The Cultural Dynamics of Globalization

by Peter L. Berger The purpose of this introduction is not to summarize the rich and diverse contents of this book, but to present a picture of the cultural dynamics of globalization as seems plausible to me at this point. Most of the data making this picture possible has come from the research project on which the book is based; however, given the fact that the chapters on the various countries studied in the project are here within the same covers, I have refrained from tedious cross-references to these chapters.

A somewhat cynical colleague once remarked that the goal of every scholarly enterprise is to blow someone's theory out of the water. In this instance that someone was me. While it would be a wild exaggeration to say that I had a theory of cultural globalization, I did have a picture of it, and I succeeded, more or less, in convincing Samuel Huntington, the codirector of the project, and the international research team to accept my picture as a starting point for the investigation (or, if you want to be properly wissenschaftlich, as a set of hypotheses). Not surprisingly, over the more than two years of the project, most of them kept hacking away at this picture and, at the end of the day, I had to agree with most of the criticisms. In my own mind, at any rate, the basic features of the original picture have remained unscathed, but it has also become considerably more complicated. As I often tell my students, one of the pleasures of being a social scientist (as opposed to, say, a philosopher or theologian) is that you can have as much fun when you are proven wrong as when you are proven right.

The initial picture that the project had was a Toynbee-like one of challenge and response. The challenge is supposed to come from an emerging global culture, most of it of Western and indeed American provenance, penetrating the rest of the world on both elite and popular levels. The response from the target societies is then seen as occurring on a scale between acceptance and rejection, with in-between positions of coexistence and synthesis. I think that this picture still holds up; however, one must add to it a much more variegated set of reactions by the target societies, including those initiated by governments.

I will make some further preliminary observations before I begin to describe this more complicated picture. The term "globalization" has come to be emotionally charged in public discourse. For some, it implies the promise of an international civil society, conducive to a new era of peace and democratization. For others, it implies the threat of an American economic and political hegemony, with its cultural consequence being a homogenized world resembling a sort of metastasized Disneyland (charmingly called a "cultural Chernobyl" by a French government official).

It is clear to me that both the promise and the threat have been greatly exaggerated, and this insight owes much to the complicated picture coming out of our research. Furthermore, there can be no doubt that the economic and technological transformations that drive the phenomenon of globalization have created large social and political problems such as the bifurcation between winners and losers, both between and within societies, and the challenge to traditional notions of national sovereignty. These problems cannot be dealt with here, though of course they must be taken into account as an ever present background. The present topic is the cultural dimension of the phenomenon, and "culture" is understood here in its conventional social scientific sense: as the beliefs, values, and lifestyles of ordinary people in their everyday existence.

What everyone assumes is not always wrong. There is indeed an emerging global culture, and it is indeed heavily American in origin and content. It is not the only game in town, as I shall try to make clear, but it is the biggest game going and it will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future. The Chilean historian Claudio Veliz has called it the "Hellenistic phase of Anglo-American civilization," a phrase that is meant to dissociate it from explanations in terms of imperialism. The then relevant world became Greek at a time when Greece had virtually no imperial power; today, though the United States does have a great deal of power, its culture is not being imposed on others by coercive means.

Then as now, language is a crucial factor in this cultural diffusion. The principal vehicle of Hellenism was Koine, the basic and rather vulgar Greek in which, not so incidentally, the New Testament was written. Today, the English language, in its American rather than British form, is the koine of the emerging global culture. Regardless of the future of American imperial power, no rival is on the horizon. The millions of people all over the world who increasingly use English as their lingua franca do so mainly for practical reasons. Young Chinese who importune tourists to let them practice their English do so because they want to get on the Internet and improve their job prospects, not to read Shakespeare or Faulkner.

But people do not use language innocently. Every language carries with it a cultural freight of cognitive, normative, and even emotional connotations. So does the American language, even apart from the beliefs and values propagated through the American mass communication media. Just think of seemingly innocuous terms like "religious preference" or "sexual orientation," or phrases like "I cannot express myself in this job," "I need more space in this relationship," or "You have the right to your opinion."

The emerging global culture is diffused through both elite and popular vehicles. Arguably the most important elite vehicle is what Samuel Huntington has felicitously called the "Davos culture" (after the annual World Economic Summit meeting in that Swiss mountain resort), an international culture of business and political leaders. Its basic engine is international business, the same engine that drives economic and technological globalization. But it would be misleading to think of this culture only in terms of those few likely to be invited to Davos; there are millions who would like to be invited and who engage in what sociologists have nicely called "anticipatory socialization."

There is, for instance, a global network of ambitious young people in business and the professions who have popped up in every country studied in our project: a sort of yuppie internationale, whose members speak fluent English and dress alike and act alike, at work and at play, and up to a point think alike—and hope that one day they might reach the elite summits. However, one must be careful about assuming that this apparent homogeneity embraces their entire existence. It clearly does for some of them; for better or for worse, they are cosmopolitans all the way. But others manage an art of creative compartmentalization, seeking to combine participation in the global business culture with personal lives dominated by very different cultural themes. It will always be an empirical question which of these two options one ascribes to a particular group.

A comparison between eastern Germany and India is interesting in this regard. After unification, a horde of business consultants descended on the former German Democratic Republic, teaching and advising on how to behave in the new economy—essentially, how to become Wessies. There has been a good deal of sullen resistance to this (including the so-called Ossie nostalgia), but the cultural resources to maintain or construct alternative personal lifestyles have been very meager. By contrast, despite a multitude of business schools and training courses to teach Indians how to behave as participants in the global economy, many of the computer professionals in Bangalore succeed in combining such participation with personal lifestyles dominated by traditional Hindu values.

There is another elite sector of the emerging global culture, sometimes merging with the business culture, sometimes in tension with it. That is the globalization of the Western intelligentsia; I have called it, not so felicitously, the "faculty club culture." It is carried by a variety of vehicles: academic networks, foundations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), some governmental and intergovernmental agencies. It too seeks and actively creates markets throughout the world, but the products it promotes are not those of multinational corporations but the ideas and behaviors invented by Western (mostly American) intellectuals, such as the ideologies of human rights, feminism, environmentalism, and multiculturalism, as well as the politics and lifestyles that embody these ideologies.

Just as would-be East German and Indian participants in the elite business culture must learn the appropriate behavior and acceptable opinions of this culture, so, mutatis mutandis, must those who want to be successful in the elite intellectual culture. In addition, since the latter culture is by definition much more ideological than the pragmatic business world, the price of admission to faculty club culture is higher in terms of its impingement on personal life. Put simply, a successful businessman in Eastern Europe may act like an American in the boardroom but go home and, in the best indigenous tradition, beat his wife and order the children about. The Eastern European intellectual who wants to have a good relationship with the Ford Foundation, however, will have to be more careful if he wants to keep a compartmentalization going. The two cultures often interpenetrate. Thus corporations hire longhaired academics to teach intercultural or gender "sensitivity" to their employees (in the possibly mistaken belief that this will enhance productivity); on the other hand, human rights and environmentalist activists attack corporations for this or that alleged misbehavior. The two cultures then find themselves in conflict.

What may be broadly called the "health ideology," which has its origins in the American intellectual class, has spread beyond it to affect much wider masses of people in their values and behavior and has led to global political activism. The business culture has absorbed much of this by instituting "wellness" programs and encouraging "fitness." At times, though, there has been conflict, as in the assault of the antismoking movement on the tobacco industry. The story of the antismoking legislation in South Africa is instructive in this regard. With the demise of the apartheid regime a government came into power that was dominated by people with a long and positive relationship with Western NGOs. The antismoking legislation (proudly announced as the most stringent anywhere in the world) was the direct result—a bizarre one in a country on the verge of a catastrophic AIDS epidemic. This action was clearly not the result of a pragmatic assessment of the country's most pressing health needs, but of the influence of the Western-dominated faculty club culture.

It is intriguing to look at the two elite cultures in the light of the old neo-Marxist dependency theory. The Davos and the faculty club cultures have their "metropolitan" centers, with a "periphery" dependent on them. But the centers of the former culture are no longer exclusively Western. There are also powerful centers in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore, with Shanghai and Bombay as potential additions. The "metropolis" of the globalized intelligentsia is much more exclusively Western, indeed American. Thus, when the term "cultural imperialism" is used, it is probably more applicable to East 43rd Street, where the impressive headquarters of the Ford Foundation are located, than to the corporate bastions of Wall Street and Madison Avenue. I might add that this is a descriptive statement, not necessarily a value judgment. One may deplore or welcome the influences emanating from any of these Manhattan addresses.

Be this as it may, the preponderant position of the United States in both elites is not open to doubt. It follows that the most important "globalizers" are Americans. James Hunter has provided a picture of this group, whom he calls "parochial cosmopolitans": people who move with the greatest of ease from country to country while remaining in a protective "bubble" that shields them from any serious contact with the indigenous cultures on which they impinge. The bubble also shields them from serious doubts about what they are doing. Hunter finds this type of person in both corporations and NGOs, with the possible exception of those engaged in evangelical missionary enterprises.

Hunter's depiction of these "globalizers" has been criticized; it may have left out more sophisticated members of both elites. However, it plausibly describes an important segment of American businesspeople and intellectuals engaged in global activities. They are reminiscent of Arthur Miller's famous salesman, who rides "on a smile and a shoeshine"—a prototypical American figure. Compared with earlier "civilizing missions" (say, the British or French ones, not to mention the unlamented Soviet one), this American "cultural imperialism" has about it a quality of (not necessarily endearing) innocence. It comes out clearly when these people are genuinely surprised by hostile reactions to their efforts.

By far the most visible manifestation of the emerging global culture is in the vehicle of popular culture. It is propagated by business enterprises of all sorts (such as Adidas, McDonald's, Disney, MTV, and so on). Although control of these enterprises is exercised by elites, popular culture penetrates broad masses of people all over the world. The vast scope of this penetration can hardly be overestimated. Just take one statistical indicator: In 1970, 10.3 percent of Chilean households had televisions; in 1999 the figure was 91.4 percent. Although some of the programs carried by Chilean television originate from within the country, an enormous number of the contents came from abroad, mostly from American media.

Much of the consumption of this popular culture is arguably superficial, in the sense that it does not have a deep effect on people's beliefs, values, or behavior. In principle, an individual could wear jeans and running shoes, eat hamburgers, even watch a Disney cartoon, and remain fully embedded in this or that traditional culture. However, an inhabitant of a Chilean shantytown wearing a T-shirt with the inscription "Make Love Not War" may be expressing a more significant change. Nor is it likely that young Chilean people dancing frenetically to rock music are engaged in the consumption of a cultural import with no significant consequences on outlook and behavior (as the official guardians traditional values are rightly aware).

I would suggest a differentiation between "sacramental" and "nonsacramental" consumption. Anglican theology defines a sacrament as the visible sign of an invisible grace; mutatis mutandis, the definition applies mere as well. Some consumption of the globalizing popular culture is quite "nonsacramental." To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a hamburger is just a hamburger. But in other cases, the consumption of a hamburger, especially when it takes place under the golden icon of a McDonald's restaurant, is a visible sign of the real or imagined participation in global modernity. The research on McDonald's restaurants in East Asia by the Harvard anthropologist James Watson and his team (to which Yunxian Yan belonged) suggests that there is a switch from "sacramental" to "nonsacramental" consumption as this type of fast food becomes commonplace over time. In Beijing, as in other places, when McDonald's was a newcomer, people went there not just to eat hamburgers but to participate vicariously in American-style modernity. In Tokyo or Taipei, where McDonald's had been around for a long time, going there was just one consumer option among many: the hamburger was just a hamburger. Needless to say, there is no way of deciding a priori which type of consumption prevails. It will always be a matter of empirical inquiry.

Finally, the emergent global culture is carried by popular movements of one kind or another. Some of them are linked to faculty club culture, such as the feminist and environmental movements, or what the French sociologist Daniele Hervieu-Leger called the "ecumenism of human rights." Sometimes the efforts of their Western sponsors fail to produce genuine popular movements, in which case, to use the language of dependency theory, the indigenous activists constitute a "comprador class in the service of "metropolitan" agencies. At other times, though, the missionary outreach is successful and popular movements with a broad appeal eventuate. Again, only careful empirical research can determine which of these two possibilities is in play.

I have long argued (and have not changed my mind) that evangelical Protestantism, especially in its Pentecostal version, is the most important popular movement serving (mostly inadvertently) as a vehicle of cultural globalization. It is a movement of astounding scope—in large areas of East and Southeast Asia, in the Pacific islands, in sub-Saharan Africa, and most dramatically in Latin America. The British sociologist David Martin, who has devoted many years to the study of this phenomenon, estimates that it involves at least 250 million people worldwide. And, as Martin has shown, it brings about a dramatic cultural revolution. The Chilean and South African data, for example, show how conversion to this type of religion transforms people's attitudes to family, sexual behavior, child rearing, and, most importantly, to work and general economic attitudes.

Not to put too fine a point to it, now as in an earlier period in Britain and North America, this is a religion that promotes what Max Weber called the "Protestant ethic"—a morality singularly appropriate for people seeking to advance in the nascent stage of modern capitalism. While this form of Protestantism is clearly of Anglo-Saxon origin (modern Pentecostalism originated in the United States some one hundred years ago), it has been successfully indigenized everywhere it has penetrated. It does not typically use the English language, and its worship (especially in its music) takes over many indigenous forms. However, the "spirit" that is expressed here has unmistakably Anglo-Saxon traits, especially in its powerful combination of individualistic self-expression, egalitarianism (especially between men and women), and the capacity for creating voluntary associations. Thus it not only facilitates social mobility in developing market economies (that, of course, was the gist of the Weberian thesis) but also facilitates actual or anticipated participation in the new global economy. To this must be added the fact that among the leaders of this movement there is a consciousness of being part of a global movement, with increasing cross-national contacts between them and with the centers of evangelicalism in the United States.

As observed earlier, there are both tensions and convergences between the different sector of cultural globalization, both on the elite and popular levels. If there is one theme that all have in common, it is individuation: all sectors of the emerging global culture enhance the independence of the individual over against tradition and collectivity. Individuation must be seen as a social and psychological process, manifested empirically in the behavior and consciousness of people regardless of the ideas they may hold about this. In other words, individuation as an empirical phenomenon must be distinguished from "individualism" as an ideology (though, of course, the two are frequently linked).

This insight is useful because it helps explain why the new global culture is so widely attractive. It has been understood for a long time that modernization undermines the taken-for-granted authority of tradition and collectivity and, therefore, by default, makes the individual more self-reliant. This is a "liberation," but it may also be experienced as a great burden. "Individualism" as an ideology legitimates the "liberation" and, if necessary, helps alleviate the burden. In either case, the new global culture has a built-in affinity with the modernization process; indeed, in many parts of the world today it is identical with it.

For people caught in the early stages of the modernization process, there is above all a new sense of open possibilities and an aspiration for greater freedom—the sense of burden usually comes later. Thus the emerging global culture is attractive to all those who value the individuation they have already experienced and aspire to an even greater realization of it. It is noteworthy that in this sense the global culture resembles Hellenism, which also celebrated the individual and his striving for "excellence," thus freeing him from the constraints of tradition (Veliz's metaphor holds up).

We now have a picture of a cultural earthquake affecting virtually every part of the world. When the earthquake hits, different people respond differently. There are cases of supine acceptance—the yuppie internationale mentioned before is a case in point. Then there are attempts at militant rejection, be it under banners of religion (Taliban) or nationalism (North Korea). Since total isolation from the global culture necessarily requires near total isolation from the global economy, the costs of this posture are very high indeed. But there are less totalistic forms of rejection, typically practiced by governments trying to balance global economic participation with resistance against global culture—China is the most important case of this. It is a difficult balancing act. More intriguing are the cases in-between acceptance and rejection.

There is almost everywhere what James Watson called "localization": the global culture is accepted but with significant local modifications. As Watson points out, McDonald's in America has an implicit contract with its customers: it provides clean, inexpensive food; they eat it and leave promptly. That, after all, is the meaning of fast food. In East Asia this contract had to be modified because customers linger. Two groups especially do this: housewives relaxing in the restaurant after shopping or other errands and schoolchildren before going home. The attractions are clean premises, accessible restrooms, and (for the housewives) protection against inopportune advances. This localization is particularly interesting because it has obvious economic consequences to which McDonald's management has had to adapt.

But the localizations can have more far-reaching aspects. For example, Buddhist movements in Taiwan have taken on many of the organizational forms American Protestantism to propagate a decisively non-American, non-Western religious message. For another example, a peculiarly German institution, the Love Parade, took over the form of the American gay pride march but made it into a pan-erotic festival marked by a distinctively German methodical seriousness (thus, perhaps, falsifying the thesis that "German orgy" is an oxymoron).

Impinging global influences can also lead to a revitalization of indigenous cultural forms. Thus the inroad of Western-based fast food chains in India and Japan has led to the development of fast food outlets for traditional foods, and the invasion of Western fashions in Japan has led to the development of an indigenous fashion industry marked by distinctively Japanese aesthetics.

Localization shades over into another response, best described by the term "hybridization." This is the deliberate effort to synthesize foreign and native cultural traits. Japan, ever since the Meiji Restoration, has been a most successful pioneer of this response, but there are many other examples. The development of an overseas Chinese business culture, combining the most modern business techniques with traditional Chinese personalism, is a very important case of this, given the great economic success of the Chinese diaspora throughout the world. However, as mainland China becomes integrated into the global economy, very similar hybridizations can be observed, as in the newly fashionable notion of the "Confucian merchant." The case of software engineers in Bangalore who garland their computers in Hindu ceremonies is a particularly dramatic example of the same thing. On a much less sophisticated level, the synthesis of Christianity and traditional religions in the so-called African indigenous churches (AlCs) is another fascinating ease. All these cases make it abundantly clear that the idea of a mindless global homogenization greatly underestimates the capacity of human beings to be creative and innovative in the face of cultural challenges.

Yet there are differences between cultures in the capacity to adapt creatively. The distinction between "strong" and "weak" cultures suggested by Samuel Huntington is useful in this connection (though it is important to stress that these are descriptive categories, not value judgments). The cultures of eastern and southern Asia—notably Japan, China, and India—have been notably "strong," while African cultures and some in Europe have been relatively "weak."

The German case is particularly interesting. One would intuit that one is dealing with a "strong" culture here, but it turns out not to be. The reasons are clear. Sensitivity to the charge of revived nationalism in the wake of the Third Reich has weakened the willingness to assert German cultural self-esteem and has brought about a relatively passive posture in the face of impinging influences from abroad. This becomes clear when Germany is compared with other European societies (notably France) and goes far in explaining why Germany (more precisely, Germany to the west of the former Iron Curtain) seems to be the most "Americanized" country in Europe.

Some of the concepts developed in the 1970s by Brigitte Berger, Hansfried Kellner, and myself in the context of modernization theory are surprisingly applicable to the phenomenon in question here. We said that modernity comes in "packages" containing patterns of both behavior and consciousness. Some of these packages can be taken apart and reassembled without arresting the modernization process, such as the package of Christianity and modern medicine brought by Western missionaries. We called these linkages "extrinsic." Other packages cannot be taken apart without stopping the modernization process, such as the linkage between modern medicine and a scientific conceptualization of causality. These we called "intrinsic" linkages. When packages are diffused from one societal sector to another, we spoke of "carryover"—as when economic costs/benefits thinking is carried over into family life (marriage as a contract, children as investments, and so on). And when the attempt is made to limit the diffusion, we called this "stoppage"—as when individuals behave one way at work and then behave very differently when they come home (the Japanese businessman takes off his navy blue suit, puts on a yukata, and practices his calligraphy). I think these concepts remain useful as one tries to understand different responses to the emerging global culture.

The above series of responses to the challenge of the emergent global culture do not provide the whole picture. There is also the increasingly significant phenomenon of alternative globalizations; that is, cultural movements with a global outreach originating outside the Western world and indeed impacting on the latter (in her discussion of India's hoped-for new "tryst with destiny," Tulasi Srinivas uses the term "emissions" to refer to the same phenomenon). This is important, not only because it corrects the notion that non-Western and non-American cultures are simply reacting to the forces of cultural globalization, but because it implies that there may be more than one path to modernity. This too is not an altogether new idea. In recent years it has been revived in the writings of the Harvard Sinologist Tu Weiming, the Israeli sociologist Shmuel Eisenstadt, and others. In other words, alternative globalizations intend the possibility of alternative modernities.

These movements can also be found on both elite and popular levels. On the elite there have been both secular and religious movements of alternative globalization. While this particular appeal has diminished in recent years (to be precise, since the recent Asian economic difficulties), Western business and policy circles were for a while eagerly striving to emulate Japanese industrial policy and management techniques. A good religious example is Opus Dei, arguably the most influential Catholic organization in the world today.

Opus Dei began in Spain but is now very influential in Latin America (including, notably, Chile), the Philippines, and other Catholic communities. It is militantly conservative in its theology and morality but very positive in its attitude to modern global capitalism. Opus Dei was very active politically in the waning years of the Franco regime and was instrumental in the transition to a market economy (and later, at least indirectly, in the transition to democracy in Spain). The two most prestigious business schools in Spain are run by Opus Dei. What is involved here is more than an intelligent accommodation with social change. There is the deliberate attempt to construct an alternative modernity—capitalist, democratic, but at the same time resolutely loyal to Catholic religious and moral traditions. (And this, incidentally, explains why Pope John Paul II has been so favorably disposed toward Opus Dei, in contrast with his skepticism toward the Jesuits, who used to be the elite cadre of militant Catholicism but whose traditional loyalties have become somewhat shaky in recent years.) In Latin America there has also been the conscious effort to posit an "integral" Catholic culture against the "Americanizing" force of evangelical Protestantism.

On the popular level, but sometimes reaching into more elevated social strata, India has "emitted" a number of highly influential religious movements. The Sai Baba movement is a good example, claiming two thousand centers in 137 countries; the claim may be exaggerated, but there is no doubt that there are many such centers in Europe and North America. This movement is starkly supernaturalistic, clearly an alternative to a modern scientific worldview. The Hare Krishna movement is an even more visible case of Indian cultural "emission." Similarly successful in the West have been a number of Buddhist movements, such as Soka Gakkai, which comes out of Japan. The "Buddhist renaissance" in Taiwan intends a global outreach as well; thus the Tzu-Chi Foundation has branches in forty countries.

Islamic movements in Turkey and all over the Muslim world clearly intend an alternative modernity: not rejecting modernity in the style of the Taliban in Afghanistan or even the militant factions in the Iranian regime, but rather seeking to construct a modern society that participates economically and politically in the global system but is animated by a self-consciously Islamic culture. A comparable Islamic movement in Indonesia—precapitalist, prodemocratic, tolerant of religious pluralism, but decisively committed to the Muslim faith—was an important factor in the demise of the Suharto regime and the election of its own leader, Abdurrahman Wahid, to the presidency. Throughout the Muslim world today, even in Iran, such visions of an alternative Islamic modernity are gaining influence.

Arguably the most important cultural influence coming from Asia into the West is not carried by organized religious movements but arrives in the form of the so-called New Age culture. It has affected millions of people in Europe and America, both on the level of beliefs (reincarnation, karma, the mystical connections between the individual and all of nature) and of behavior (meditation, yoga, shiatsu, and other forms of therapeutic massage; tai-chi and the martial arts; generally, the use of alternative medical traditions of Indian and Chinese provenance). Given its nonorganized, broadly diffused character, New Age is more elusive than the religious movements mentioned above, but it is being studied by an increasing number of scholars of religion. It remains to be seen to what extent New Age will permanently influence the "metropolis" of the emerging global culture and thus modify the shape of the latter. The British sociologist Colin Campbell has tellingly described the New Age phenomenon as "easternization."

As far as popular culture is concerned, Japan has been the most successful "emitter." Japanese automotive and electronic products have earned their reputation for reliability, and in consequence Japanese notions and techniques of quality control have greatly influenced European and American industry as well as consumer behavior. The case of Shiseido cosmetics is interesting, like that of the Japanese fashion and design industries, in combining modern products with traditional Japanese notions of aesthetics and finding that this has an appeal beyond the borders of Japan. In all of this, incidentally, the analogy with Hellenism is again instructive. In the late Roman period, in circles dissatisfied with what Greco-Roman civilization had to offer, there was a turn toward the East in terms of behavior and ideas—ex oriente lux. In the end, the West Asian movement of Christianity was the greatest beneficiary of this cultural development.

A further complication must be added to our picture, as there are also what could be called subglobalizations—movements with a regional rather than global reach that nevertheless are instrumental in connecting the societies on which they impinge with the emerging global culture. "Europeanization" is probably the most important case of this, especially in the countries of the former Soviet bloc. German and Austrian influences in Hungary and other ex-communist countries, Scandinavian influences in the Baltic states, and Turkish influences in Central Asia serve both to "Europeanize" and to globalize. There is also the ideological project of a distinctively European version of modem capitalism, seen of course in contrast to what is perceived as the Anglo-Saxon version. The linkage of Europeanization and secularization is a particularly interesting aspect of this. As countries are absorbed into the "European project," a distinctive "Euro-secularity" seems to be part of the deal—it can be observed most dramatically today in Poland and Ireland.

There are other cases: the diffusion of Hong Kong and Taiwan media in Southeast Asia and mainland China, and of Japanese popular culture in Taiwan; Mexican and Venezuela media penetrating other Latin American countries and the Hispanic population in the United States. There are also African American influences in South Africa, sometimes with ironic effects: dashikis, colorful shirts with African motifs worn by men, come from western Africa and were never seen in South Africa during the apartheid period. They became popular among African Americans as part of a new black self-consciousness, were introduced into South Africa via the United States, and are now sold as "Mandela shirts" in fashionable boutiques in Johannesburg and Cape Town. None of these cultural items are part of the emerging global culture as such, but they mediate between the latter and the more parochial cultures on which they impinge.

Under certain political conditions, it is clear, tensions between global and indigenous cultures can give rise to what Samuel Huntington has called a "clash of civilizations." But there are also sharp cultural conflicts within societies (if you will, an internalized "clash of civilizations"). The conflict between a secularized elite and religious revitalization movements is an important case in point—dramatically visible in Turkey, other Muslim countries, Israel, and India. The cultural tensions between Wessies and Ossies in the wake of German reunification were mentioned before. Furthermore, Western "culture wars" are exported as part and parcel of the globalization process. Thus a Hungarian, for instance, looking west for cultural inspiration, comes on free market ideology versus environmentalism, freedom of speech versus "politically correct" speech codes, Hollywood machismo versus feminism, American junk foods versus American health foods, and so on. In other words, "the West" is hardly a homogeneous cultural entity, and its conflict-laden heterogeneity is carried along by its globalization.

Cultural globalization is a turbulent affair, very hard to control. Some governments, of course, make the attempt. "Managed globalization" (as Yunxiang Yan calls it) by the Chinese regime is the most important case, but similar efforts can be seen in both authoritarian and democratic regimes. France is a case of the latter, as is Quebec and Canada as a whole. The Mbeki government in South Africa speaks of an "African renaissance," the ingredients of which are somewhat vague at this point, but the intention is also to "manage" the globalization process through state actions. This case is interesting because it is an effort to carve out an alternative modernity from rather "weak" cultural resources—any successes here would be very interesting (and cheering) indeed.

Here the problems of cultural globalization link up with the problems of economic and social globalization—notably, the problem of how to "manage" the losers in the global system. Social resentments can be channeled into cultural resistances, the "Seattle syndrome" legitimated in cultural terms. The campaign against McDonald's in France is a good example of this: the economic worries of French farmers elevated into a defense of French civilization against American barbarity. With the (perhaps temporary) demise of Marxism, there is here a fertile field for a renascent left, in Europe as elsewhere. The old left themes of anticapitalism and anti-Americanism obtain a new lease on life. It is too early to tell how widespread this new constellation will be.

The picture that I have presented here is, as announced, quite complicated. It resists easy summations, except for the not unimportant conclusion that cultural globalization is neither a single great promise nor a single great threat. It also suggests that globalization is, au fond, a continuation, albeit in an intensified and accelerated form, of the perduring challenge of modernization. On the cultural level, this has been the great challenge of pluralism: the breakdown of taken-for-granted traditions and the opening up of multiple options for beliefs, values, and lifestyles. It is not a distortion to say that this amounts to the great challenge of enhanced freedom for both individuals and collectivities. If one values freedom, one will be very reluctant to deplore this development, despite its costs. One will then be most interested in the search of middle positions between endless relativization and reactive fanaticism. In the face of the emerging global culture, this means middle positions between acceptance and militant resistance, between global homogeneity and parochial isolation. Such a search has its difficulties, but, as the data of our project show persuasively, it is not impossible.

This essay was originally published as the introduction to Many Globalizations: Cultural Diversity in the Contemporary World by Peter L. Berger and Samuel P. Huntington and was reprinted with the permission of Oxford University Press.

Share Episode

Shortened URL

Voices on the Radio

is Director of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University, and author of many books including Many Globalizations.

is Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. She's the author of World Class: Thriving Locally in the Global Economy.