Pr 450 Introduction to Globalization Lecture Cultural globalization

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PR 1450 Introduction to Globalization

  • Lecture 4

  • Cultural globalization

  • Chris Rumford

Cultural globalization

  • So far we have looked at political globalization and economic globalization, and the ways each has contributed to both the interconnectedness of the world and our awareness that the world is becoming a single place.

  • However, a case can be made for cultural globalization being the most significant factor leading to both the integration of the world and our awareness that this is the case

  • Consider this simple question.

  • What is the first day of the year? “1st January” I hear you chorus.

  • Alright then, now consider a further question.

  • How long has this been the case?

  • In the Middle Ages the year began on Christmas day in Germany, Spain, Portugal. In Venice it was 1st March, in England 25th March, in France it started on Easter Day (which changed every year).

  • 1st January was adopted as the start of the legal year in England in 1752, and in other countries at different times (see Sassoon, 2006: xxv)

Standardization of time

  • Agreeing on a common date for the start of the year was an important step towards the standardization of time throughout the world

As was the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582

  • Adopted by Catholic countries in the first instance, it’s influence spread to the rest of Europe and the wider world. England adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752.

  • It is now the standard calendar used all over the world, and a key element of ‘world culture’

  • The standardization of time is one example of the way in which the world has become more integrated through globalization

  • In fact, many standards have been adopted globally;

  • issuing passports to enable citizens to travel

  • issuing postage stamps to allow mail to be sent internationally

  • the establishment of a system for categorizing blood types (A, O, AB)

  • All have increased the interconnectedness of the world and point to the existence of a ‘world culture’

Globalization of rock music

  • In a very interesting article, the Israeli sociologist Motti Regev argues that Anglo-American pop/rock has given rise to what he calls a global ‘rock aesthetic’

The ‘rock aesthetic’ has become dominant as a cultural form because it can be easily combined with other musical styles

  • The ‘rock aesthetic’ has become dominant as a cultural form because it can be easily combined with other musical styles

  • It bestows a subversiveness or seriousness on what could otherwise be rather slight and ephemeral musical forms.

Importantly, the ‘rock aesthetic’ is not experienced as cultural imperialism but is domesticated by ‘authentic’ local musical forms

  • Importantly, the ‘rock aesthetic’ is not experienced as cultural imperialism but is domesticated by ‘authentic’ local musical forms

  • This means that when we hear rock music from other countries it can appear both strange and familiar at the same time

  • The ‘rock aesthetic’ does not lead to the homogenization of world music: it is a good example ‘glocalization’, to use a term developed by Roland Robertson

  • Rock music is global, but finds ‘local’ expression

Is German hip hop authentic?

  • Hip hop culture emerged in New York in the 1970s and has since gone global, spreading across cultural and ethnic boundaries

  • Listen to a debate on hip hop music on Laurie Taylor’s Radio 4 programme ‘Thinking Allowed’. He poses the question: ‘is rapping in Newcastle, Frankfurt or Tokyo the real thing’?



  • Has hip hop culture become global culture? Or is it only authentic when it is by and about the experience of African Americans?


  • The idea of McDonaldization is associated with the work of George Ritzer

  • This does not mean that the world is dominated by McDonalds restaurants

  • It suggests that economic activity is becoming standardized and homogenized and organized for efficiency along the lines of fast food outlets

  • By the ‘McDonaldization of society’ Ritzer means that other sectors, including hospitals and universities are being organized along similar lines

The McDonaldization of Society

  • Read a short excerpt from Ritzer’s book


Planet Mac

  • A key element of the McDonaldization thesis is the idea that fast food creates a high degree of homogeneity in the world and drives out local difference

  • To what extent is this true of McDonalds?

  • Read the article ‘Planet Mac’ from The Guardian which shows how adaptable McDonalds can be to local circumstances


The ‘slow movement’

  • Fast food and the type of global culture it represents has provoked an interesting reaction: the ‘slow movement’

  • The ‘slow movement’ resists the cult of speed, of which fast food is a manifestation, and has several dimensions two of which are the Slow Food movement, and Cittaslow, a global network of ‘slow’ cities

  • Interestingly, the ‘slow movement’ has been shaped by an awareness of globalization: that we are increasingly interconnected by technology which values speed, disposability, and simultaneity

Slow food

  • The Slow Food movement began in 1986 when McDonald’s opened a branch at the Spanish Steps in Rome. Some locals were angered by this intrusion and an Italian writer, Carlo Petrini, decided to campaign for an alternative to the ‘fast life’

  • Slow Food values fresh, local seasonal produce; sustainable farming; organic produce; leisurely dining; ‘eco-gastronomy’

  • The slow food motto is “Eat well and save the planet”

  • The Slow Food movement now has 78,000 members in more than 50 countries (Honore, 2005: 53)

Find out more at

Slow cities: Cittaslow

  • Inspired by the Slow Food movement, in 1999 several Italian towns pledged themselves to cutting noise and traffic, increasing green spaces and pedestrian zones, promoting local produce, protecting the environment, and enhancing quality of life.

  • The Cittaslow movement is most developed in Italy with 50 members. The network now includes towns in Germany, Portugal, Norway, Poland and England (Ludlow, Diss, and Aylsham).

  • “a slow city is more than just a fast city slowed down. The Slow Movement is about creating an environment where people can resist the pressure to live by the clock and do everything faster” (Honore, 2005: 76-7).

Cittaslow UK

  • Membership of Cittaslow is open to towns with a population under 50,000

  • Ludlow was the first town in the UK to be admitted to the network. Aylsham in Norfolk was the second, Diss joined this year



  • The Slow movement is not about turning back the clock, nor is it against globalization as such.

  • It is about asserting the possibility of a better quality of life based on sustainability.

  • “As the world becomes more globally connected, with international brands and values being marketed … the Cittaslow approach involves living life at a human scale, respecting and supporting the environment and local traditions and preserving them for current and future generations to enjoy” (website blurb)

In praise of slow

  • Carl Honore, author of ‘In Praise of Slow’ is an activist for the ‘slow movement’

  • Visit his website


  • He says that the Italian slow activists want to make February 19th the annual Day of Slowness in Italy, starting in 2007

  • Do you think this will become an international event?

Concluding comments

  • What is interesting about the ‘slow movement’ is that it is a response to globalization based on an acute awareness of the world as a single place

  • Fast food and McDonaldization have created one version of global interconnectedness, the ‘slow movement offers an alternative vision of a networked world

In this lecture we have looked at several dimensions of cultural globalization:

  • In this lecture we have looked at several dimensions of cultural globalization:

  • Various forms of technical and scientific standardization leading to a world culture

  • The globalization of one cultural form – rock music – and how this encourages expressions of local difference

  • The role of the fast food industry in promoting the homogenization of the world

  • And how the cult of speed has provoked a reaction to (not a rejection of) globalization resulting in new forms of interconnectedness


  • Honore, C. 2005: In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed (Orion Books)

  • Regev, M. 2003: ‘Rockization: diversity within similarity in world popular music’ in Beck, Sznaider and Winter (eds) Global America? The Cultural Consequences of Globalization (Liverpool Univ Press)

  • Ritzer, G. 1996: The McDonaldization of Society (Pine Forge Press)

  • Sassoon, D. 2006: The Culture of the Europeans: From 1800 to the Present (Harper Collins)

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