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5. Does globalization diminish cultural diversity?

There are many reasons to think that globalization might undermine cultural diversity:

  • multinational corporations promote a certain kind of consumerist culture, in which standard commodities, promoted by global marketing campaigns exploiting basic material desires, create similar lifestyles--"Coca-Colanization"
  • backed by the power of certain states, Western ideals are falsely established as universal, overrriding local traditions--"cultural imperialism"
  • modern institutions have an inherently rationalizing thrust, making all human practices more efficient, controllable, and predictable, as exemplified by the spread of fast food--"McDonaldization"
  • the United States exerts hegemonic influence in promoting its values and habits through popular culture and the news media--"Americanization"

But there are also good reasons to think that globalization will foster diversity:

  • interaction across boundaries leads to the mixing of cultures in particular places and practice--pluralization
  • cultural flows occur differently in different spheres and may originate in many places--differentiation
  • integration and the spread of ideas and images provoke reactions and resistance--contestation
  • global norms or practices are interpreted differently according to local tradition; the universal must take particular forms--glocalization
  • diversity has itself become a global value, promoted through international organizations and movements, not to mention nation-states--institutionalization

To some extent, the issue of diversity is now the subject of global cultural politics, and therefore unlikely to be settled by argument and evidence. Scholars can offer some cautions:

  • whether diversity diminishes depends on what yardstick you use (e.g., linguistic diversity may be more threatened than culinary diversity)
  • homogenization and heterogenization may actually operate in tandem or even reinforce each other

Center for World Indigenous Studies

Center focused on disseminating knowledge about and supporting democratic relations among diverse cultures; produces Fourth World Journal and has link to virtual library on indigenous reosurces

Cultural Survival

Site devoted to disseminating knowledge in support of indigenous people's rights and autonomy; publishes quarterly journal (online)

Culture of Liberty

Article by Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa argues that while some past ways of life will be eclipsed in globalization, the process also liberates people culturally by undermining the ideological conformity of nationalism


Materials in French on conference held in June 2001 in Benin by ministers from French-speaking countries to counter homogenizing effects of globalization and assert the value of (cultural, linguistic) difference

Global Monoculture

Turning Point Project coalition of NGO's criticizes rise of monoculture in newspaper advertisement


Organization opposed to McDonaldization, clearinghouse on issues related to McDonald's


INGO devoted to battling extinction of minority languages and indigenous cultures

The Myths of Cultural Globalization

Paper by Joana Breidenbach and Ina Zukrigl disputes homogenization and clash of civilizations scenarios by showing how ethnographic work points to diversifying effects of globalization

Webster's World of Cultural Policy

Web resources on cultural policy, several with global dimension, from site promoting cultural democracy

World Culture Reports

1995 UNESCO world culture report (available online) and 2000 report (overview and statistical tables) chart extent of cultural diversity, promote inclusion of culture in development policies, and foster respect for all tolerant cultures in "rainbow river"; site also contains other material on UNESCO's work to preserve cultural heritage and stimulate pluralism

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  1. What is globalization?
  2. How does globalization affect women?
  3. Does globalization cause poverty?
  4. Why are so many people opposed to globalization?
  5. Does globalization diminish cultural diversity?
  6. Can globalization be controlled?



Copyright 2000-2001 - Frank Lechner