Globalization And Culture Essay

8873 words - 35 pages

We live in a moment popularly understood as "the global triumph of the United States and its way of life" (Hobsbawm 1998: 1). Henry Kissinger goes so far as to say that "globalization is really another name for the dominant role of the United States" (1999). The Wall Street Journal trumpets this loudly: "the US enters the 21st century in a position of unrivaled dominance that surpasses anything it experienced in the 20th….America's free-market ideology is now the world's ideology; and the nation's Internet and biotechnology businesses are pioneering the technologies of tomorrow" (Murray 1999). For all the misery internal to that country (in 2000, even as 74 percent of college students expected to become millionaires, 44 million people had no medical cover), the US has international influence beyond the reach of other régimes. Consider a mundane expectation of sovereignty - that the modern state make its own stamps, featuring national images. Today, 70 countries mostly in the Third World, have their stamps produced by the New York-based Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corporation. The dominant images are recycled icons from US popular culture (Mingo 1997). This US cultural imperialism is often understood as the apex of a wider phenomenon - globalization - that sees North American corporations wiping out the state system and obliterating the cultures of the world.If that is so, it is the outcome of what is known as the "Washington Consensus." Dominant since the late 1970s, the "Consensus" favors open trade, comparative advantage, deregulation of financial markets, and low inflation. It has, of course, presided over slower worldwide growth and greater worldwide inequality than any time since the Depression, with job security and real wages down and working hours up in the industrialized market economies (IMECS). At the same time, the world's richest 20 percent of people earned 74 times the amount of the world's poorest in 1997, up from 60 times in 1990 and 30 times in 1960, as inequalities between North and South increase. The manifold cata-strophes of the "Consensus" across the late 1990s - Mexico, southeast Asia, Russia, and Brazil - were explained away as aberrations by its apologists (Palley 1999: 49; Levinson 1999: 21; Galbraith 1999: 13).The "Consensus" is animated by neoliberalism's mantra of individual freedom, the marketplace, and minimal government involvement in economic matters. This provides the intellectual alibi for a comparatively unimpeded flow of capital across national boundaries, and the rejection of labor, capital, and the state managing the economy together. On behalf of capital, the state undermines the union movement through policies designed to "free" labor from employment laws. (The Keynesian welfare system, which helped to redistribute funds to the working class, is dismantled in the process.) Ralph Nader refers to this as "a slow motion coup d'état," with the historic gains to representative discussion...

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