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Theoretical Debates on the Cultural Consequences of Globalization and Its Implication in the Light of the Ethiopian Culture

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Abstract

This paper examined the cultural consequences of globalization in line with different perspectives. The study relied on qualitative research approach along with secondary sources of data so as to analyze the relationship between culture and globalization. Even though people of the world have made closer relations for elongated and continuous periods of time, the pace of interactions, exemplified by the global flows of people, capital, information, commodities, culture etc, has shown significant improvement recently owing to the force of globalization. Thus, globalization, as a multifaceted process, is portrayed by the existence of continuous and multiple linkages on a global scale. One of the interactions by which globalization has been manifested; one is the cultural ties amongst nations. In these processes of cultural connectivity, there exist contact and exchange of elements among the world's cultural rainbow having an array of end results, namely, homogenization, heterogenization, hybridization and polarization thesis.
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Theoretical Debates on the Cultural Consequences of
Globalization and Its Implication in the Light of the Ethiopian
Culture
Tibebu Shito Kebede
Address: 269, Civics and Ethical Studies Department,
Debre Markos University, Debre Markos, Ethiopia
Abstract
This paper examined the cultural consequences of globalization in line with different perspectives. The study
relied on qualitative research approach along with secondary sources of data so as to analyze the relationship
between culture and globalization. Even though people of the world have made closer relations for elongated and
continuous periods of time, the pace of interactions, exemplified by the global flows of people, capital,
information, commodities, culture etc, has shown significant improvement recently owing to the force of
globalization. Thus, globalization, as a multifaceted process, is portrayed by the existence of continuous and
multiple linkages on a global scale. One of the interactions by which globalization has been manifested; one is
the cultural ties amongst nations. In these processes of cultural connectivity, there exist contact and exchange of
elements among the world’s cultural rainbow having an array of end results, namely, homogenization,
heterogenization, hybridization and polarization thesis.
Keywords: Culture, globalization, homogenization, heteroginazation, hybridization, polarization, cultural
imperialism
DOI: 10.7176/IAGS/77-02
Publication date: November 30
th
2019
1. Introduction
Globalization, one of the most complex and controversial notion (Amadi et.al, 2016; Ibrahim, 2013; Hassi and
Storti, 2012), is conceptualized as the intensification and expansion of worldwide interaction (Steger, 2017;
Khondker, 2004; Scholte, 2002). Even though globalization was initially seen as an economic phenomenon, the
force of globalization is not limited to economic spheres alone (Ugbam et.al, 2014; Yankuzo, 2014; Adesina,
2012). Instead, globalization is a multidimensional process exemplified by the existence of cultural, economic
and political interactions on a global scale. Moreover, globalization is not a new phenomenon as far as the
history of mankind is concerned. The advent of globalization can be traced back to the earliest periods of
recorded history (Palmer, 2004) while changing its form, rate, scope and complexity from time to time (Leidner,
2010; Held et.al, 1999). Scholte (2002) further argued that though the term globalization was coined in the 1980s,
the historical origin of globalization can be associated with the dawn of mercantilism around the second half of
fifteenth century (Ugbam et.al, 2014). Since then, propelled by incredible advancements in communication and
transportation technologies (Ugbam et.al, 2014; Brown, 1999), multinational corporations, transnational media
institutions, intergovernmental organizations, international non-governmental organizations and national
governments (Cuterela, 2012; Thomas, 2007), globalization has significantly amplified the rate of interactions
among the world’s populace (Wang, 2007). Since globalization has made the interaction and the mutual co-
existence of states more inevitable than before (Wang, 2007), almost all states and people of the world are
affected remarkably by the process of globalization (Yankuzo, 2014). One of the arenas whereby the effects of
globalization have been vividly seen all over the place is culture. However, the cultural consequence of
globalization has remained a contentious issue among scholars despite many studies on the correlation between
globalization and culture have been conducted (Machida, 2012; Precious, 2010).The focus of this paper is,
therefore, to unveil the impact of globalization on the Ethiopian culture in line with different perspectives.
2. Theoretical Debates on Cultural Globalization
2.1. The Homogenization Thesis
Globalization entails a strong force that promotes cultural homogenization while leading to the eradication of the
world cultural rainbow (Ugbam et.al, 2014; Yankuzo, 2014; Machida, 2012; Stefanovic, 2008). Hall (1990)
further stated that globalization is all about homogenization or Americanization of the world which in turn erases
the globe’s cultural diversity. This is because for globalization to continuously exert its influence, it postulates
the development, existence and diffusion of a single global culture that transcends beyond varied economic,
ethnic, political, racial and religious settings (Brown, 1999). This implies that globalization is not just about the
physical interconnectedness of the world. In the words of Lechner (2001), there are multiple reasons through
which globalization undermines the cultural diversity of the world. The first rationale is that globalization
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promotes homogenization of culture via transnational companies that creates not only consumerist culture but
also identical western lifestyle through their uniform and standardized products termed as “Coca-colonization.”
Globalization also undermines cultural diversity through "cultural imperialism" whereby the western values,
norms and traditions are amplified as universal while posing threat on the survival and identity of local cultures.
Thirdly, globalization can be a threat to multiculturalism via “McDonaldization.” That is, it is via modern
institutions and organizations aimed at the dispersion of fast food culture. Finally, globalization deteriorates
cultural diversity through its powerful notion and practice of “Americanization” in which United States of
America promote its goods, values, lifestyles and customs. Thus, the author stresses that it is via the forces of
coca-colonization, McDonaldization, Americanization as well as cultural imperialism that globalization
promotes the existence and dispersion of monoculture, predominantly the American culture.
In its extreme form, there are also other scholars that tend to explicate the impacts of globalization on the
Ethiopian culture via cultural imperialism thesis (Tibebu, 2018; Addisu, 2012; Schiller and Van Elteren as cited
in Machida, 2012). Here, cultural imperialism implies the process of imposing dominant western culture in
general and the American culture in particular against the will of indigenous people or culture which intends at
controlling, invading, undermining or destroying other cultures. It is about the expansion and dispersion of the
global culture via international media institutions, giant transnational corporations, Microsoft technologies,
fashions, films as well as music industries (Tomlinson, 2006) rather than military force like old colonial empires.
Tomlinson (2006) further enunciated that what is feared is the subsequent threat of losing the distinct non-
western cultural values. Along with this perspective, Daramola & Oyinade (2015) asserted that the end result of
cultural imperialism is loss of identity, traditional values as well as self-pride.
Although Ethiopia is the only African country that successfully resisted and defended fascist Italy’s colonial
invasion, the western neo-imperialists are polluting the native cultural values via media, internet, advertisement
and infotainment industries nowadays (Addisu, 2012). In this regard, Rao (2013) further opined that albeit
Ethiopia is culturally rich state, the language, music, dance, food habits and outfit of the society is being
revolutionized owing to the effects of globalization. On the other hand, the young generation, unlike our
ancestors, is failing to conserve and preserve indigenous culture of Ethiopia given that their psychology is
significantly affected by xenocentric inclination. This in turn has made them outward looking; the worshiper of
the western ways of life as well as the victim of indirect colonialism in the form of cultural imperialism (Tibebu,
2018). In this regard, Enag (2011), while expressing the condition of the youth, held as follows: “A generation
that exposed [itself] to cultural imperialism; and who willingly throws [its] native culture. This generation,
whose hairstyle and trousers is uncommon, never communicates in native language without mixing English-a
submissive generation” (cited in Addisu, 2012, p. 22). Since culture is not only the identity of the people but also
a bond that ties them together, lose of one’s culture is practically equivalent to lose of one’s identity (Ugbam
et.al, 2014) which ends up with identity crisis.
As pointed out clearly, the writer asserts that globalization, propelled by socio-economic and political
institutions, has played unabated role not only in diluting the Ethiopian culture. But, it is also replacing them
with the cultural values of economically and technologically advanced western countries, particularly that of
North American and Western Europe. Moreover, the author vehemently argues that globalization has created the
young generation that are Ethiopian in blood and color, but western in life style, taste and value via its
multifarious instruments such as satellite television, western education, aid, media, internet, tourism,
infotainment industries, multinational corporations, intergovernmental organizations and the like. Despite states
serious attempt to defend their culture from foreign invasion (Palmer, 2004; Cowen, 2002; Rothkopf, 1997), the
existence, expansion and dispersion of the western popular culture not only seems inevitable but also devastates
more endangered native cultures (Steger, 2017). Therefore, the relationship between culture and globalization in
Ethiopia can be analyzed through homogenization thesis.
2.2. The Heterogenization Thesis
The tension between the processes of cultural heterogenization and cultural homogenization is the central
problem of these day’s global cultural interactions (Appadurai, 1996). Contrary to the notion of homogenization,
the central argument of heterogenization thesis, also known as cultural differentialism, is that globalization is not
simply about diffusion of the American cultural values and lifestyles. Instead, one culture remains unique and
different from the other in spite of the forces of globalization (Hassi and Storti, 2012). Along with this,
Sotshangane (2002) asserted that globalization does not always imply cultural standardization and
homogenization. Indeed, the process of globalization promotes the mutual co-existence of diverse cultures.
While expressing the relationship between globalization and culture, Wang (2007, p. 83) contended that:
Globalization is not simply homogenization; on the contrary, it enhances cultural identity.
First, People are not mere objects of cultural influences, but subjects who can reject or
integrate culture. Besides, with the development of science and technology, people are
closer than before. The sense of ‘togetherness’ brought with globalization is not at all in
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conflict with diversity. In the new era of globalization, people become much more
concerned about the uniqueness and particularity of their own culture. Cultural identity
provides the global significance of local knowledge and the sense of self, community and
nation. In terms of science, technology and economic development, globalization reflects
somewhat the theory of convergence and hegemonic control, but in deeper sense, it
promotes cultural identity.
Moreover, Lechner (2001) stated that globalization promotes cultural diversity for the following rationales:
Firstly, globalization fosters multiculturalism through “pluralization” which is typified by cultural contact and
exchange across borders which in turn leads to fusion of cultures. Secondly, the flows of culture not only happen
in various areas but it takes place in various directions which he termed as “differentiation.” The third rationale
behind why globalization fosters cultural diversity is that since the integration and dissemination of notions
causes “contestation,” it is not feasible for the process of globalization to promote cultural standardization. In
other words, reactions and resistances from different directions can be regarded as an obstacle for globalization
to create a global culture. Besides, there exist differences while interpreting universal norms or traditions as per
local context which, in other words, imply “glocalization.” As a final point, by virtue of the fact that diversity is
considered as positive and promoted both at local and international level these days, it is impossible for a single
consumer culture to exist. In other words, globalization fosters “institutionalization” of cultural diversity. In
nutshell, globalization brought cultural interaction among world states albeit local resistance prevailed against it.
Sotshangane (2002) stated that even though globalization weakens indigenous identities of local people, it also
allows and promotes diversity in some respect. This is because, nowadays, there is multiculturalism in the arena
of food, media, religion, education and so on. Lynton (2007) further asserted that due to the process of
globalization, there are countless voices, multiple choices as well as diverse cultures instead of one say, fewer
preferences and single, uniform and global American culture. As said by Wang (2007), because globalization
raises the consciousness of the people about their cultural roots than before, they become much more concerned
about it. This is to say, people are constantly not only seeking out but also safeguarding their cultural identity in
the era of globalization. Hence, irrespective of the strong forces of globalization, cultural differences remain for
long. Wang (2007) further stated that if globalization is conceptualized as togetherness and interconnectedness,
then the globe is not only more together but also more diverse.
Even though globalization has created an opportunity for Ethiopian culture to be recognized at the global
level to some extent, the writer argued that it has more of homogenization impact up on the eastern societies.
This is happening due to the unbalanced import and export of cultural items between the developed and
developing countries. Moreover, the monopoly of information communication technologies in the hands of the
western world places the developing states, like Ethiopia, in a disadvantaged position in the process of
globalization leading to cultural invasion and imposition, precisely termed as cultural imperialism. The author,
thus, contends that the heterogenization scenario is not adequate enough to contextualize the cultural effects of
globalization from the perspective of developing states as it fails to recognize the fact that African cultures are
deteriorating by the encroaching agenda of westernization.
2.3. The Hybridization Thesis
Holton (2000) argued that some scholars, by examining the strength of each culture across the globe, have found
that the relationship between culture and globalization can best be expressed by hybridization thesis. For the
proponents of Hybridization approach to cultural globalization, globalization facilitates and promotes the
exchange and interaction of different cultures. Nevertheless, hybridization does not necessarily lead to even
exchange of cultures (Crothers, 2013). Globalization’s cultural consequence implies neither unidirectional
cultural standardization that revolves around Westernization or Americanization nor a sharpening polarization
that reflects dichotomy between two opposite forces (Ozekin and Arioz, 2014). Instead, the outcome of the
global cultural relations is labeled by Hybridization paradigm which represents open ended process of
easternization as well as westernization (Pieterse, 2009). Thus, the central argument of cultural hybridization is
the continuous process of mixing different cultures so as to create a new and dynamic culture (Iyorza and Ekwok,
2014) as an offshoot of multiple directions of cultural flows (Husted, 2001).
Appadurai (1996) further argued that globalization encompasses five landscapes that shape not only
complex interactions between diverse cultures but also the global flow of cultures. These are: “Ethnoscapes”
which implies the international flows of people such as visitors, refugees, workers etc. The mechanical as well as
informational movement of technologies beyond national boundaries of states, termed as “Technoscapes”, is
another factor that facilitates cultural exchanges. The third landscape is “Financescapes” which is conceptualized
as cross border movement of finance, capitals, loans, grants as well as worldwide flows of foreign direct
investment. Additionally, there is “Mediascapes” which refers to existence and dispersion of electronic as well as
print Medias throughout the world. The last one is “Ideoscapes” which particularly refers to the international
movement of political ideologies, counter ideologies as well as political ideas such as freedom, human rights,
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democracy and the like. As a final point, the global movement of people, technology, finance, media as well as
ideology, according to Husted (2001), serves as a “catalyst for the creation of new cultural forms.”
As manifested by Iyorza and Ekwok (2014), cultural hybridization happens when people from a particular
cultural tradition take bits and pieces from foreign culture, and creates different dialectics, customs, and ways of
practicing culture. The upshot of these processes of intercultural exchange is the emergence of global mélange
cultures (Ozenkin and Arioz, 2014). In line with this perspective, Crothers (2013) asserted that cultural
communication and hybridization is a double fold process. That is, the eastern societies can be affected by the
western values, lifestyle, customs etc. like the western ones are influenced by the eastern language, dressing,
food etc. Thus, the outcome of cultural mixing cannot be reduced to clear-cut manifestations of cultural
sameness or cultural difference (Steger, 2017).
While explaining the process of cultural blending, Iyorza and Ekwok (2014) enunciated that hybridization
of culture is the personification of an upcoming synthesized culture whereby people do not “completely abandon
their main cultural practices in the wake of encroaching foreign cultures, but adopt the most valuable, cherished
and unavoidable elements of their original and inherited cultural practices as they adopt other foreign cultural
elements of their choice.” Moreover, Pietrese (2009) stressed that cultural hybridization is an amalgamation of
various cultures without the need to totally relinquish one’s cultural identity. Similarly, in the words of Korhan
(2010), hybridization of culture refers to “the possibility of benefiting from other cultures and putting the new
knowledge with the old one side by side without losing one’s identity completely.” Cultural hybridization,
which “occurs as a result of the romance between two cultures through transnational media communication
technologies” (Iyorza and Ekwok, 2014), is conceptualized as the blending of African, American, Asian as well
as European cultural values, norms, traditions etc intended to make global culture as a global mélange (Pietrese,
2009). As pointed out clearly, cultural hybridization refers to a process whereby different cultural elements are
combined so as to create new, distinctive, synthesized and trans-local mélange cultures. However, this
perspective fails to realize the fact that the global cultural interaction does not always lead to an equivalent
exchange of cultural items between the western world and the developing ones. As a result, western cultural
values becomes the dominate figure in the process of intercultural blending in that it contributes more and more
elements in the creation of the new, synthesized and trans-local cultures. Thus, the hybridization perspective is
less likely applicable to contextualize the relationship between culture and globalization in line with the
Ethiopian context.
2.4. The Polarization Thesis
In addition to convergence, differentialism and hybridization thesis, there are scholars that analyze the tie
between globalization and culture via polarization thesis. Polarization thesis implies that cultural globalization is
conceived as intense cultural conflict between two contradictory forces working in opposite directions (Holton,
2000). In this regard, Barber (1995) asserted that globalization involves fierce collision between “Jihad” which
refers to “bloody holy war on behalf of partisan identity that is metaphysically defined and fanatically defended,”
and “Mcworld” which implies homogenization of the world through giant multinational corporations,
infotainment industries as well as technological advancements. Jihad which is betokened with violent cultural
fundamentalism and tribalism is counterpoised against the encroaching westernization and cultural imperialism
which is termed as McWorld (Ibid). Even though the increment in the quantity of transnational corporations, the
international flow of finance as well as the advancement of transport and communication technologies created
more interdependent world than before, there are still conflicts on ethnic, cultural as well as religious basis
(Wang, 2007). In accordance with Ozenkin and Arioz (2014), in the contrary to the destructive process of
McWorld, Jihad, which is driven by the politics of identity, creates a sense of belongingness to a certain ethnic,
cultural or religious group. Consequently, the global cultural relations will inevitably be conflictual. This is by
virtue of the fact that “the members of each culture will seek to destroy or eliminate the other” (Crothers, 2013).
In the words of Huntington (1993), for about one and half centuries after the treaty of Westphalia in 1648,
there was conflict among kings. After the French revolution in 1789, the principal line of conflict became nations.
Then, after Russian revolution in 1917, war among nation states shifted to conflict of ideologies initially among
communism, fascism-Nazism and liberal democracy, and then between communism and liberal democracy
which was later replaced by conflict of ideologies between United State of America and Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics during the cold war period. Thus, the battles of seventeenth centuries between kings, the eighteenth
centuries’ warfare among nation states, the ideological friction of diverse political ideologies of twentieth
century as well as the ideological tension of superpowers during cold war era was conflicts within Western
civilizations (Ibid).
In post cold war international politics, however, the fundamental source of conflict is associated with
religious and cultural identities of people. Consistent with this perspectives, Said held that cultural dichotomies
have been built between Western and non-Western ways of life (cited in Holton, 2000). Similarly, Huntington
(1993) stated that the primary source of conflict after the disintegration of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
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(USSR) in 1991 is not economic or ideological. Instead, global politics will be characterized by the existence of
conflict on the basis of cultural fault lines which is termed as “clash of civilizations.” This is because “the
members of each group seek to expand or defend their cultural turf” (Crothers, 2013). Moreover, polarization
thesis prefigures that the global cultural relations are generating and will likely generate cultural violence and
fragmentation which in its extreme form portrayed by cultural war between the western world on one hand and
its opponents on the other hand. However, the polarization perspective missed the point that the African culture
is not capable enough to challenge the dominant and the encroaching western cultural values. So, this
perspective is not as such relevant to explain the cultural consequences of globalization in Ethiopia.
3. Conclusion
Assessing the impact of globalization on culture is one of the most contentious issues. This is due to the fact that
regardless of large numbers of studies on the subject of globalization, there is no unanimity among scholars as
far as its real impact on culture is concerned. However, globalization’s cultural consequence can be analyzed
through four main perspectives, namely, homogenization, heterogenization, hybridization and polarization thesis.
The homogenization perspective to cultural globalization holds that globalization is a force leading to the
deterioration of the global cultural rainbow while promoting the triumph of a single and uniform global culture,
particularly the western culture. In doing this, globalization employs different instruments such as Medias,
internet, fashion industries, film industries, transnational corporations and so forth. In its extreme form, the
upshot of the global cultural exchange is cultural imperialism which in turn prefigures loss of self pride;
deterioration of cultural identity as well as identity crisis. On the contrary, the proponents of heteroginazation
thesis vehemently believe that globalization does not necessarily lead to the homogenization of culture. Instead,
globalization enhances cultural identity by promoting mutual existence of multiple cultures. To be specific,
irrespective of the strong forces of globalization, each culture not only maintains its particularity but also
remains different for long.
The mid way between homogenization and heteroginazation approach is hybridization thesis which
betokens globalization with neither clear cut cultural uniformity nor cultural uniqueness. Bearing in mind that
hybridization does not always lead to even exchange of cultures, the global flow of culture is a two way process
whereby the eastern world is affected by the western world and vice versa. In nutshell, hybridization of culture is
about the mélange of diverse cultures so as to form new, unique and synthesized cultures without the need to
give up one’s cultural identity completely. In addition to homogenization, heteroginization and hybridization
approach, scholars like Barber, Huntington and Said tend to associate the cultural consequences of globalization
with polarization thesis. The central argument of polarization approach to cultural globalization is that the global
cultural relations are portrayed by intense cultural clash between two paradoxical forces, namely the western and
eastern civilization, moving in opposite directions. Unlike the pre cold war era, the inherent source of tension
and fragmentation in the post 1990’s international relations lies on ethnicity and cultural identities of the people.
In other words, cultural conflict is and will be the manifestation of the contemporary global politics.
Globalization in general and cultural imperialism in particular is introducing, spreading and imposing alien
practices and values up on developing states leading to cultural invasion, precisely termed as cultural
imperialism or cultural colonialism. What is surprising is that some of these traditions are not even inclusively
accepted and practiced by the whole westerners. To sum up, the writer vehemently argues that the cultural
effects of globalization in Ethiopia can be manifested via homogenization thesis.
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As a member of the international community, Nigeria is not shielded from globalization. However, the country is exposed to both the positive and negative effects of globalization. This paper examines the negative effects of globalization on Nigeria by focusing on its impact on science and technology and the environment. It argues that although globalization presents many opportunities, it also exposes developing countries like Nigeria to many new challenges. The paper also suggests ways by which the negative effects of globalization can be addressed.
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There has been increasing concern over the years by the scholars and writers on how the world is being compressed into a single space now referred to as 'a global village'. Countries at various stages of development are increasingly forced to take account of an ever expanding interconnection of socio-cultural issues and economies in the management of their national affairs. The states are increasingly losing their capacity to govern and to regulate in an increasingly borderless world; with an increasing homogenization and domination of traditional African cultures. African societies are forced into accepting uniform moral principle of what is right and wrong within the global cultures. Scholars and writers often focus attention on economic aspect of globalization, while neglecting other aspects, more importantly its cultural aspect. This paper seeks to examine what exactly is globalization, and how can we best conceptualize this phenomenon? Lastly what are its impacts on the development of African cultural norms and values? These amongst others are the questions, which this paper seeks to examine using cultural convergence perspective as a guide. DOI: 10.5901/jesr.2013.v3n9p43
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THE DEBATE ABOUT GLOBALIZATION AS A WORLD PROCESS, AND its consequences, has been going on now in a variety of different fields of intellectual work for some time. What I am going to try and do here is to map some of the shifting configurations of this question, of the local and the global, particularly in relation to culture and in relation to cultural politics. I am going to try to discover what is emerging and how different subject positions are being transformed or produced in the course of the unfolding of the new dialectics of global culture. I will sketch in this aspect towards the end of this first talk and develop it in the second when I shall address the question of new and old identities. The question of ethnicity spans the two talks.