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Globalisation and cultural identity of developing countries1

Updated on May 30, 2015

But the underlying currents of globalization have not left the cultural identity of nations untouched. It appears to be a recent phenomenon but its very seed lies in industrial revolution and colonisation. These events though have occurred much earlier as compared to this present phenomenon of globalization but the kind of globalization that the world has been witnessing in past decades is the result of these twins namely globalization and colonization. Industrial revolution which had its birth in England, had pronounced affects upon the social, cultural and economic fabric of people in colonies of the British. Local markets were affected, People were forced to grow crops because they were the inputs for factories located thousands of miles away .Finished products were sold back in colonies luring people to buy better finished products and thereby reducing demand for local produce. This had a ripple effect upon social cultural fabric of distressed nations.

So coming back to the question that globalization , which has its roots in the above said processes which can never be erased from the world history. Now let’s limit ourselves to the globalization in developing countries as the topic demands us to be. The issue also forces us to discuss the formation of United Nations and thereby the ancillary organisations like World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The core nations like European nation countries , USA, Japan are the ones who have emerged as global winners after world wars. The European nations who had power and money accumulation attributed by phenomenon of colonisation build their capacities , likewise USA which had long back gained independence, also emerged as global winner.

So let’s talk about India, which opened its market for international players way back in 1990’s .This can be termed as the turning point in history. In an urgent need to payback the balance of payments crisis in 1991, India was pushed to transform the economy through reforms. Entire gamut of foreign goods entered the Indian markets .Now consumers had a many options to choose from. Ideal situation for liberalisation would have been a balanced approach for the investors in Indian market, which would be sensitive to the cultural and social fabric of this ancient civilization. Instead it followed a process which can be termed as Americanization or homogenization. Entry of International brands of consumer goods, food chains raided the Indian markets as never before. A very small section of society which were the target group for these consumer items were happy. This had a ripple effect upon the society which can be evaluated extensively for its social impact.

First of all food is an integral aspect of the Indian culture. Secondly, restaurants can influence the habits in societies where they operate. India has a rich and varied food which reflects its unique culture. Indian food habits , cuisine is not result of a century or two old customs or habits but it finds many hidden facts which have roots in Ayurveda and other such scriptures . In fact food habits of people vary largely over space being a function of change in climate and availability of local ingredients. These food chains enforce the food items with no health impact analysis and climate variation leading to homogenization not only at national level but also internationally.

Policy makers have never been impartial and sensitive in their decisions for distribution of equity in the society. Benefitting the powerful and mighty groups has led the large percentage of population which is excluded group to an increased deprivation.

In India there exists a parallel economy which sustains livelihoods of millions. The kind of goods that are present in this market are what can be termed as by the people – for the people. The changes brought about by globalization threaten the viability of locally made products and the people who produce them. For example, the new availability of foreign goods in a market—often at cheaper prices—can displace local farmers who have traditionally earned a living by working their small plots of family-owned land and selling their goods locally. Had the policy of liberalisation been sensitive to the excluded group, it would have led to a balanced society.

Deprivation can never be sought for .No one dreams to be deprived. Everyone yearns for a better standard of living, education, health. There is an amalgamation of all these good things with western culture. Why people in Dubai, Abu Dhabi have clung to their cultural identity?

Simple answer is that they have taken only those attributes from foreign lands which they think as necessary inputs for advanced society. Economically strong they don’t yearn for western culture. Hence no homogenization of culture can be seen in these countries.

Hence it can be said that homogenization of culture can be thought of as function of economic condition of developing nations. They are under constant pressure from external global forces as to how they make their policies, what subsidies they are supposed to give to their citizens etc. In the world markets they have no terms and conditions of their own. Core nations try to control world economies through World Bank and other such institutions.

Although it can not be ignored that liberalisation pulled India out of economic crunch it found itself in. As the third-largest economy in the world in PPP terms, India is a preferred destination for foreign direct investments (FDI) .This period of economic transition has had a tremendous impact on the overall economic development of almost all major sectors of the economy, and its effects over the last decade can hardly be overlooked. Besides, it also marks the advent of the real integration of the Indian economy into the global economy.

All’s well that ends well. But the picture is actually not so beautiful. The factors taken to calculate the GDP is exclusionary in its approach. A very fast growing economy which grew and survived even during the world wide recession because of one great asset it had – the human resource.

The question here arises - if that is the case it should also rank high on human development index. Ironically India ranks at 136th rank worldwide. Being in such sad state of affairs about distribution of equity among its masses, it hardly practices any policy for protection of its cultural identity.

Although one more fact about Indian culture can never be unforeseen, this is that it has been an assimilating culture. No other civilization has been as flexible as Indus valley civilization. It has continuously evolved over time and space. Those evolutions of past were spread over a large expanse of time so as to give it a picture of natural evolution – and slowly merge to form an identity of Indian subcontinent. In this context it can be said that globalization has been harsh for bringing an entire gamut of attributes to influence cultural identity of a deeply rooted civilization in a short span of time.

Now let’s talk about cultural products ending up in developed nations because of globalization. Why is it that we see only American TV serials, movies, magazines rule the media market. Have we ever bothered about any Spanish or Sinhalese serials or movies? Someone would try to justify the above said point by saying that their cultural products are not internationally exchangeable. But can this be true for 150 countries over the world. The fact that media influences the culture cannot be neglected.

These mass media devices influence young and tender minds drastically. Advertisements play a major role in building popular images of products of all kinds .These advertisements are repeated ample number of times to make it sure that everyone thinks alike.

Most popular "junk foods” contain very high levels of trans-fats, salts and sugar - which inevitably lead to severe ill health and diseases like obesity and diabetes. The results of laboratory tests carried out on 16 major food brands claimed that the young particularly like, such food items. In spite of having a very wide platter of traditional and healthy and yummy foods , we yearn for such fast foods – that also by paying a very high price. Is this not homogenization of culture?

Was liquor consumed at this rate as it is now by the very young elite educated society? Climate in the west forces people to consume liquor. But its blindfold aping in tropical climates is strange. Blindly aping western media have destroyed Indian culture. Many would say that It was already consumed here. But there was a very balanced way of its intake- not as exorbitantly malicious as it is now.

The world which has all the very exotic enriched cultures thriving in their very own habitats , waiting to be explored and relished. Globalization has become an excellent tool in hands of adventurous nature exercised by humans .

Did we ever imagine that we would be able to see what lies beyond the vast expanse of Nile, or in the dark rainforests or under the fathom of the deepest Indian ocean?It is the national geographic and discovery channels which bring to us all the so beautiful , interesting facts of the world around.

Economies become static if no input is taken from outside. Like in Sanskrit it is said as “Koop Mandook”. The world is witness to the fact that closed economies have not thrived as successfully as liberalized economies. This actually is not a new phenomenon. Man is restless creature. Silk route of trade existed centuries before the sea routes were discovered. Healthy cultural exchanges occurred even in the past. Archaeological testimonies exist to prove the fact. We have example of Akbar the great assimilating various religions and cultures and thereby understanding the unknown.

Globalization necessarily augments a nation’s ability to own a vibrant economy. The most essential requirements of people are “Roti , Kapda and Makan” i.e bread , drape and haven. One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet. Cultural aspects can be looked by people who have fulfilled their basic needs. Degradation of culture is inversely proportional to economic well being and vice versa.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory says that behaviour of people at any given point of time is prompted by their needs. Until physiological needs are satisfied, other levels of needs will provide little motivation . 32% of Indian population lives under the poverty line, i.e. they are struggling to fulfil their basic needs.

Our discussion is essentially leading us to the fact that Globalization has helped to preserve the cultural identity of developing nations . It has become an enabling tool for propagation of all the beautiful customs and practices which are characteristics of culture of a particular state or a country.

People become more aware of different cultures. Never in the past people all over the world knew of the Guajarati Dhokla and Thepla or Spanish tortilla. In fact people explore their cultures in a twin fold way – better media exposure which is by-product of globalization and people’s economic independence augments their ability to spent time and money for the purpose. Also economic well being eliminates their need to ape any foreign culture and also be proud of their own culture and heritage.

Globalization, in fact helps nations to propagate their cultures and heritage and also promote tourism in some specific cases. This enforces the cultural Identity of developing nations in a much better way. Everyone is aware of the rich cultural heritage that we have in Rajasthan. Can we say that globalization has homogenized the culture or augmented its identity? Who would like to go there and sacrifice dal bati to savour pizza or sandwich? A myth propagated by conservationists can only advocate acculturation because of globalization .In fact rich culture forms the basic foundation for sound society thereby enhancing economy.

In mediaeval times only royalty wore the violet or blue which were imported, thereby the name “royal blue”, but now every man can afford to wear it. Symbolically we can say that consumer goods are now available at lower prices , so much so that most people can afford to have television, mobile phone and other such consumer goods thereby leading a more contended life and have a feeling of inclusion into the society thereby climbing the ladder of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Conclusion

There are many more aspects of this debate but to sum up it can be said that Globalization has essentially homogenized the culture of developing nations. There is need to scrutinize as to what should be allowed in a country and to what extent. Corruption which is the prime reason of overlooking adverse affects of any policy should be eliminated.

We boast of our human resource. Power lies in the hands of people in a democracy. We are one of the largest successfully running democracies in the world. If people start becoming aware of pros and cons of liberalisation policy- nothing can be imposed in a democratic nation- after all here everything is “for the people, by the people”. People have to play an active role in Indian scenario.

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