Is globalism hazardous to your health?

April 13, 2008 by aaron

“Globalism is a most vile institution that rapes weaker cultures of the world and homogenizes them into a single unit devoid of variety.” Agree? Disagree? Agree somewhat? While most would not agree with the statement, many agree with the sentiment. Opponents of globalism often see it as the forcing of a super-power’s culture onto other smaller cultures. Not to be blunt, but it isn’t.

The spread of the most powerful culture to the rest of the word has been occurring for all of history. Those without power mimic those who have it to improve themselves. The Mayans, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Hindus, Arabs, Romans, French, British etc ad infinitum have all been mimicked at one point in time or another in the past 4,000 Years. At no point did the world’s cultures fuse into a super-organism: coliseums were built and gladiators were trained, but provinces didn’t cast off their traditions and become purely Roman — had they done so the Roman Empire would have lasted beyond 1,500 C.E. As anyone who has listened to Hindi Pop will notice, just because the world mimics American popular culture, it does not destroy the cultural influences. Drinking Coke and eating a Big Mac does not mean a person abandons their culture.

While not specifically stated, it is a subtext of most discussions of globalism. Culture is often seen as a static institution that should not be allowed to change lest some “unique” features of it are lost to history. However, cultures have come and gone for millennium because its practitioners have changed or found a “better” way to live. The spread of the internet and globalism does not damage cultures, but allows them to adapt to the changing world. While one may bemoan the passing of cultures, sociology as a whole should not forget that its origins are based on “rapid social change.” The way cultures adapt reveals far more about a society than the way it stagnates itself.

Globalism has beneficial effects on societies, as information spreads it is able to penetrate all corners of the world instantaneously. It took 5 centuries for the concept of a ‘0’ to spread from India to Europe: a distance than can now be covered by a person in only a couple hours. Now it takes an hour for the latest news from Tibet — and most of that is because it takes time to write an article. The negative aspects of globalism are far outweighed by the positives, and although the anthropologist can bemoan the lose, sociologists should revel in it.

Image credit: woodleywonderworks

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