Globalization is Not Americanization Essay

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Globalization arguably began even before Marco Polo’s expeditions, possibly being traceable to Alexander the Great’s establishment of overland routes between Eastern Europe and India. The assumption that globalization equals Americanization is profoundly arrogant, and is also ignorant of the history, meaning, and implications of globalization. Globalization implies integration and interdependence of the world. Predating the United States of America, globalization nevertheless reached a peak in the 20th century, when a globalized economic, political, and cultural landscape became inevitable and entrenched. While it seemed that McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Shell, and other proudly American companies have dominated the corporate landscape of a globalized international economy, a wealth of non-American companies have likewise participated in the dissemination and distribution of ideas and neoliberal policies that characterize postmodern globalization.

In some ways, globalization is the antithesis of Americanization. As Collins (2015) points out, globalization “has led to the continuing deindustrialization of America,” as labor markets have become transnational (p. 1). Whereas the United States became a 20th century superpower because of its industrial edge, the nation has since ceded that edge to countries that now provide the world’s manufacturing and industrial labor forces: China, India, and Brazil. Globalization is not the supremacy of American ideals, American values, or American democracy. Rather, globalization is the economic integration of marketplaces. Globalization tends to encourage free trade agreements, and free trade facilitates globalization. Yet globalization has not impeded or undermined national sovereignty and regional coalitions. Globalization is not Americanization because Americans—and the nation of the United States—are as dependent on other countries as they are on it. When Dyreson (2013) points out that the “promotion of American visions of affluence” has led to the popularity of Olympic sports like beach volleyball and snowboarding, he ignores the equal and even more transnational and enduring popularity of other sports on the Olympic roster like martial arts and wrestling (p. 256). Therefore, Americans in particular need to be careful to claim that globalization is Americanization. The Olympics originated in ancient Greece, long before the United States was conceived.

Globalization is not Americanization also because power has been distributed far more evenly throughout the world over the last several decades and will continue to be dispersed through market forces. “Instead of compartmentalized power sectors,” globalization is enabling, if not necessitating, the emergence of trans-national and trans-geographic coalitions with mutual political and economic interest (Collins, 2015). Not all policy analysts and cultural critics view globalization in the same way. Owolabi (2001), for example, claims that globalization was “orchestrated by America,” and is “essentially aimed at the promotion of the imperialistic interests of Western society,” (p. 71). The view that globalization is orchestrated by America is understandable given the predominance of American political and economic power throughout the world. In French political and academic discourse, Americanization and globalization are used interchangeably (Meunier, 2010). Yet Meunier (2010) argues that since Sarcozy’s presidency, even France has learned how to divorce the true meaning of globalization from the true meaning of Americanization: “the past couple of years have shown that globalization no longer equals Americanization,” (p. 213). It is neither correct, nor fruitful, to frame globalization as being equal to Americanization.

Globalization is not solely about economics, free markets, and trade agreements. Other elements of globalization include the sharing of ideas, art forms, attitudes, and worldviews. Globalization has led to an unprecedented level of cultural convergence and “cultural intermingling,” (Collins, 2015). Evident especially in specific sectors like food culture, music, and the arts, cultural comingling is not American.
The only thing that is remotely American about cultural intermingling is the fact that the United States was one of the first modern nation-states to popularize the practice of an immigrant society. Immigration and migration have been perpetual patterns throughout human history, but the settlement of the New World led to the unique phenomenon of immigrant-dominant societies: Canada and the United States. The native people of both Canada and the United States lack sufficient market, cultural, or political power to participate in the globalization process. Immigrants to the United States and Canada created an amalgamated society in which language, heritage, religion, race, and even gender were and continue to be sublimated in the interests of globalization. Globalization can only be considered Americanization if Americanization is defined as the state of cultural mingling.

Yet what most people mean when they imply globalization equals Americanization is something nefarious, something hegemonic. The British empire, and the Ottomans, and the Mughals before them, also spread their own cultural, political, and economic hegemony throughout the world and especially the territories that they ruled over for centuries. Therefore, globalization has never been and never will be Americanization because prior to the creation of the United States, there were already in place patterns by which imperialistic powers could penetrate new and weaker markets to gain traction and influence. An “anti-American movement has been developing throughout the twenty first century,” leading to the widespread misperception that globalization is Americanization (Bigot, 2013, p. 1). Yet this attitude is misinformed, based in part on conspiracy theories about America’s conscious desire to take over the world through CIA coups and the spreading of McDonalds restaurants throughout the solar system. The United States has acted in ways that reinforce its military, political, and economic dominance. It is also true that globalization has given rise to the proliferation of neoliberal policies that support and enable globalization. Yet globalization is not equal to Americanization; globalization is globalization of ideas, politics, attitudes, worldviews, and beliefs that are not restricted to one culture, one historical period, or one society. If anything, the cultural elements that are considered uniquely “American” are in part pan-European, in part international: such as the belief in secularism, the belief in the supremacy of democratic forms of government, and the belief in gender equity.

The American character of globalization is sometimes misconstrued as arrogance, partly because so many American corporations have spearheaded the economic backbone of the global market economy. American companies are not the only building blocks of the global market economy, but there are a disproportionate number of American companies that dominate the marketplace, its discourse, and its influence on international and domestic policy. Because of the influence American firms have over the global market and its political stakeholders, American corporate values, corporate culture, and politics have become standardized. American cultural norms have become the global norms for doing business around the world. As a result, workers at the management tier find themselves having to adapt to American—as well as British—standards of behavior and comportment in business. As Kopp (2011) points out, the assumption that all companies around the world do business the same way, communicate the same way, and reach agreements using the same ethical and philosophical frameworks, is why some people believe globalization equals Americanization. The reverse case can also be made, in that when American….....

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