My musings for this week will briefly explore this idea of americanization...
Americanization. Globalization. “Are these words synonymous?” A pertinent question. Americanization previously meant simply the turning over of new immigrants into Americans by choice or not. Today, it would seem that globalization is “nothing more than the imposition of American culture on the entire world”.
People around the world today are connected; more so than ever before. “Information and money now flow more quickly (...). Goods and services produced in one part of the world are increasingly available in all parts of the world. International travel is more frequent [and] international communication is common place.” This is what terms the word globalization.
I am wondering; is globalization simply Americanization? If so, then; what are the implications for the cultural world and democracy as we see it today.
The answer to the above question(s) I believe lie(s) partly in an understanding of both terms; Americanization and globalization. Additionally, Benjamin Barber's article Jihad Vs McWorld proposes that “the two-axial principles of our age -- tribalism and globalism -- clash at every point except one; they may both be threatening to democracy.”
In terms of culture, the proponents of McWorld [Americanization], which are trade, the market imperative and advancement of technology enable us to create wealth. This wealth enables us to enrich our cultures.
Lets analyze both idioms and in the process, try to communicate why both are said to be one and the same.
1. Americanization vs. Globalization
In the 1900s, all new immigrants to the United States were forced to assimilate and adapt to American culture, and the American way of life. These immigrants had no alternative but to integrate, they gave up their traditional culture and identity and were given no choice in the matter. Today, Americanization has come to mean something different. Americanization is in fact the dominance of the prominent and strong United States Economy. Americanization then is simply the economic supremacy the United States has created for itself.
This idea of an enriching and spreading culture is not a new one. In 1901, Briton William wrote a book entitled The Americanization of the World; later in 1976 Marxist socialist Herbert Schieller published Communication and Cultural domination, which outline the post World War II influence of American corporations.
Similarly, Hollywood has had an enormous influence in the world. In the 1980's the world once again rose in uplift against American culture when the popular American TV series Dallas gained enormous popularity and was broadcast in numerous countries other than the United States. In deed, it is easier to watch American broadcast comedies and sitcoms over local shows in many countries. In the same way, the media continues to have an increased important role in the publicizing and promotion of American culture.
It is hard to argue that the Americans and their culture have hegemony over the world. Their products and their companies are taking over. The American export English is an example; 360 million people have English as their first language while another 250 million speak it as their second. McDonalds and Coca Cola have become the favorite drink and fast food. In essence, allow me to equate Americanization to be: "the world is standing at the feet of the statue of liberty waiting [to]; breathe, eat, drink and sleep American culture."
On the other side of the coin lies Globalization. The phenomenon of the 21st Century, the era that has replaced the cold war, the ice age [among others]. Everyone is talking about globalization without really knowing or least understanding its true meaning.
Globalization is much more than a synonym for global business. “The same forces that allow business to operate as if national borders did not exist also allow(s) social activist, labour organizers, journalists, academics, and many others to work on a global stage” . Globalization has the ability to alter much more than the movies or food we consume or the activities society engages in.
1.3 Americanization and Globalization one and the same
Thomas Friedman, a strong believer and advocate of globalizations wrote:
“... Globalization is in so many ways Americanization; globalization wears Mickey Mouse ears, it drinks Pepsi and Coke, eats Big Macs, does its computing on an IBM laptop with Windows 98. Many societies can't get enough of it [...].”
The characteristics of Americanization as it has been portrayed have done nothing more than do exactly what globalization sets out to do. In fact, perhaps the two terms are linked simply because of the reality that the US is the biggest economic power and thus, the one with the necessary instruments, machinery and power to expand itself and its ideas worldwide.