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Cultural Diffusion and Imperialism

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 1494 words Published: 3rd Jul 2018

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World has now become a global village. By global village what we mean is that everything is available to every person through the process of free information flow (Ascher, 2010). Globalization has brought everything closer and that has happened through cultural diffusion. Now to understand what cultural diffusion is, we first have to have a fair idea over what is diffusion. Secondly there is well defined process through which a culture is diffused in other cultures and makes it mark. This culture diffusion affects international business to the core because when we say that globalization have made its presence felt in the global economy, we see that it is there because of culture diffusion in different ways. This has also lead to come sort of cultural imperialism which we shall discuss in length in paragraphs to come.

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Culture diffusion happens when non material and material culture travels to another culture (Wise, 2008). How this happens is a million dollar question which needs to be answered correctly and to the point. To have a profound knowledge over how it happens we go to the basics of it which is culture hearth. Now culture hearth is a place where civilizations first began and then they spread to different areas. Nowadays culture hearths are considered to be in those countries which are well developed and whose culture gets diffused to other developing countries because they have to be in tandem with each other so to have a good and viable trade. If we talk by considering the present world and international trade, we see that this cultural diffusion has spread many cultural straits wherever they got a chance to get diffused. Sometimes this spread is so rapid that no one can find out its origin, timing and spread. There are two different ways in which a culture is diffused to another culture; one is acculturation and another is Assimilation (Howes, 1996). Both are the ways in which culture is diffused in another culture. In acculturation what happens is that some cultural traits of strong cultures are being taken up by weak cultures like in ancient times we see that Spain had some cultural traits which are taken from Aztecs. Similarly if we see examples in the modern world we observe that a very common greeting ‘hello’ is also a cultural trait which is being taken by many cultures as a greeting by default. Why that happened so? Because it has its roots in western world and as West dominated for the last two centuries, all the trade, rules and policies were being written and implemented by Western countries which influenced weak cultures to adopt the greeting and many other things which now we call globalization.

On the other hand, another way in which a culture can be diffused is through assimilation. In assimilation what happens is that cultures are intertwined with each other in such a way that it is hard to distinguish between where its origin had been. Lets for example when Arabs came to Indian Subcontinent, the Indians had nothing than a piece of cloth worn up to their knees with an open jacket as their vests but Arabs brought a new culture of a full length suit of cloth covering whole body. Now after centuries the Mongols and the warriors from Afghanistan brought minor changes to the original dress which made people easy to carry, walk and most of all made it best attire which can be used for combat purposes also. End result was that the whole thing got assimilated with each other so quickly that there was little difference left between what people wear in Arabian countries mainly the natives of Arab Emirates and the people wear in subcontinent. It specially pertains to the dressing of men.

Other thing which effects diffusion is the cultural barriers, time and distance delay and lastly physical barriers (Rauth, 2004). Cultural barriers includes things which are not acceptable to other culture at any cost for example Mc Donald came up in India with its different burgers mainly in beef but as Indians hold cow as sacred, they do not go for it so Mc Donald have to introduce veggie burgers instead of beef as local cultural barrier never allowed any assimilation or acculturization to take place. In time and distance delay, diffusion is hampered because time and distance which it would take to reach another culture would be more and then would become less futile for example Eskimos who live at poles, their cultures and way of living is different from us and still they are yet to have culture diffusion (Howes, 1996). Time and distance delay is somewhat linked with the physical barriers also which also helps in making things bad for cultural diffusion to take place for example the terrain which is very tough to pass would obviously make things worse for people to travel hence making it hard to diffuse a culture or similarly a sharp weather change would also create a physical barrier for culture diffusion to take place as it would be difficult to take things from one culture to another as culture traits differ from each other or not even close to each other.

That culture is diffused either in expansionary diffusion or relocated diffusion (Said, 1994). We have seen that expansionary diffusion have taken place in most of the places in world where West culture is being adopted by the elite and now it is being transmitted to the lower end of the population. This sort of diffusion is known as hierarchical diffusion in where the spread of a new culture takes place from top to bottom. Example of this is the coffee shops like star bucks, which had no concept in south Asia but they are brought by Westerners who came here for business purposes. They first inculcated the trend in elite and now it is being adopted by every person as it have has transformed many old kiosks for betel leaves and cigarettes into coffee shops. Similarly blackberries; many corporate customers have this gadget in their hands which is attracting other upper middle class people to have it too so to have some satisfaction. Other types include relocation diffusion which happens when people take their innovations with them to a new place like for example Jews. Jews in Europe were really good in scientific knowledge and due to their astuteness they were being victimized and were sent to concentration camps. When after the world war they relocated themselves in different parts of the world, they went with their knowledge and innovations which brought a lot of prosperity around the globe. Another example of it can be AIDS which spread through relocation diffusion as disease is carried by one person who migrates to another society with having a different culture.

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Now as diffusion is discussed at length, we now see that whether cultural imperialism can be established through cultural diffusion? Yes to some extent I would agree to it because in international business when there is trade and goods flow from one place to another, it not only takes a new product across the borders but also takes its culture to another place. In other words level of diffusion depends on the factors discussed above and also on a culture being strong as to the culture where it is being diffused as being weak (Hobson, 2010). Like for example the trend of suits around the world, from where it came? It came and assimilated in our culture because it was being followed by a strong culture or in cultural hearth which is American and Europe and from there it diffused to all parts of the world. Men’s formal suiting’s, as we all know, have such an importance that now if a south Korean business tycoon needs to do a deal with his Indian counterpart to open up a microchip factory in Delhi, they would be following their own business rules and formalities but their attire would be formal and would follow the strong culture’s dress code which is to have a formal dress suit. Moreover the casual dress in China, a decade ago was not jeans and a tee shirt but now they have taken the affect of American culture as it diffused into their society but why? Because more than 70 percent of China’s trade is bound for America so Chinese have adopted some practices of American culture which shows us that yes there is diffusion of culture but that does not proves cultural imperialism at any point; people went towards tee shirts and jeans because they were easier to handle, according to the young generation, as compare to traditional safari suits for men and traditional Chinese for women. Apart from this, cultural diffusion does not reflect cultural imperialism for example whole world is following more or less same accounting principles so the rules of debit and credit are same so to imply that it is a product of a particular nation or it is a part of any culture would be a gross mistake. Yes it’s true that methods of accounting were first brought up by Chinese but significant changes were made throughout.


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