Is globalisation a form of ‘Americanisation’?

Globalisation is an umbrella term for a complex series of economic, social, technological and political changes seen as increasing interdependence and interaction between people and companies in disparate locations since the 1980s. This has replaced the “billiard-ball model” with a “cobweb model” as states become increasingly interdependent. There are also broader cultural, political and environmental dimensions of globalisation. Critics of globalisation say this is spreading US domination around the globe and as a result has created a global monoculture which benefits US interests. However, hyper globalists argue this has benefited multiple countries and has positively created a borderless world, supported by liberals who suggest this has improved international relations. 

The USA has the worlds’ largest economy and they still remain a global hegemon even though their share of the global economy has fallen. As a result, they have a national interest in encouraging economic globalisation. The conditions known as the “Washington Consensus” for countries to participate in economic globalisation are set by America. They encourage economic liberalism, for example, states are coerced into accepting neo-classical economic policies such as free trade, reduced government spending and higher taxes, which forces states to open their markets. Furthermore, states are losing their authority to quasi-governments in order to reduce their international debt to Western states and institutions such as The World Bank and the IMF, which themselves are US- dominated who can promise foreign direct investment but at a price.

Globalisation cannot be simply seen as Americanisation in disguise as it benefits all the countries that participate in it. Since the 1990s, globalisation has benefited emerging powers such as China, which by 2025 is projected to overtake the USA in economic terms, as they  are neck on neck in the share of world GDP (China has a 1% larger share than America in total world GDP), and China overtaking America in trade and foreign investment.  For example, the meeting between the Chief of Alibaba and the economic club of New York was symbolic of a change in the worlds’ economic order. China have arguably bucked the trend by not entirely following the doctrines of economic liberalism and they have still been able to participate in globalisation. However, one of the reasons China is being held back from setting the worlds’ trade and finance is arguably because of the lack of democracy and rule of law, which are American values. This is evidence to show how Americanisation is needed in order for countries to fully participate in economic globalisation. Furthermore, it can be argued that America uses globalisation to secure absolute power by using coercion, setting rules and loyalties. For example although America does not ‘run’ India, its’ economy is heavily affected by it, technology and pharmaceuticals are India’s two leading industries and they are subject to America’s rules.

Globalisation can be considered as a new way to sustain American dominance in the world, and one way this is carried out is via Cultural globalisation. Cultural globalisation is closely linked to the spread of ‘Americanisation’, in that a large proportion of global goods, films, television programmes and global celebrities are American in origin. This is true to the news industry which arguably have a ‘first world outlook’ as they mainly report on events in the western world, showing them in a positive light, and when reports are made of  developing world it promotes the stereotype that the developing world is uncivilised and dependent on western countries such as the USA for their survival. Conversely, postmodernists argue that companies such as Al Jazeera give alternative views and a more accurate picture of the world today. Globalisation has threatened authentic local cultures by imposing American values on the rest of the world. This is evident in what Thomas Friedman has described Globalisation to be,”…Globalisation is in so many ways Americanisation: globalisation wears Mickey Mouse ears, it drinks Pepsi and Coke, eats Big Macs, does its computing on an IBM laptop with Windows 98.” For example, McDonalds are present in 119 countries to date. The spread of American values via TNCs such as Mcdonalds has arguably caused cultural homogenisation. Furthermore, images and institutions and the change in economic activity, moving towards globalised services, has allowed the US to exert its’ dominance. Cultural globalisation has even affected Chinese societies despite the efforts of governments to prevent the spread of western values in China. The spread of American values across the world has been sped up by Globalisation but has improved international relations by spreading democracy.

Another reason which suggests globalisation does not always benefit US interests, is that it can also have a negative impact on the US. The US version of globalisation has been revealed as unsustainable by the global financial crisis of 2007-08, badly damaging, for example, the status of the dollar and the relative strength of the US economy. After the event Obama made it clear that he wants other countries to raise their standards of labour, environmental and intellectual-property protection so that American companies will be able to compete on a level playing field. This shows how, although America may dominate the process of economic globalisation it cannot dominate the outcomes. For example, The Arab spring came out of a process of globalisation as a result of time and space compression allowing members of the public to experience events in real time, it was also encouraged by the increased use of social media. However, America could not determine the outcome of this event and it did not work in their favour. Another example is ISIS, their slick media campaigns and ability to encourage people across the world to join them in fighting, shows that they are another product of globalisation that do not align with America.

In conclusion, it can be argued that globalisation has been used as a tool by America to increase their influence and power in the society today. However, recent events have shown that the consequences of globalisation are not always in the favour of America and so Americanisation is not merely globalisation in disguise.

Pemi Arowojolu

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