Mix, Flux and Flows: The Globalization of Culture and Its Implications for Management and Organizations

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Globalization has increasingly come to be viewed as a multi-dimensional phenomenon, encompassing not only economic elements but a number of non-economic aspects as well. This article, accordingly, focuses on the cultural dimension of globalization, a topic that has remained relatively under-researched in business scholarship thus far. The article begins by briefly outlining the concept of culture, and then provides an overview of certain important features of cultural globalization in the contemporary world. Thereafter, the paper examines some of the key debates and discussions surrounding the phenomenon of cultural globalization. Finally, implications of cultural globalization for management and organizations are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

Globalization, commonly understood as a complex and accelerating process of interaction, integration, and growing mutual interdependence across large sections of the world, is an extensively discussed topic today, boasting of a significant scholarly as well as popular literature (Friedman, 2005; Held & McGrew, 2003; Jones, 2003; Parker, 1996, 2003; Prasad & Prasad, 2006; Prestowitz, 2005). Several scholars have drawn attention toward the long history of globalization stretching across centuries and millennia (Curtin, 1984; Frank, 1998), but the contemporary phase of globalization is often viewed as a post- World War II phenomenon that seems to have gained added momentum during the last two-to-three decades or so (Friedman, 2005; Prestowitz, 2005). While it is not unusual for analysts (especially those working within fields like economics, or business and management) to think of globalization as a largely economic process involving growing cross-border interactions and flows in such areas as production of goods and services, finance, and international trade (Govindarajan & Gupta, 2000; Singh, 2005; Stiglitz, 2002), there appears to be an increasing consensus among scholars that globalization is more appropriately viewed as a multi-dimensional phenomenon, encompassing not only economic elements but also cultural, ideological, political, demographic and similar other aspects (Appadurai, 1996; Pieterse, 2004; Prasad & Prasad, 2006). In keeping with the growing multi-dimensional understanding of the phenomenon of globalization, the present article proposes to focus on the cultural aspects of globalization, and to explore some of the implications of cultural globalization for businesses and managements. Cultural analysis and the study of organizational cultures have received the attention of business and management researchers for quite some time (Alvesson, 2002; Deal & Kennedy, 1982; Smircich, 1983). However, the area at the intersection of culture and globalization appears to have remained relatively under-researched within organizational scholarship. Our article attempts to address this lacuna in business and organizational research.

It would appear that any mention of cultural globalization frequently brings up visions of either (a) the somewhat benign and communitarian 'global village' imagined by Marshall McLuhan, or (b) of a relatively menacing cultural imperialism that seemingly threatens the very survival of a variety of different cultures and cultural diversity around the world (cf. Appadurai, 1996; McLuhan & Powers, 1989; Parker, 1996; Tomlinson, 1991). However, it deserves to be emphasized at the very outset here, that such visions are altogether too simplistic and monolithic. Cultural globalization is a much more intricate and heterogeneous process than what would seem to be implied by the aforementioned one-dimensional visions. Hence, in order to develop an adequate understanding of cultural aspects of globalization, we need to comprehend the complex and variegated dynamics that undergird the movement and dispersal of cultural forms and practices across geographical boundaries. Viewed in historical terms, such transfer and interchange of cultural elements across the world is nothing new. …