culture.
Maria Lauret recalls in her article ‘Americanization Now and Then: The “Nation of Immigrants” that in one of former President Barack Obama’s closing sentiments, “My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants”. And with that notion of immigration, the United States had to create their own culture after defecting from the British Empire. Now that that culture has been fully realised and embraced by the American population, new incoming immigrants must be subject to learn and fit into that culture once coming over. Lauret also cities that the “The Task Force had been charged by the President to design a policy for the Department of Homeland Security “to help legal immigrants embrace the common core of American civic culture, learn our common language, and fully become Americans” (Lauret, 2016). The American culture has never been very accepting of immigrants of any race or number but even so, the culture dictates that once immigrants are living within the country, they must be indoctrinated with American values and ways of life.
The theory of “A Nation of Immigrants” can have both a positive and negative effect on the impact of Americanization in foreign countries. On one hand, with so many different races and ethnicities coming to the United States, the spread of American culture becomes that much more potent as immigrants share their new culture with friends and family from their home country. The American culture us further promoted on the vast social media platforms of the modern age. Popular personalities advertise American products globally and communities from around the world wish to emulate their favourite pop artists or movie star so they buy further into Americanization. On the other hand, however, with so many immigrants moving to the United States year after year, the American culture can become diluted with foreign practices straying further from ‘Pure American Culture’.
- Banerjee, M. (2009). Cultural Studies and Americanization. Amerikastudien / American
- Studies, 54(3), 499-521.
- Beyer, P. (1998). Globalizing Systems, Global Cultural Models and Religion(s). International
- Sociology, 13(1), 79–94.
- Lauret, M. (2016). Americanization Now and Then: The “Nation of Immigrants” in the Early
- Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries. Journal of American Studies, 50(2), 419–447.
- Legraine, P. (2003). Cultural Globalization Is Not Americanization. 49(35), pB7-B10.
- Ssenyonga, A. B. (2006). Does Globalization Threaten Cultural Diversity? (Vol. 3).