Cultural Imperialism Inevitable

1. Introduction
2. The definition and essence of cultural imperialism
3. The inevitability of cultural imperialism
4. The resistance of cultural imperialism
5. Conclusion
6. Bibliography

The contemporary world is characterised by unparalleled progress that affects all spheres of life. Traditionally, economic development is considered to be one of the moving forces that stimulates the development in other spheres of life. However, nowadays some specialists underline that the cultural development is not less significant than economic one and is also extremely important for harmonic development of human society.
At the same time, the current process of globalisation that was initially a purely economic process is threaten to involve all other spheres of human life, including politics and culture. As a result the problem of not only economic but also cultural expansion has become actual in recent years. Naturally, such a development leads to the situation when one culture, notably American culture, gets started to dominate all over the world influencing dramatically national cultures of other countries. In response to such a combination of economic, political and cultural expansion different states, national communities attempt to sustain their own culture and traditions regardless the impact of the US that often leads to the spread of nationalism and cultural imperialism from the part of different countries.
Nonetheless, nowadays the role of the US in the world seems to be too significant that makes the resistance of other nations and states weak, if not to say useless. This is why it is necessary to trace the recent trends in the world cultural development as well as economic one and to find out the extent, to which cultural imperialism is spread in the world, define this phenomenon and find out whether smaller nations and states can resist to the global hegemony of the US in all spheres of life, including politics, economy and culture.
The definition and essence of cultural imperialism
Speaking about the recent trends in the socio-cultural and economic development of the world, it is primarily necessary to underline that nowadays the world has changed dramatically basically because of the development of new economic system which is the result of the economic globalisation. This process leads to the larger economic integration of different countries all over the world and development some universal rules of the ‘game’.
Traditionally this process was considered to be typical for economic relations. However, in recent years a growing number of specialists appeal to the increasingly more important role of cultural changes that take place in the contemporary world. Among them may be named John Tomlinson who develops the notion of cultural imperialism as one of the key concepts of the modern culture and as the main characteristics of the cultural development in global terms.
At the same time from the beginning, it is necessary to underline that there are a number of terms that defines practically similar phenomenon that has been just defined above as cultural imperialism. For instance, Boyd-Barrett (1977) speaks about ‘media imperialism’, Galtung (1979) employs the term ‘structural imperialism’, also there are such terms as ‘cultural dependency and domination’ (Link 1984, Mohammadi 1995), ‘cultural synchronization’ (Hamelink 1983), and many others that are closely related to one and the same notion of cultural imperialism.
On taking into consideration such a variety of terms it would be logical to find out what cultural imperialism is and define its essence. At this respect it is possible to say that one of the main implications of cultural imperialism is that this concept proposes that “a society is brought into the modern world system, when its dominating stratum is attracted, pressured, forced, and sometimes bribed into shaping its social institutions to correspond to, or even promote, the values and structures of the dominating center of the system” (Schiller 1976, p.103). To put it more precisely, in cultural terms it means that nowadays the cultural imperialism is expressed through the development and spread of the influence of certain cultures worldwide. It is noteworthy that nowadays, there is actually one hegemonic state, the US, which spread its cultural impact all over the world and the problem of Americanisation of the world culture is very important and in some countries it leads to internal conflict between local historical traditions and modern impact of the American culture on the local communities.
In this respect, it should be said that many specialists, including Tomlinson, underline the role of media in the development of cultural imperialism that nowadays practically results in cultural hegemony of the US. In fact, the role of media in the contemporary society should not be underestimated because the modern technologies, especially IT and computing, development of Internet, made media very influential ideological and cultural tool. The main reason of such increased role of media is the high level of informatization of human society when people are getting information twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and in the future this trend would be even stronger. As a result, people are dramatically influenced by the information they receive from the media, and very often they get acquainted with an absolutely new lifestyle that is brought to them via media. Eventually, it leads to the situation when new generations, especially in developing countries, are influenced by media, which are often internationalised, to the extent that the lifestyle they learn from media comes into clashes with their traditional culture.
Not surprisingly that in such a situation the local culture can also tend to cultural imperialism that is basically expressed in the development of nationalist ideas, which deliberately underline the difference of local culture from the culture, which is nowadays considered to be predominant in the whole world, i.e. American culture. In other words, cultural imperialism results in the enforcing of nationalism and extremism.
Furthermore, John Tomlinson characterises such a situation as a ‘cultural loss’ that is basically the result of ‘cultural weakness’ of capitalist modernity. He underlines that the spread of capitalism and modernity contributes to a significant cultural shift and it results in cultural imperialism, which aims at satisfaction cultural needs of people. For instance he estimates that “people need something modernity has not properly provided. This is the need not for material well-being, or political emancipation, but a specifically cultural need: to be able to decide how we will live collectively in the widest possible sense – what we will value, what we will believe in, what sense we will make of our everyday lives” (Tomlinson 1991, p.169).
Actually, Tomlinsons explains the cultural loss basically by the lack of cultural coherence and, moreover, the cultural loss is the result of globalisation that leads to the situation when a constantly growing number of people share the same ‘cultural fate’, i.e. they are influenced by the same cultural trends that are typical for capitalist modernity. Notably he concludes that “as global cultures fall into conditions of modernity through the spread of the institutions of modernity, they all face the same problem of the failure of a collective will to generate shared narratives of meaning and orientation” (1991, p.165).
Thus, it is possible to speak about cultural imperialism as a consequence of the impact of several factors, among which the most significant are the modernity, spread of global capitalist system, development of media and increasing role of information, and enforcement of cultural nationalism.
The inevitability of cultural imperialism
Nowadays the development of cultural imperialism seems to be so rapid and overwhelming that often specialists speak about that this process is inevitable and the weak local cultures are simply unable to resist to the influence of the hegemonic culture of the US which is spread as fast as the globalisation involves more and more countries into the new economic formation and new relations.
Even now it is possible to observe a significant impact of American culture on national cultures in many developing countries of the world, as well as developed ones. This impact is particularly obvious in the sphere of television, cinema and music. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the experience of Asian countries which are also susceptible to the impact of American culture and where this impact is probably more obvious than anywhere else in the world because many Asian countries are characterised by very particular cultures and traditions that have made them unique in cultural sense and now they are gradually losing their uniqueness as the role of American culture grows in the local communities.
For instance, Chen underlines that the impact of foreign culture, which may be generally characterised as Western culture, but in fact it is basically the impact of American culture, is extremely important and affects dramatically local traditions. Notably he is rather concerned about Korean culture and he states that “Korea’s newly enriched and the middle class could repeat the same prejudice and discrimination demonstrated toward the poor as observed among business managers and travellers in South East Asia and China, and they would discriminate against and treat the North Koreans as an inferior class of people, thereby amplifying the hostility the internal conflict” (Chen 1996, p.42). As a result he believes that the influence of foreign culture can eventually lead to internal contradictions between Koreans that can naturally prevent the possibility to unite North and South Korea into one nation because of such cultural differences enforced by economic and political contradictions.
Despite the fact that in the above statement Chen appeals to South Asian and Chinese impact, it is still obvious that the impact of the world hegemonic culture of the US is very strong in Asia. For instance, returning to the impact of American cinematography, television and music on Asian cultures, it is possible to remind that one of the largest entertainment agent of American culture MTV “has spawned over twenty networks specific to a certain geographical areas such as Brazil and Japan” (Galeota 2004, p.23). The same processes may be observed in other Asian countries, such as India. Naturally such a spread of MTV networks contribute significantly to the spread of America music culture and deprivation of local music traditions as well as the local lifestyle in general because it is not a secret that MTV is a very influential cultural agent that produce a great impact, especially on young people. It means that Asian youth is more influenced by MTV, which naturally targets at younger audience, that leads to the situation when local music and pop culture resembles American one while local traditions are considered to be out of date and obviously lose to modern and advanced culture promoted by MTV.
Another interesting example of the impact of American culture on Asian countries may be found in India. To put it more precisely, the Indian Bollywood is traditionally perceived as an analogue of the American Hollywood and this is a really powerful cinematography producer but at the same time its products are extremely westernised and adopted to the Western, or American culture, while national traditions are extremely deprived. Not surprisingly that Bollywood is viewed by many very critically as a ‘clone’ of Hollywood. By the way, even the lifestyle and professional work of the local Indian stars resembles those of the US. For instance, commercials in India in 2000 “featured Bollywood stars Hrithik Roshan promoting Coke and Shahrukh Khan promoting Pepsi” (Galeota 2004, p.23).
In such a way, Asian cultures tend to be Americanised and it is very important that music and cinema have become major means of cultural impact because they primarily affects the youth, which is more susceptible to cultural changes than older generations.
The resistance of cultural imperialism
Naturally the process of the global spread of American culture and its growing impact on other cultures results in the growing resistance of local national cultures to such a kind of expansion. As it has been already mentioned above the increased role of American culture resulted in the development of nationalism in local communities and spread of different extremist movements, which attempt to resist to the overwhelming influence of American culture and Americanisation at large.
In this respect it worth to note that some countries has started to lead isolationist policy in order to prevent themselves from the impact of the US. For instance, North Korea, or Iran are the states which, at first glance, are absolutely different and have nothing in common but both resist to the impact of the US in all spheres of life. Actually, it means that this states prefer isolation to their involvement in the process of globalisation and cultural expansion.
Naturally, it should be pointed out that the real motives of North Korean and Iranian governments are not only cultural, but basically political and economic. Nonetheless, it is necessary to admit that the preservation of local culture with its peculiarities in both North Korea and Iran are basically the result of their international policy of isolation. As a result, the US attempts to economically influence these countries and as soon as economic and politic influence over this country is established than the cultural expansion as a part of cultural imperialism will be inevitable.
Frankly speaking, such a perspective is highly probable because the example of other country empirically supports this idea. To put it more precisely, it is obvious that in the contemporary world the role of the US as the only superpower is so significant that there is practically not a single country that could resist to American expansion either economic or cultural. In this respect, it is important to emphasise that economic reasons are even more significant than cultural ones. In other words, other countries are too weak economically and consequently politically to resist to the impact of the US and as soon as the economic control of the US is established the cultural expansion naturally begins.
Actually, there are a lot of historical examples of such a scenario that may be found in history and recent events. For instance, Japan, on losing the World War II, this country turned to be under economic and political influence of the US and soon the local culture has started to change under the influence of the dominating US culture. Not surprisingly that nowadays there is MTV network in Japan, and gradually traditional Japanese culture gives in American culture that may be observed in lifestyle, fashion, music, etc.
As for more recent examples, it is possible to remind the increasing role of the US and American culture in the Arab world when traditional Islamic countries are gradually changing their traditional culture that becomes more Westernised, more Americanised. For instance, the spread of cinema and television in Islamic countries is considered to be absolutely unacceptable for local cultures, especially in perception of Islamic extremists. And this influence may be observed in other cultural domains.
In such a situation, attempts to respond to such cultural and economic expansion are getting to be more often that results in the spread of extremist movements which often aims at the resistance to the influence of the US.
However, such attempts to resist to the American cultural expansion as well as economic one seems to be doomed to fail because, as it has been mentioned above the US is currently the only superpower and, in actuality, all other countries, especially developing ones, where local culture and traditions are still quite strong, cannot really resist because of their economic weakness compared with the US. As a result, they cannot really oppose to the growing impact of the US and the American cultural imperialism.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that nowadays, cultural imperialism is a part of the process of globalisation. Naturally, it may be viewed as the integral part of economic globalisation or as an independent or even more important process but in all probability it is a complex of socio-economic, political, and cultural processes that are closely interlinked and results in the spread of the US influence worldwide in different spheres of life, including cultural one. Obviously, the cultural imperialism has become possible because of the recent achievements in science, technological development, spread of media and the lack of countries really able to resist to the world economic and cultural hegemony of the US. As a result, nowadays many countries are influenced by the US culture while national cultures tend to be oppressed and naturally it engenders certain resistance, which often has nationalistic and extremist character but, unfortunately for national cultures, they are unable to resist to the influence from abroad because of economic weakness of countries.

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