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Glocalization (a portmanteau of globalization and localization) is the adaptation of international products around the particularities of a local culture in which they are sold.

The term first appeared in a late 1980s publication of the Harvard Business Review.[1] According to sociologist Roland Robertson, who is credited with popularizing the term, glocalization primarily encompasses how regional tendencies intersect with the proliferation of global corporations. At a 1997 conference on "Globalization and Indigenous Culture," Robertson stated that glocalization "means the simultaneity --- the co-presence --- of both universalizing and particularizing tendencies." [2]

The worldwide spread of McDonald's restaurants is a commonly cited example of glocalization, especially since the restaurant's menu is often customized to suit local tastes. Regardless of industry, glocalization broadly involves the altering of an overarching brand or product so as to better appeal to customers within a specified country or region. This phenomenon is the relative inverse of Americanization and the suppressing of local preferences in favor of providing goods and media whose content has been dictated by foreign entities. Glocalization can also involve the use of culturally friendly media to encourage the acceptance of foreign products among a local audience.[3]

Variety of usages[edit]

  • Individuals, households and organisations maintaining interpersonal social networks that combine extensive local and long-distance interactions.[4]
  • The declaration of specified locality - a town, city, or state - as world territory, with responsibilities and rights on a world scale: a process that started in France in 1950 and originally called mundialization.

Defining the concept[edit]

Glocalization combines the idea of globalization with that of local considerations. According to Andrew Herod, anything global has its locality. On the other hand, local is also global. Local place is a particular moment in the spatialized networks of social relations.[5] It functions as an entrance to the global process that encircles the world. Herod explained this hybrid of space using the metaphor of an octopus. Global is the body of an octopus, it “touches down” on to the local surfaces by its forces, which functions as its legs.[5] As explained by Phillip Hong and Han Song, glocalization corresponds to the integration of local markets into world capitalism.[6] In his piece for Current Sociology, Victor Roudometof furthers Beck’s interpretation of glocalization as “internalized globalization.” Roudometof develops this definition primarily by solidifying its roles within and relationships to transnationalism and cosmopolitanism.[7]

History of the concept[edit]

Among other places the term glocalization independently developed from Japanese business practices. It comes from the Japanese word dochakuka, which means global localization. Originally referring to a way of adapting farming techniques to local conditions, dochakuka evolved into a marketing strategy when Japanese businessmen adopted it in the 1980s.[8] Independently, the need arose in the late 1980s to bridge local, regional, national, and global in environmental research and management. To present this along and across spatial scales at the German "Global Change - Challenges to Science and Politics" exhibition,[9][10] Heiner Benking built an exhibition piece in the form of a three-dimensional (orthogonal) cube: "Rubik's Cube of Ecology", later also called Eco-Cube.[11] Dr. Manfred Lange,[12] the director of the touring exhibit development team at that time and head of the German National Global Change Secretariat,[13] called the depth dimension of this cube "glocal" to give a word for the magnitude ranging from micro-meso-macro scales. The cube is designed and build as an embodied Cognitive space - as a "pointer to possibilities" [14] for applications ranging from knowledge organisation to ecological awareness in order to portray and in order to make concrete, relevant, but intangible issues (as later discussed by Anthony Judge).[15]

Moreover, according to Andrew Herod, the history of the binary of local and global has been one in which the power of the global has usually been assumed to be greater than that of the local.[5] It is commonly believed that the power of capital could be used more efficiently in global scale rather than in local scale; however, Andrew says the situation is not necessarily true by arguing that worker unions could also act globally against their internationalized employer.

The term was popularized in the English-speaking world by the British sociologist Roland Robertson in the 1990s, the Canadian sociologists Keith Hampton and Barry Wellman in the late 1990s,[16] and Zygmunt Bauman. Hampton and Wellman have frequently used the term to refer to people who are actively involved in both local and wider-ranging activities of friendship, kinship and commerce.[17] Manchester professor Erik Swyngedouw is also credited for being one of the first individuals to use the term in his studies.[18]

In business[edit]

In line with the economic roots of globalization to which the process is closely related, glocalization is an important expression used within the business world. Proceeding from its Japanese roots, the concept is now also a popular approach for Western businesses today. Even with its common use, this approach is criticized for its long term ineffectiveness by authors including Vijay Govindarajan and Lew McCreary. In an article for Bloomberg Businessweek, the two highlight the drawbacks of a system that allows for the flow of innovation in only one direction: from the headquarters of multinational corporations out into the world. Especially in the developing world, this results in the modification of the same basic products made for the developed world to prepare them for poor-world consumption through de-featuring and substitution. As an Indian businessman explains, this is a poor model to follow in that individuals in the developing world no longer want such modified products of the rich world, but rather desire “rich world quality in their own products."[19]

Despite the fact the glocalization of business suggests an emphasis on local conditions, in reality, glocalized goods typically have very little local relevance. Such top-down innovation overlooks the true inventiveness and specialized understanding possessed by local individuals in favor of a model that has worked in an entirely different region and for a unique population.[19] The local grasp of market needs and consumer attitudes is unwisely excluded from considerations, and while there may be an initial surge in sales for newly adapted products, with time, the authors report findings that locals lose interest in these goods due to poor adaptation decisions overall as well as a dissatisfaction with their cheapened foreign sources. Although they recognize that glocalization is likely to continue as a common business practice, the authors also recommend reverse innovation as a more beneficial alternative. In this way, rather than using a top-down approach to develop and sell products, businesses are able to start at the base and design for their consumers with a more specialized understanding of surrounding conditions.

In academia[edit]

Glocalization has also appeared in academic dialogue concerned with the response of education to a rapidly evolving global environment. In their piece focused on educational leadership and globalization, Jeffrey Brooks and Anthony Normore argue a need for incorporating a glocal perspective within the technique of academic leaders. As globalization has gained increasing significance in the everyday lives of common people, it is critical that academic leaders recognize and respond to this evolution (Brooks & Normore 52). They propose that this occur as “meaningful integration of local and global forces,” or glocalization, of educational leadership through achievement of glocal literacy in nine specific domains: political literacy, economic literacy, cultural literacy, moral literacy, pedagogical literacy, information literacy, organizational literacy, spiritual and religious literacy, and temporal literacy.[20] In presenting these nine domains, they argue also that they are dynamic and interconnected, each with the capacity to be influenced by the individual power of educational leaders.

Offering rationale for this glocalization of education, the authors explain that despite common feelings that globalization is too abstract an idea to connect to everyday activities within schools, many educators nonetheless acknowledge that issues connected to globalization influence their local practices. They hypothesize that reasons for this disconnect between these two responses likely exist in part due to a fixation within schools on more immediate and local imperatives for operation.[20] Ultimately, studies conducted by Spring on globalization and education reveal intertwined worldwide discourses, processes, and institutions affecting local educational practices and policies, and therefore demanding a consideration of glocalization.[20] Highlighting the present absence of discourse on glocalization in connection to educational leadership, the authors argue that this suggests an unpreparedness of educational leaders to confront the realities of performing their duties within a global society. Such a reality presents detrimental implications for at least two reasons. Examined by Gaudily, one such implication is that educational leaders may not be taking advantage of instructional resources that could enhance the relevance and quality of educational experiences for their students as well as the professional practices of the educators they lead.[20] Additionally, Kapur and McHale suggest that present education focused only on geographically local perspectives will not serve students well as they endeavor entry into an increasingly interconnected world, in which they must compete and work on an international scale.[20]

After offering reasoning behind their main argument in favor of glocalization of educational leadership, the authors proceed to explain the specific approaches to developing glocal literacy for each of the nine domains they have named. Achieving glocal political literacy, for instance, would entail familiarity with the various formal and informal processes by which people engage in political issues at different levels of governance as well as an understanding of the how to act as empowered participants in the processes that influence international on down to local decisions and policies.[20] Glocal information literacy, on the other hand, would involve possessing a thorough understanding of the use of the immense variety of tools available for accessing information today, and the ability to think critically about the information they provide. In particular, this domain is concerned with digital literacy, involving such components as computer literacy and media literacy.[20] While individuals interested in the specifics of each literacy domain would do best to consult the original work of the authors, their resounding message is truly on the importance that educational leaders develop literacy in these powerful, interconnected examples of the place of education in local communities and the world as a whole to best prepare students for a place in local society appropriately in-tune with an increasingly globalized future.[20]

In the media[edit]

The media presents another important realm in which glocalization is made apparent. A powerful means of making connections on an international scale, the media is nonetheless a tool also capable of having an impact on a more local stage. Keith Hampton offers a meaningful example of this reality through his study of Internet use by local communities of urban underclass citizens. Developing a naturalistic experiment that examined use of the Internet for communication at the neighborhood level, Hampton was able to identify the role of the media in encouraging local social cohesion and community engagement.[21] Examining a topic of interest in which studies are presently quite limited, Hampton was able to determine that connection across distance may not be the only affordance of Internet-based communication.[21] Rather, according to his studies, when a critical mass of individuals within a shared local environment adopts the Internet for communication, they cultivate an increased awareness that this tool affords communication locally as much as it does across distant space; in this light, use of the Internet for communication at the local level offers a strong example of the phenomenon of glocalization.[21] Allowing for removal or reduction of barriers such as fear or embarrassment to communicate, timing, spatial obstacles, urban disorder, and victimization, communication by Internet thus presents a means for even local, disadvantaged communities to scale something down to a defined level appropriate for their purposes.[21] Encouraging social interaction and allowing for collective communication within a small space faced still with challenges to communication, such a tool ultimately allows for contextual constraints hindering collective action and dialogue within a community to be reduced.

Thomas L. Friedman in The World is Flat talks about how the Internet encourages glocalization, such as encouraging people to make websites in their native languages. '"Glocal" also pops up as a plot motivator in the 2010 film Up in the Air when the career-ending counselors switch from in-person to videoconferencing terminations.

Glocalization and social welfare[edit]

Glocalization also presents a potential response meant to offer protection against the more negative effects of globalization. As Philip Hong and In Han Song explore, given the rapidly expanding harmful effects of globalization upon society as a whole, the glocalization of social work may present a powerful and necessary approach to containing or cutting down on these struggles. Explained by Midgley, globalization can be found to harm local economies, undermine the sovereignty of governments, and create instances of unemployment and poverty in various parts of the world.[6] Topping the list of concerns that come with globalization, however, is the lack of accountability found in this newly emerging era, as immense economic forces and complex international relations make it difficult to identify the source of a problem and assign little responsibility to nation-states or companies for any harm they may inflict upon society as a whole.[6] In recognition of these negative effects, the authors present a case in favor of the glocalization of social work to enhance the social welfare of citizens.

Historically, social science knowledge has been locally focused and pragmatic, yet in practice, it has acted for quite some time as though society existed only at the nation-state level.[6] Given the transformations influenced by globalization, there is a growing necessity to expand beyond this rather limited view of social work to better suit the needs of modern society. Pressured by globalization, generous welfare states have found themselves incapable of competing with those that provide only minimal support to their citizens, making very low social support the norm.[6] Through glocalization, however, the potential exists to create new social actors and structures that are essentially “local in spirit but global in character,” capable of responding to local social problems brought on by neglect of the welfare state in a format that is backed by global insight and power.[6] To oppose global trends of slashed accountability and social welfare programs, therefore, Hong and Song suggest the development of a globalized social policy, assisted by international organizations, that together can establish and advocate a common set of solutions to increasing global pressures.[6] Such a system would be able to create opportunities for all by investing more in such things as education, employment, and vital public services.[6] Through this top-down approach of global forces acting at local levels, the authors argue that glocalization of social work might offer a means for advancing local welfare and contribute the strength needed to confront increasingly complex global social problems as they become more pronounced into the future.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sharma, Chanchal Kumar (2009). "Emerging Dimensions of Decentralisation Debate in the Age of Globalisation". Indian Journal of Federal Studies 19 (1): 47–65. 
  2. ^ "What is glocalization? - Definition from". Retrieved 2013-09-03. 
  3. ^ Buffery, Vicky (2010). "Asterix McDonalds' binge sparks Gallic outcry". Reuters. 
  4. ^ Barry Wellman, "Little Boxes, Glocalization, and Networked Individualism." Pp. 11-25 in Digital Cities II, edited by Makoto Tanabe, Peter van den Besselaar, and Toru Ishida. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2002.
  5. ^ a b c Herod, Andrew. Scale: local and global" in Key Concepts in Geography. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hong, Phillip Young P.; Song, In Han (2010). "Glocalization of social work practice: Global and local responses to globalization". International Social Work 53 (5): 656–670. doi:10.1177/0020872810371206. 
  7. ^ Roudometof, Victor (2005). "Translationalism, Cosmopolitanism, and Glocalization". Current Sociology 53 (1): 113–135. doi:10.1177/0011392105048291. 
  8. ^ Habibul Haque Khondker, "Glocalization as Globalization: Evolution of a Sociological Concept," Bangladesh e-Journal of Sociology. Vol. 1. No. 2. July, 2004 [1]
  9. ^ "On dialogue, knowledge, creativity, (cyber)culture, learning, wholeness". Retrieved 2013-09-03. 
  10. ^ "Section: System Earth from the exhibition GLOBAL CHANGE: Challenges to Science and Politics - Welt im Wandel - Herausforderungen für Wissenschaft und Politik". 2010-04-28. Retrieved 2013-09-03. 
  11. ^ ""Benking" in the International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics". Retrieved 2013-09-03. 
  12. ^ [2] Archived September 13, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Prof. Lange". Retrieved 2013-09-03. 
  14. ^ "Pointers to possibilities: Ekistics, Dymaxion World and Eco-Cube | Kairos @". Retrieved 2013-09-03. 
  15. ^ "pointers-to-possibilities". Retrieved 2013-09-03. 
  16. ^ Barry Wellman and Keith Hampton, "Living Networked On and Offline" Contemporary Sociology 28, 6 (Nov, 1999): 648-54
  17. ^ Hampton, Keith and B Wellman. 2002. "The Not So Global Village of Netville." Pp. 345-371 in The Internet in Everyday Life, edited by Barry Wellman and Caroline Haythornthwaite. Oxford: Blackwell.
  18. ^ Soja, Edward W. Postmetroplis: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions. (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2000), 199-200.
  19. ^ a b Govindarajan, Vijay; McReary, Lew (November 23, 2010). "How U.S. Businesses Can Really Win in India". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 12 July 2011. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h Brooks, Jeffrey; Normore, Anthony (2010). "Educational Leadership and Globalization: Literacy for a Glocal Perspective". Educational Policy 24 (1): 52–82. doi:10.1177/0895904809354070. 
  21. ^ a b c d Hampton, Keith N. (2010). "Internet Use and the Concentration of Disadvantage: Glocalization and the Urban Underclass". American Behavioral Scientist 53 (8): 1111–1132. doi:10.1177/0002764209356244. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Sarroub, Loukia K (2008). "Living 'Glocally' With Literacy Success in the Midwest". Theory Into Practice 47 (1): 59–67. doi:10.1080/00405840701764789. 
  • Sarroub, L. K. (2009). Glocalism in literacy and marriage in transnational lives. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies (Special Issue: Immigration, Language, and Education) 6(1-2), 63-80.

External links[edit]