Cultural globalization refers to the transmission of ideas, meanings and values across world space. This process is marked by the common consumption of cultures that have been diffused by the Internet, popular culture, and international travel. The circulation of cultures enables individuals to partake in extended social relations outside the borders. The creation and expansion of such social relations is not merely observed on a material level. Cultural globalization involves the formation of shared norms and knowledge with which people associate their individual and collective cultural identities, and increasing interconnectedness among different populations and cultures.
A visible aspect of cultural globalization is the diffusion of certain cuisines such as American fast food chains. McDonald’s is the world’s largest global food service corporation with more than 35,000 chains serving approximately 70 million people thanks to 1.8 million employees in more than 100 countries each day. Big Macs are uniform in size and content in all countries, and consumers are able to enjoy the same burgers and nuggets regardless of their locations. The Big Mac Index, an informal measure of purchasing power parity among world currencies, is universally acknowledged due to the same experience and knowledge of McDonald’s. Consumers, regardless of their nationalities, have developed a spreading taste for hamburgers, through the far-flung networks they are constantly in contact with, and they increasingly follow most of the already well-trodden paths in history.
Perspectives on cultural globalization
Many writers suggest that cultural globalization is a long-term historical process. Some like Jan Pieterse conceive of cultural globalization as involving human integration and hybridization, arguing that it is possible to detect cultural mixing across continents and regions going back many centuries. They refer, for example, to the movement of religious practices, language and culture brought by Spanish colonization of the Americas. The Indian experience, to take another example, reveals both the pluralization of the impact of cultural globalization and its long-term history. The work of such cultural historians qualifies the lineage of writers - predominantly economists and sociologists - who trace the origins of globalization to recent capitalism, facilitated through technological advances.
An alternative perspective on cultural globalization emphasizes the transfiguration of worldwide diversity into a pandemic of Westernized consumer culture. Some critics argue that the dominance of American culture influencing the entire world will ultimately result in the end of cultural diversity. This process, understood as cultural imperialism, is associated with the destruction of cultural identities, dominated by a homogenized and westernized, consumer culture. The global influence of American products, businesses and culture in other countries around the world has been referred to as Americanization. This influence is represented through that of American-based television programs which are rebroadcast throughout the world. Major American companies such as McDonald's and Coca-Cola have played a major role in the spread of American culture across the globe. Terms such as Coca-colonization have been coined to refer to the dominance of American products in foreign countries, which some critics of globalization view as a threat to the cultural identity of these nations.
However, another alternative perspective argues that in reaction to the process of cultural globalization, a "Clash of Civilizations" might appear. Indeed, Samuel Huntington emphasizes the fact that while the world is becoming smaller and interconnected, the interactions between peoples of different cultures enhance the civilization consciousness that in turn invigorate differences. Indeed, rather than reaching a global cultural community, the differences in culture sharpened by this very process of cultural globalization will be a source of conflict.
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- McDonald's. "Getting to Know Us". Retrieved 13 April 2014.
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- The Big Mac Index index page — contains Big Mac Index data dating back to 1997 (Economist.com subscription required for detail)