Does globalisation lead to homogeneity?

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Does the globalization process always produce a homogenizing of human experience around the world?

A simplistic view could be one you would take if you arrived in Japan or Thailand and saw young people wearing jeans using iPads while eating hamburgers and drinking cokes — that they have culturally become Europeans or Americans. However you may later discover that McDonald’s is not the same everywhere “In the Philippines you can order a McSpaghetti, in Thailand a pork burger with chili and basil, in India a Maharaja MacMutton burger, in Japan a teriyaki burger, in Norway a salmon burger, in Uruguay an egg burger” [Larsson, 2001]

It is important to focus on what is meant by globalisation and the “homogenisation of human experience”. We tend to think of globalisation as occurring recently but there has been transnational trade in thriving civilisations in the Andes, in West Africa, in the Arab world, in India and in China — think of the Silk Route. Also there have been advances in communication technology— a 100 years ago we thought that radio and TV were very fast and 50 years before that there was the telegraphy-system and a 100 years before that we were thinking that newspapers were an incredible phenomenon. At each stage there were predictions about loss of cultural diversity being brought about by the technology.

Contemporary globalisation has two distinctive traits — enhanced communication technology (the Internet) and the global spread of capitalism. Thomas Friedman (2005) described globalisation as an increasingly integrated world market where ‘the playing field had been levelled’ so that companies from India, China, North Atlantic and others could compete with each other with few impediments — the world becoming flat.

Some people regard globalisation as McDonaldisation of the world, a process by which the fast food chain McDonald’s would bring the entire world into its fold. This would include efficiency (time between placing the order and its execution), calculability (easy to calculate the price), predictability (standardised product) and control of the human beings brought through the process [Ritzer,1993] Since the Internet was develop in America, English has become the language of globalisation. For the Internet to work standardisation of processes are required and English is used for the web, for international agreements as well as in shopping malls and hotels. Many computers have only English software and it is the transnational language used in various fields of scientific, cultural, economic and business activities.

So far we have been focusing on the transnational trade and economic activity which can be regarded as the technological aspects of globalisation, but what about the cultural aspects — is it homogenising the human experience? Thomas Larsson (2001) concluded: “The goods may be global, but their meaning is always local. So the Chinese do not cease to be Chinese the moment they get their teeth into an American hamburger.” Adding burgers to the menu will not transform an Athenian cafe into a McDonald’s anymore than adding McGyros makes McDonald’s an Athenian cafe [Volkman, 2006]

The global market accelerates cultural exchange and cultural evolution, the swapping and revising of parts of a tradition adding new colour and character. One’s own culture (the ‘human experience’ of this essay topic) is not static or set permanently in stone but is an ever changing dynamic process of reevaluation in the light of alternative experiences being presented from the global milieu. People want to preserve their roots while at the same time becoming citizens of the global world. The person who becomes truly global is that person who becomes truly individual and centred and grounded in himself. To find your own centre is the challenge of living in a world that is becoming more globalised at every level. Everyone needs to establish their own traditions, their own wisdom their own path through the influences and contacts with the rest of the world.

The dynamics and perceptions of cultures change, for an example, in the 1950’s and 60’s Asia looked up to the United States as a model of modernisation — something to aspire to. Now Asians look at American urban decay, the decline of the family, the drugs and the crime and feel that America is not a very attractive model for them. Communications technology has allowed both Americans and Asians to see each other more clearly, to realise that they have different value systems and to reevaluate their own culture [Fukuyama]

Examples of creative cross-pollinisations, rehybridisation and enhancement are Riverdance and Ashokan FarewellRiverdance is a popularised version of an Irish traditional dance for a global audience without diminishing its depth or meaning. Performances abroad or in Ireland are as pure or impure as ever. External influences continue to be absorbed into the traditional dance and add to its dynamic presence. Ashokan Farewell became famous in the US as the theme song for the PBS Series “The Civil War”. Written by Ungar who sometimes introduces Ashokan Farewell as "a Scottish lament written by a Jewish guy from the Bronx. I lived in the Bronx until the age of sixteen” [Ungar, 2013].  Another example is jazz. Berendt {1964) defines jazz as a "form of art music which originated in the United States through the confrontation of the Negro with European music” and involves "a spontaneity and vitality of musical production with improvisation by the individuality of the performing jazz musician”.

In summary, globalisation does not always produce a homogenisation of the human experience. On the contrary the global market-place of cultures provides opportunities for the cross-pollination and the enrichment of the human experience.


Larsson, T (2001), The race to the top. Cato Institute.

Friedman, T (2005), The World is Flat. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Ritzer, G. (1993) The McDonalization of Society. Thousand Oaks

Volkman, R, (2006) Dynamic Traditions, online at,%20Richard.htm  — accessed on 12.11.2013

Fukuyama, F Economic Globalization and Culture. online at — accessed on 12.11.2013

Ungar, J (2012) Ashokan Farewell online at — accessed on 12.11.2013

Berendt, J. E (1964) The New Jazz Book: a History and Guide, P. Owen At Google Books. Retrieved on 04.08.2013.