Chapter 16Globalization and Consumer CultureDouglas J. Goodman(From: The Blackwell Companion to Globalization. George Ritzer (ed.). UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2007)The world is increasingly connected by global processes. More and more local practices aremotivated by distant events and have antipodal consequences. Although many of these globalprocesses are uneven, contingent and contradictory, the economic and political interconnectionsare indisputable; as are the mass migrations of people, goods and especially information. Whilenone of this is absolutely new, the tempo has reached the point that the term ‘globalization’seems warranted. Globalization undoubtedly has cultural effects, but the question still remainsopen as to whether this constitutes a global culture. The theme of this chapter is that to the extentthat there is a global culture, it is a consumer culture.The birth date of this globalization is still a point of contention, even in those rare instanceswhere globalization’s basic defi nition is agreed on. The debate continues as to the underlyingcause of globalization: whether it is a result of modernity (Giddens 2000), capitalism(Wallerstein 1991), technological progress (Rosenau 2003) or political power (Gilpin 1987), toname a few of the usual suspects. In addition, its strength is still hotly disputed (Hirst andThompson 1996). Nevertheless, all of these points can be left unresolved for this chapter. Nomatter its birth date, its cause or even whether it exists yet in any strong sense, we can still askquestions about the form that a global culture may take.The literature on a global consumer culture is dispersed in a number of disciplines and difficult to summarize. Perhaps the greatest problem is the lack in consistency in the concept ofculture. Consequently, to summarize what we know about global consumer culture fi rst requiressome ground clearing. We need to reconceptualize culture before we can look at the relationbetween globalization and consumer culture. Indeed, the idea of culture is so problematic that werequire a theoretical analysis before we will be able to recognize the evidence for and against aglobal consumer culture. Following this reconceptualization will be a summary of the primarycultural attributes of globalization and an assessment as to whether they constitute a globalconsumer culture. Then we will look at four of the most important theoretical approaches to aglobal consumer culture.IS THERE A GLOBAL CULTURE?In 1990, the journal Theory, Culture and Societyopened its special issue devoted to ‘GlobalCulture’ with the simple question: ‘Is there a global culture?’ The editor rejected the idea thatthere can be a global culture where culture denotes a homogeneous and integrated entity. ‘Thevarieties of response to the globalization process clearly suggest that there is little prospect of aunifi ed global culture, rather there are global cultures in the plural’ (Featherstone 1990: 10).
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