Last Updated on June 2, 2023 by Karl Thompson
Cultural globalisation refers to the rapid movement of ideas, attitudes, meanings, values and cultural products across national borders.
The process of cultural globalisation is a dynamic one which implies the emergence of a global culture which influences and possibly transcends local cultures and shapes people’s values, tastes and everyday activities where ever in the world they may be.
Some easy examples of global culture include the emergence of global sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup, and the globalisation of food through international companies such as Mcdonalds and CocaCola.
Global culture may be transmitted and reinforced by global communications systems such as the internet, the growth of global popular culture, increasingly global consumption patterns, and increased tourism and migration.
Global institutions such as Transnational Corporations and the United Nations may also play a role in spreading global culture.
This post considers some of the main drivers of cultural globalisation before looking at two contemporary events: the Coronavirus Pandemic and the 2020 American Election and considering whether they can be regarded as being part of cultural globalisation in any way.
Examples of cultural globalisation
Any process which involves an increasing movement of people or ideas across the world can be regarded as an example of cultural globalisation including:
- Increasingly global consumption patterns: where people around the world consume similar products in similar ways, such as with the rise of global shopping malls, fashions and food.
- Global events: more counties taking part in global sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup, and more people watching and travelling to these events.
- The growth of global popular culture: more people accessing media products through Netflix for example.
- Increasing migration: increasing numbers of people choose or are forced to permanently migrate from one country to another.
- A rising global consciousness: this might be a sense of us living as a ‘global village’ or a sense of more uncertainty emerging with ‘detraditionalisation’ and a ‘global risk consciousness’.
- Global institutions and global values? The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights could possibly be the starting point for a new set of global values.
Converging Global Consumption Patterns
Today you can go to pretty much any major city in the world and share in a similar ‘consumption experience’. Also, more and more people in Asia and South-America are coming to enjoy high-consumption lifestyles like in the West – car ownership and tourism are both on the increase globally for example. Central to this is the growth of similar styles of shopping malls, and leisure parks which provide a homogeneous cultural experience in different regions across the world.
The globalisation of food is one of the most obvious examples of cultural globalisation – food consumption is an important aspect of culture and most societies around the world have diets that are unique to them, however the cultural globalisation of food has been promoted by fast food giants such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Starbucks. The spread of these global food corporations has arguably led to the decline of local diets and eating traditions.
The Globalisation of sport is another fairly obvious example of cultural globalisation – think of all the international sporting events that take place – most notably the World Cup and The Olympics, and Formula 1, which bind millions together in a shared, truly global, ‘leisure experience’.
Migration is an important aspect of cultural globalisation, and in this sense, this process has been going on for several centuries, with languages, religious beliefs, and values being spread by military conquest, missionary work, and trade. However, in the last 30 years, the process of cultural globalisation has dramatically intensified due technological advances in both transportation and communications technology.
The Global Village/ Global Consciousness
Individuals and families are now more directly plugged into news from the outside world – some of the most gripping events of the past decade have unfolded in real time in front of a global audience. According to Giddens this means that more and more people have a more ‘global outlook’ and increasingly identify with a global audience – for example, television reporting of natural disasters in developing countries result in people in wealthier countries donating money to charities such as Oxfam to assist with relief efforts.
Giddens developed the concept of ‘Cosmopolitanism’ to describe this process of an emerging global identity.
A criticism of Giddens is that some people perceive increasing globalisation as a threat to their ways of life and retreat into Fundamentalism and/ or Nationalism as a defensive response, suggesting that Globalisation could go into reverse…
In his classic 1999 text, Runaway World, Anthony Giddens argues that one consequence of globalisation is detraditionalisation – where people question their traditional beliefs about religion, marriage, and gender roles and so on. He uses the concept of ‘detraditionalisation’ rather than ‘decline of tradition’ to reflect the fact that in many cases people continue with their traditional ways of life, rather than actually changing them, but the very fact that they are now actively questioning aspects of their lives means cultures are much less stable and less predictable than before globalisation, because more people are aware of the fact that there are alternative ways of doing things and that they can change traditions if they want to.
The above processes are related to growth of urbanisation, especially the growth of global cities which have highly educated, politically engaged middle classes.
Global Risks/ Global Risk Consciousness
Ulrich Beck (1992) argues that a fundamental feature of globalisation is the development of a global risk consciousness, which emerges due to shared global problems which threaten people in multiple countries – examples include the threat of terrorism, international nuclear war, the threat of global pandemics, the rise of organised crime funded primarily through international drug trafficking, and the threat of planetary melt-down due to global warming.
On the downside, the constant media focus on such global problems has led to a widespread culture of fear and increasing anxiety across the globe, which has arguably contributed to things such as Paranoid Parenting and Brexit, but on the plus side, new global international movements and agencies have emerged through which people come together across borders to tackle such problems.
Coronavirus and global consciousness?
It’s debatable whether Coronavirus has fostered an increasing sense of cultural globalisation – while in one sense the virus doesn’t discriminate across cultures, and many countries are working in similar ways to combat the virus (lockdowns, facemasks), it’s difficult to argue that the closing down of borders and the restriction of international travel fosters globalisation!
And people seemed to have turned to the national governments, their nation states, to guide them through the pandemic, which hardly seems like a ‘global response’…>?
Having said that Nation States have been taking guidance from the World Health Organisation, a global institution, and Bill Gates seems to be a leading proponent of vaccinating our way out of this crisis, which has to be done on a global scale for it to be effective, so there is an aspect of the global to the way we are managing this crisis!
The 2020 American Election: A Global Event?
Another recent event which shows how ambiguous cultural globalisation can be is the reaction to the 2020 United States general election – while this is a national election, it certainly was a global event, watched by hundreds of millions of people the world over, so it was a global event.
However, judging by the mixed reactions, we can hardly call this evidence of a unified consciousness – there’s a lot of division amongst world leaders over the result.
This post has primarily been written for sociology students studying the Global Development module, a second year option within A-level sociology.
Cultural Globalisation is one type of globalisation, and students may like some of these other posts below:
Sources used to write this post:
Chapman et al (2016?)* Sociology AQA Year 2.
Giddens (2009) Sociology.
*No publication date provided in text!?!?@”?!