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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Globalisation and Culture

The word culture has many different meanings.

For some it refers to an appreciation of good literature, music, art, and food.

For a biologist, it is likely to be a colony of bacteria or other micro-organisms growing in a nutrient medium in a laboratory Petri dish.

However, for anthropologists and other behavioral scientists, culture is the full range of learned human behavior patterns. The term was first used in this way by the pioneer English Anthropologist Edward B. Tylor in his book, Primitive Culture, published in 1871. Tylor said that culture is "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society." Of course, it is not limited to men. Women possess and create it as well. Since Tylor's time, the concept of culture has become the central focus of anthropology.

The word Culture is highly misunderstood. The semantic field for this expression collectively includes but is not limited to:

Language : the oldest human institution and the most sophisticated medium of expression.

Arts & Sciences : the most advanced and refined forms of human expression.

Thought : the ways in which people perceive, interpret, and understand the world around them.

Spirituality : the value system transmitted through generations for the inner well-being of human beings, expressed through language and actions.

Social activities : the shared pursuits within a cultural community, demonstrated in a variety of festivities and life-celebrating events.

Interaction : the social aspects of human contact, including the give-and-take of socialization, negotiation, protocol, and conventions.

Culture is a powerful human tool for survival, but it is a fragile phenomenon. It is constantly changing and easily lost because it exists only in our minds. Our written languages, governments, buildings, and other man-made things are merely the products of culture. They are not culture in themselves. For this reason, archaeologists can not dig up culture directly in their excavations. The broken pots and other artifacts of ancient people that they uncover are only material remains that reflect cultural patterns--they are things that were made and used through cultural knowledge and skills.

Layers of Culture

There are very likely three layers or levels of culture that are part of our learned behavior patterns and perceptions.

Most obviously is the body of cultural traditions that distinguish our specific society. When people speak of Italian, Samoan, or Japanese culture, they are referring to the shared language, traditions, and beliefs that set each of these peoples apart from others. In most cases, those who share our culture do so because they acquired it as they were raised by parents and other family members who have it.

The second layer of culture that may be part of your identity is a subculture. In complex, diverse societies in which people have come from many different parts of the world, they often retain much of their original cultural traditions. As a result, they are likely to be part of an identifiable subculture in their new society. The shared cultural traits of subcultures set them apart from the rest of their society. Examples of easily identifiable subcultures in the United States include ethnic groups such as Vietnamese Americans, African Americans, and Mexican Americans. Members of each of these subcultures share a common identity, food tradition, dialect or language, and other cultural traits that come from their common ancestral background and experience. As the cultural differences between members of a subculture and the dominant national culture blur and eventually disappear, the subculture ceases to exist except as a group of people who claim a common ancestry. That is generally the case with German Americans and Irish Americans in the United States today. Most of them identify themselves as Americans first. They also see themselves as being part of the cultural mainstream of the nation.

The third layer of culture consists of cultural universals. These are learned behavior patterns that are shared by all of humanity collectively. No matter where people live in the world, they share these universal traits. Examples of such "human cultural" traits include:


communicating with a verbal language consisting of a limited set of sounds and grammatical rules for constructing sentences


using age and gender to classify people (e.g., teenager, senior citizen, woman, man)


classifying people based on marriage and descent relationships and having kinship terms to refer to
them (e.g., wife, mother, uncle, cousin)


raising children in some sort of family setting


having a sexual division of labor (e.g., men's work versus women's work)


having a concept of privacy


having rules to regulate sexual behavior


distinguishing between good and bad behavior


having some sort of body ornamentation


making jokes and playing games


having art


having some sort of leadership roles for the implementation of community decisions

While all cultures have these and possibly many other universal traits, different cultures have developed their own specific ways of carrying out or expressing them. For instance, people in deaf subcultures frequently use their hands to communicate with sign language instead of verbal language. However, sign languages have grammatical rules just as verbal ones do.

Culture and society

Culture and society are not the same thing. While cultures are complexes of learned behavior patterns and perceptions, societies are groups of interacting organisms. People are not the only animals that have societies. Schools of fish, flocks of birds, and hives of bees are societies. In the case of humans, however, societies are groups of people who directly or indirectly interact with each other. People in human societies also generally perceive that their society is distinct from other societies in terms of shared traditions and expectations.

While human societies and cultures are not the same thing, they are inextricably connected because culture is created and transmitted to others in a society. Cultures are not the product of lone individuals. They are the continuously evolving products of people interacting with each other. Cultural patterns such as language and politics make no sense except in terms of the interaction of people. If you were the only human on earth, there would be no need for language or government.

Robert Koehane and Joseph Nye remind us that the social and cultural globalisation “involves the movement of ideas, information, images and people.”

culture is probably one of the most complicated world in the English language, it is probably due to the dynamics of culture i.e. it was never meant to be static.

The main ingredients are probably language, history, religion, customs, artifacts, cooking, values, traditions, and also dependent upon man’s capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.


Religion-spread of Christianity and Christian ethics

Customs-alien customs are imparted

Food culture-Macculture

Values-value premises are erdoed

Social interaction-commodified


McDonaldization is the term invented by George Ritzer to describe a sociological phenomenom that is happening in our society. Although, especially in the United States, the ubiquitous hamburger chain has been around long enough for academics and other commentators repeatedly to have drawn attention to its social effects and analogies in other fields, it is the sociologist George Ritzer who coined the phrase in his book "The Mcdonaldization of Society" (Ritzer, 1996). In his book, which he describes as a work in social criticism, Ritzer analyses the particular ways in which the success of the American hamburger chain has impacted upon not only economic patterns, but in particular on a multitude of facets of social life in general. Basing his analysis on Max Weber's theory of rationalisation, he draws on ex- tensive empirical and anecdotal data to trace these influences.

McDonald's revolutionising influence on the fast-food industry not only in America, but increasingly across the globe, has led to the establishment of dozens of clones in just about every branch of the retail industry and has led to other social institutions adapting McDonald's principles to their operations. The process by which these principles are coming to dominate more and more sectors of society, is perceived by Ritzer to extend to education, work, health care, travel, leisure, dieting and many more fields. This "...sweeping through seemingly impervious institutions..." (Ritzer, 1996, p. 1) has had its impact upon institutions as diverse as the sex industry, where more efficient porn shops are the order of the day, and the Roman Catholic Church, where, since 1985, adherents can receive indulgences through the Pope's annual Christmas benediction on radio and TV (Ritzer, 1996, p. 48)

In 2008, its revenues were $23.5 billion, with operating income of $6.4 billion.6 McDonald’s, which first began operations in 1955, had 31,967 restaurants throughout the world at the beginning of 2008.7 A computer programmer compiled a visualization of all the McDonald’s locations in America and reported that it is impossible to get farther than 107 miles from a McDonald’s.

McDonaldization is Ritzer’s extension of German sociologist Max Weber’s theory of rationalization. Ritzer explains Weber’s theory in the following quote from his book, The McDonaldization of Society. According to Ritzer, Weber explains “how the modern Western world managed to become increasingly rational—that is, dominated by efficiency, predictability, calculability, and nonhuman technologies that control people” (Ritzer 25). Efficiency is the most advantageous way of getting from one state to another, such as the best method to get from being hungry to being full. Predictability is the guarantee that products andservices will be identical, regardless of time and location. Calculability is the emphasis on quantity, such as the number of items sold or the number of customers served per hour. Control is the management of people and resources that is applied to those within the McDonaldized institution (Ritzer 13-15). These four dimensions that Weber used to explain his theory of rationality are also the bases that Ritzer emphasizes in his theory of McDonaldization.

However, a fundamental difference exists between Weber’s theory and Ritzer’s theory: each one’s example of rationality in contemporary society. Whereas Ritzer’s model of rationality is the fast-food restaurant, Weber’s paradigm of rationality is the bureaucracy. In his book, Ritzer defines a bureaucracy as “a large-scale organization composed of a hierarchy of offices” (24). The people that work in these offices have certain responsibilities and must behave according to rules, regulations, and methods of coercion executed by their superiors. A fast-food restaurant could be considered a specific example of a bureaucracy, but the use of McDonald’s to describe rationalization in today’s context is more applicable. In order to demonstrate the modern relevancy of his theory over Weber’s rationalization, it is necessary to compare the two theories.

Negative effect of Mcdonaldisation

Although there are some positive affects of McDonaldization on America's social institutions, Ritzer details an extensive argument of its negative consequences, which correlates to Weber's theory of the irrationality of rationality. His primary concern is the dehumanizing effect that is inherent in the system, for with the increased use of assembly-line techniques and non-human technology, there is an accompanying loss of individuality, creativity, and original thought.

“In short, if the world were less McDonaldized, people would be better able to live up to their human potential.”

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