Cultural Globalization

Cultural globalization is the phenomenon in which people’s everyday dissemination of ideas and possessions reflects the standardization of expression. As Norris contends, globalization has recently experienced a trend towards homogeneity due to the efficiency of wireless communications, international travels, and electronic commerce. Although cultural globalization can take any direction, countries like the United States have a greater influence in dictating this direction. As more and more people, nations and cultures are adapting to the international community, such representatives as diplomats and politicians ought to meet and deal with the wants and needs of their individual nations. Globalization links culture on social, political, and economic levels. To examine the issues underlying the topic, this paper will focus on globalization and its relevance for culture along economic, political, and ethnic lines.

Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order tries to formulate a structure that can help people impart some sense in a post-Cold War era of cultural competition. Huntington’s position is that after the Cold War, the most important differences are neither economic nor political or even ideological but cultural. A different view is illustrated by Walt, who justifies this thinking by mentioning the fact that loyalties and identities are changing to a broader cultural identity but at a different pace as put forth by Huntington. However, Huntington contends that global politics have developed into multicivilizational and multipolar directions causing more conflicts among civilizations than within them, which Walt vehemently opposes.

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Global Culture / Cosmopolitan Identity

In international relations, it is important to understand the relations between “natural” and “artificial” sources of national identity, culture and globalization. As Smith asserts, a global culture is experienced by people in everyday life. This is one advantage in that there is a result of the dissemination of ideas and commodities that will reflect a standardization of cultural expressions in the world. Evidently, the wireless tools of communication, popular culture, electronic commerce, and international travels can be seen as trending towards homogeneity. These trends are leading to human experiences becoming eventually the same around the globe. Although there are homogenizing factors, they alone cannot create a single-world culture. The state helps people and governments to remain the objects of interactions as they align with the West as the movers and shapers of history. According to Smith, the limitation of a global culture includes cultural erosion caused by foreign influence. It may lead to losing one’s true identity. There is more discussion to help the nation self-recognize its cultural identity while at the same time being able to adopt the best cultural practices from other nations.

Civilization / Civilizational Identity

According to Huntington, the forces that are working towards civilization conflict include the West, which is at the center. “Asianization”, “Islamization”, “Hinduization” and the failure of the Western ideas have all amped civilizational conflict. Huntington further refers to the state as the territory with fault lines – the limitations between civilizations. An example is the Ukrainian territory that has been divided into the Orthodox East and the Greek-Catholic West. The author calls countries the fault lines hence Ukraine being divided at the periphery.

The civilization clash, as Huntington argues, will be a result of ‘fault lines’. They include the possibility of a religious clash between Christians and Muslims. It is, basically, a clash between the West and Islam. Religion helps enforce the revival of ethnic clashes. Although Walt dismisses Huntington’s argument claiming that Huntington is offering a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy about Islamic and Western clashes, the truth is that there is a number of ‘fault lines’ between the two. For example, there is a conflict between the Muslim and Orthodox peoples in the carnage of Sarajevo as well as in Bosnia.   

According to Norris, during the Cold War, the world was divided into three parts but those divisions are no longer relevant. However, now, countries are grouped based on their cultures and phases of civilization, which are the bases of cultural identities. Thus, religion, culture, wireless communication, and the faster modes of transportation all work toward global cross-civilizational interaction, which leads to cooperation. Huntington contends that every nation, village, ethnic group, and religion has a different and distinct culture. A civilization is the highest and the broadest grouping of people who can distinguish themselves from another species either through religion, history, customs, or language. A civilization can be as big as a Chinese or an Arab civilization or a Western civilization, or a small group with a few people like the Anglophone Caribbean. Sometimes, these civilizations are able to blend different sub-civilizations. For example, Islam can be further divided into Turkic, Arab, or Malay subdivisions, while Western civilizations can be subdivided into North American and European. Huntington thinks that these civilizations will clash soon due to civilizational identity. This notion will play a major role in the near future and conflicts will happen along cultural fault lines that will divide these civilizations. This is already happening in some instances, for example, between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. 

Walt does not agree with Huntington about the world civilizations. However, they, basically, agree that globalization continues to grow thin while national and (broader) civilization culture continues to remain "deep" and much more permanent. Huntington states that civilizations take forms of villages, nations or religions with cultural differences. Although Walt disputes this argument claiming that cultural differences matter through nations, nations are a civilizations that also matter. Although Walt argues against Huntington’s assertion that civilization’s loyalties are trumping nationalism, this case depends on the context of the argument. Western nations have formed the NATO alliance, which is more of a civilizational argument, according to Huntington, and it usually clashes with the post-Soviet (Russia). Although cultural differences neither cause war nor guarantee harmony, it is important to note that cultural alignment brings some form of togetherness and ensures civility among the people of that culture. However, this can too be undone if these people disagree and thus clash within their culture. Another civilization alliance that may arise to challenge the West includes China partnering with Russia or other Asian countries.  

Nation State / National Identity

Held & McGrew think that the authority of states is declining. They assert that governments have lost the power and authority over national economies or societies, unlike in the past. Their command over their nations has dwindled and politicians no longer have the powers they used to have to change the fortunes of their countries. People are discouraged by politicians and hence some international relations have rapidly changed over the past few decades. According to a realist or a neo-realist, these changes have brought out a clear understanding that states are no longer the masters of their own markets. 

The above remarks are echoed by Huntington who states that individual states, cultures or civilizations can bring themselves together for a certain cause. He provides an example of ECC (Economic Cooperation Organization) that brings together 10 countries for a common economic cause. Such organizations can be seen all over the world. European Community and CARICOM are just several examples of such groupings. As a result, one can conclude that it is the people who define their own identity. 

However, Huntington argues that despite all suggestions, culture is difficult to change due to globalization because of a nation’s identity. Any country has enough institutions that continue to maintain its identity. Although the states may have become globalized, there is no total destruction of culture. On the other hand, Walt feels that globalization is a controllable force that can sweep other different cultures with a dominant culture (for example, the Western culture), though it is still up to individuals to reject it and remain in support of their nation’s identity. 

Sub-national / Ethnic Identity / Ethnic Conflicts

Culture can be defined as the shared interactions and patterns. Acculturation is the process of cultural change. People can become part of a certain culture through assimilation or through culture change. For example, a Muslim man can belong to a different culture if he converts to Christianity. As Huntington argues, the clash of civilization starts right from the ethnicity of the person. For example, in Nigeria, he provides an example of an Ibo man who he is simply seen as an Ibo. In another African city, he will be seen as a Nigerian, but in another continent, he will be considered an African. If the man lives in London and changes his culture, then he can belong to the foreign culture for the English people. This clash can also be seen in the context of Muslims (a majority) in Egypt conflicting with Christians (a minority). There can also be a conflict between the Muslims and the Orthodox in the northern border of Sarajevo and Bosnia or between the Albanian and the Serbians.  


Although Huntington and Walt have different views on what constitutes cultural globalization, they seem to agree that the US has played a central role in the direction of a globalizing culture. Huntington’s argument and assertion of the clash of civilization seem convincing. Although Walt’s opposing remarks are great, Huntington is just stating the obvious and reflecting the current society people live in. Walt seems to finally agree that Huntington is just merely stating the truth about this clash of civilizations, though he may be against it. However, Huntington should also have addressed ideology to justify remaking of the word order.   Overall, it is a great piece by Huntington and some opposing remarks of Walt are topical.

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