Chapter 16

Globalization and Consumer Culture


The world is increasingly connected by global processes. More and more local practices are motivated by distant events and have antipodal consequences. Although many of these global processes are uneven, contingent and contradictory, the economic and political interconnections are indisputable; as are the mass migrations of people, goods and especially information. While none 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 remains open as to whether this constitutes a global culture. The theme of this chapter is that to the extent that 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 instances where globalization’s basic definition is agreed on. The debate continues as to the underlying cause of globalization: whether it is a result of modernity (Giddens 2000), capitalism (Wallerstein 1991), technological progress (Rosenau 2003) or political power (Gilpin 1987), to name a few of the usual suspects. In addition, its strength is still hotly disputed (Hirst and Thompson 1996). Nevertheless, all of these points can be left unresolved for this chapter. No matter its birth date, its cause or even whether it exists yet in any strong sense, we can still ask questions about the form that a global culture may ...

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