After World War II, some ambitious leaders advocated the establishment of an effective mechanism to stabilize the world order. One of the ways to maintain the international order is to prevent the disintegration of the world economy (Seitz, 1995, p. 26). Under such a background, the World Trade Organization (WTO) was founded, and then accelerated the development of economic globalization. As there is an inseparable relationship between economy and culture, the more the trend of economic globalization accelerates, the faster the trend of various culture globalization blends (Seitz, 1995, p. 7). Collisions between various cultures may have different consequences. Some scholars think that the long-term results of culture clash might lead to homogenization of cultures, which means people become the same as the dominant culture, such as sharing the same education structures, music, beliefs, and consumer values (Berry, 2008, p. 328). This essay will examine the degree to which globalization assimilates the cultures in different ethnical groups. Culture is constantly changing and developmental, which is influenced by two factors, the natural environment and the social environment.
The natural environment with a limited and gradual impact on culture is relatively stable. Social changes are the most direct and frequent factor leading to the changes in trends or conditions. For example, the West Indies, which under the colonial rule of European for a long time, and the religions and values were both effected by dominative groups that means mainstream cultures (Berry, 2008, p. 330). In the time of peace, investing or trading with different countries, touring or studying in various places, can manifest the phenomenon of cultural transmission.
With the deepening of economic globalization, these activities become more frequent, different cultures also have a higher and deeper level of mutual contacts. Therefore, a complex situation might be formed, which means there is likely to form four possible consequences, assimilation, integration, separation and marginalization (Berry, 2008, p. 332). One of the possibilities is that the cultural homogenization might be formed owing to the expansion of globalization (Berry, 2008, p. 332).
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The phenomenon refers to one culture, which is under the penetration of another culture, and then gradually lost its original characteristics to assimilate to the dominant culture. Assimilative culture often seems as an advanced culture or a strong culture; conversely, another culture that is assimilated by the advantaged one might be called a backward culture or a weak culture. An example can be seen in this case, the Soviet Union, which was one of the largest and most powerful nation states, and played a significant role in the movement of globalization.
The language, social structure, religious values and economic policies of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (which were merged by Soviet Union) were highly influenced and dominated by Russian cultural features. However, nearly 15 years later, the politics, culture and economy of Estonia resurged (Berry, 2008, pp. 332-333). It can be said that globalization leads to the cultural homogenization to some extent. Even if under the rule of the powerful nation, the indigenous culture might still be back after the independence.
Another possibility is the integration of different cultures, which is a diversified phenomenon by participating fully into the dominant society that may lead to some shared values and features, while keeping their own distinctive cultures (Berry, 2008, p. 332). For example, McDonald's, which is one of the most successful international food service organizations, has fully realized that it is essential to adapt to the local cultures and obtain understanding and recognition of local consumers to survive in foreign markets (Peng, 2009, p. 19).
In particular, McDonald’s in China has promoted special Chicken Nuggets and Chinese rice catering to local dietary habits of consumers. It seems that the taste of the food in McDonald’s is nearly the same around the world, no matter in America, Spain or China. The difference is the various cultures in different countries. McDonald's will introduce new products in some certain areas according to different national consumer taste, preference and legal, religious and local habits of customs (Watson, 2000, p. 125-132). What is more, this phenomenon enriches the connotation of the culture, and increases the diversity of people's consumer choice.
Integration of cultures might be the most beneficial to the improvement of countries. The combination of two different societies is likely to create a new culture, which may absorb the advantages of traditional culture and foreign cultures, thus it will bring the innovation and development of societies. The last two possibilities that exist in the process of globalization are called separation and marginalization. Separation means that the non-dominant groups retain their original conditions and refuse to converge with other dominant cultures.
Marginalization refers to a process of being outside the dominant society and meanwhile losing their own cultures (Berry, 2008, p. 332). There is an example that comes from a survey about immigrant youth, which was conducted by Berry, Phinney, Sam and Veder in 2006. There is 7997 adolescents (5366 immigrant youth and 2631 national youth respectively) in this survey, the statistics indicated that 975 adolescents showed a strong sense of consciousness to support their own ethnic group by using their own ethnic language fluently, keeping in touch with ethnic peers, and holding a high ethnic identity.
These behaviours reflect that the adolescents are not likely to involve into the major society, as they hold an attitude separate to the dominant culture (Berry, 2008, p. 334). On the contrary, the other 973 youth who were in the status of marginalization showed low ethnic identity, low fluency in ethnic language, and fewer contacts with the national peers. However, they endorsed the acculturation attitudes of assimilation, marginalization and separation, which were contradictory.
Although these youth tend to join into the dominant society, they lack some necessary abilities to communicate with dominative people (Berry, 2008, p. 335). It might be said that they are lost in the two or more different societies, a certain direction could be effective so that they can feel a sense of presence. In conclusion, according to Berry (2008), globalization may have four possible consequences: assimilation, integration, separation and marginalization. These four outcomes are likely to influence the process of societies between different countries.
Social change and development may not lead to the destruction of ethnic or local culture completely. Even when the different cultures integrate, new culture also can retain features of traditional or ethnic culture to a certain degree. But, these changes do not imply the assimilation of cultures influenced by globalization to a great extent. Conversely, as time goes on, cultural differences between various ethnic groups will be gradually reduced, but will not disappear. Therefore, globalization may bring homogenization to cultures to a small extent, but the non-dominative cultures still might be preserved.
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