Monday, April 07, 2014


At the UAA Ethics Conference, Roger Ames pointed out that while we use the term globalization, that really isn't what's happening. I was struck by the fact that I'd never really thought about this term.  I had thought about the concept of cultural exchange being two way.  Globalization suggests that there is movement all over the globe in different directions.  Basically, what we have though, is Westernization.  What we have very little of is Easternization.

In terms of economics and consumerism, that would seem to be the case.  Every country is impacted by the market system, by the demand for more efficiency, by the demand for cheap labor, which draws people from the rural areas to the cities.  This process then undermines whatever social structure exists. Efficiency interrupts a more leisurely lifestyle.   Commodification gives everything a dollar value.   Work trumps family as people move away from home to the big(ger) cities so they can earn and send money back home.  Money replaces face to face relationships.  These folks live in relatively squalid conditions with strangers away from their families. (The housing for workers we saw at the university I taught at in Beijing who were constructing the super modern law building was makeshift, plywood, minimalist housing on campus at the construction site.) And their families back home compete for their wages with others at the work sites - prostitutes, alcohol and drugs dealers, gamblers, and an assortment of scam artists.  Cultural values tend to lose out to the competition for money to buy consumer goods.

So, even though one could argue the exchange is two-way because goods go from less economically developed countries to the rich countries, those goods are the supply for the Western generated market demand, and even China became capitalist to meet that demand.

There is some Eastern (and Southern) influences on the west.  We can dine on food from Asia, Africa, and South America.  We can go to Yoga and Tai Chi classes and even get acupuncture.  But much of this tends to get infected by market pressures so we get things like Power Yoga!  And to the extent that any of these is acknowledged as having any health benefits, they get bent and twisted to conform to insurance company rules.

In the Saturday session of the ethics conference, a professor from China who teaches in Los Angeles, said that Chinese women do not want to be the consumers of Western feminism, but want to be the producers of a Chinese feminism. The context of Western and Chinese culture, she said, require different strategies for dealing with the unequal treatment of women. 

By the way, I did ask about whether the papers would be posted online.  Yes, but later in the summer when they are all compiled into a book format. 

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that we speak of western civilization as genesis of this global change. There were many who opposed industrialisation just as tribes and states in Europe opposed and finally 'accepted' Christianisation of traditional religious belief. Economies of production and its markets -- humanity's reply to natural selection – mimics plants introduced into foreign environments, quickly becoming invasive.

    To suggest that industrialsation and consequent globalization is a western notion is to forget when and how these same forces shaped the West. In the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, there were horrific scenes of the rural idyll ripped open by the smokestacks of a Britain industrialising.

    It was hugely powerful stuff. Tears welled up in my eyes as it did many Brits here, the sense of a life lost was palpable. Those images dramatized so deeply what were those first waves of ‘westernization’, to a people very unprepared and ever changed.

    Globalisation was first practiced upon its creators, who then became disciples first converted. This understanding begs the question if we are talking the 'west' as cause or the kind of irresistible discovery which also led to science being dominant in the world today?

    I would ask if it's not who got there ‘first’, but why do we as humans go there at all?


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