Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Chapter 8: Globalization and Popular Culture

Storey begins this chapter by offering a definition of globalization. He calls it "the establishment of a capitalist world economy" and also a "time-space compression [...] in which the world appears to be getting smaller" (152). This information helps to situate his arguments against the view of globalization as "cultural americanisation," or in other words, the imposition of American culture onto "weaker" cultures through American media and products. Storey finds fault with this view of globalization for four reasons:
1) The model "assumes that economic success is the same as cultural imposition" (154). I like John Tomlinson's comment that this is a "rather impoverished concept of culture--one that reduces culture to its material goods" (qtd. on 154).
2)The model "claim[s] that commodities have inherent values and singular meanings, which can be imposed on passive consumers"(155). To debunk this myth, Storey refers to a study conducted in which several culturally diverse groups were shown the same American TV program and asked to discuss it. The response and analysis of the show varied widely and depended on the cultural lens through which the participant viewed the program.
3)The model "assumes that America is the only global power"(159).
4)The model is based on the assumption that "American culture is monolithic"--that it is a prepackaged, one-size-fits-all homogenous entity that is injected into other countries when we export our products there.

I appreciate Storey ability to expose and critique these long-held assumptions of American globalization. We need only look at the meteoric progress of China to recognize that America is certainly not the only global power. Also, as was confirmed in our own class as we shared our cultural artifacts, American culture is certainly not monolithic. Like other cultures, it is "hybrid, heterogeneous, extraordinarily differentiated, and unmonolithic"(Said qtd. in 162).

Storey concludes by arguing that there has never been a culture in any part of the world that has stayed pristine and pure, without variation. Rather, every culture evolves as it negotiates and incorporates the influences it is exposed to over time.

As I read this chapter, the visual that kept coming to my head was the idea of the McDonalds in Argentina. While it is true that material goods are not the only component of culture, or that American culture is ingested along with a Big Mac in Argentina, it is also true that the influx of American products and conveniences seems to be changing the daily routines of Argentines, which is having an effect on their culture. For example, it is an age-old custom to sit around and share a drink called Mate with friends and family after dinner in Argentina. This is a time to be close and share and build relationships, and it is a huge indicator of the type of hospitable culture the Argentines are known for. Of course, Argentines that eat out at McDonalds forego that tradition at least for that meal. They trade the tradition of family togetherness for the comfort of convenience...it is interesting for me to reflect on that example as I evaluate Storey's arguments in this chapter.

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