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Eureka: The new globalization
by Jay Gutman
2017-01-25 10:22:00
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Up until recently globalization kind of meant the Americanization, or perhaps Westernization of the elites when it came to people, events, ideas and corporations. The masses of each country were still living and organization according to national or regional customs. The elites in many countries somewhat adopted American or Western lifestyles although never fully.

west01_400_01The elites of many countries did drop local liquor to adopt scotch and vodka, watch North American or European television rather than local television, and send children to American schools or French schools rather than local schools. The elites spent vacations in resorts where guests were mostly European and North American, adopted sports like tennis and golf as opposed to the masses playing football or basketball and sent their children to North American or European universities. Some even adopted English or French as the language spoken at home, rather than the heritage language.  

What happened is that in many countries, including South Korea, Singapore, China, India and the Middle East among others had fast growing middle classes and started behaving like the elites, that is adopting North American or European personalities, events, ideas or even corporate behavior. There was some degree of clumsiness when dealing with such ideas. I remember a school principal in Algeria telling me and my strong North American accent to teach adolescents “British pronunciation” and all I told her was “good luck finding a teacher with that.” Many of the countries with larger middle classes adopting globalization were very blunt about their preference for Americans, or in some cases their preference for the British or perhaps French or Germans. We constantly had to argue with them that such preference is raw racism at its best. This led to myself hearing several comments like “sorry we can’t hire you because we don’t hire people with French university degrees. We only hire people with American degrees.”

We have now, I believe, gone past this phase of middle classes around the world, mimicking, awkwardly I must say, the behaviors of Europeans and North Americans. I remember Korean and Turkish companies trying Western-style corporate boardroom debates. The funny thing about those debates is that they were scripted weeks in advance, and that the boardroom members simply read their declarations, and when confronted about their declarations, simply said “I don’t remember why I wrote that.” In the 2012 first-ever South Korean presidential debate, over half the debate was about President Park’s father’s legacy, with little else interesting in the debate. When some Chinese companies forced employees to adopt English as their language of use, I was under the impression that sign language, not English was the actual adopted language.

Sociologists have a word for all this. It’s called the “hybridation” of cultures. Globalization was once the hybridation between Western and Eastern societies, but today, Eastern societies are gradually producing ideas adopted by Westerners as well. But that has its problems. North Africans were trying to hybrid their education systems by taking the best out of French education systems and mixing them with local customs. Except that the French curriculum is designed to fit classrooms of about 20 to 30 students, when North African classrooms often have 40 students or more in each class. Some East Asian companies tried to introduce presentation and discussion elements to their corporate culture and education, but as one of my Korean friends told me: “in East Asia we don’t think “client first” but we think “boss first.””

To be concise, you have larger middle classes around the world which were once adopting European and North American ways of life, before ideas started firing up from all over the world. That is the Middle East now owns a lot of the technology it learned from North America, and no longer feels it needs to look to North America for more help and can actually produce its own technology. Many countries have successful fast-food chains and feel they could do without new North American fast-food franchises. A lot more countries are producing their car brands and feel no need to compete with once prized foreign car brands. Many countries now have their philosophers, their corporate culture and their alternative school systems and no longer look to Europe or North America for such ideas. So where is the new globalization headed? Stay tuned.

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Emanuel Paparella2017-01-25 12:25:03
The necessary other side of the coin:

The problem is less the hybridization of cultures and more the compartmentalization of cultures, the positivist and the humanist-liberal arts. That's the crucial problem of our era of Trumpistic post-truth one finds in America, England too, as well as China. It's the problem of dehumanization and resurgent barbarism devoid of the poetic, of a dehumanized culture (East or West as the case may be) that misguidedly believes that everything can be measured and categorized and that anything outside of the scientific approach and economic markets, is not worth the effort...Too bad!

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