Creative Destruction

Creative Destruction

Creative Destruction

Creative Destruction


A Frenchman rents a Hollywood movie. A Thai schoolgirl mimics Madonna. Saddam Hussein chooses Frank Sinatra's "My Way" as the theme song for his fifty-fourth birthday. It is a commonplace that globalization is subverting local culture. But is it helping as much as it hurts? In this strikingly original treatment of a fiercely debated issue, Tyler Cowen makes a bold new case for a more sympathetic understanding of cross-cultural trade. "Creative Destruction brings not stale suppositions but an economist's eye to bear on an age-old question: Are market exchange and aesthetic quality friends or foes? On the whole, argues Cowen in clear and vigorous prose, they are friends. Cultural "destruction" breeds not artistic demise but diversity.

Through an array of colorful examples from the areas where globalization's critics have been most vocal, Cowen asks what happens when cultures collide through trade, whether technology destroys native arts, why (and whether) Hollywood movies rule the world, whether "globalized" culture is dumbing down societies everywhere, and if national cultures matter at all. Scrutinizing such manifestations of "indig


Haitian music has a strong presence in French Guiana, Dominica, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and St. Lucia—the smaller Caribbean markets. Many Antillean musicians have resented the Haitian suc- cess, even though they derived many musical ideas from the Haitian style of compas (pronounced “comb-pa”). the founder of Kassav, the leading Antillean group in the funky style of zouk, stated: “It’s this Haitian imperialism [i.e., the popularity of the groups] that we were rising against when we began Kassav.” Governments re- sponded with protective measures to limit the number of Haitian bands in the country. Ironically, Antillean zouk now has penetrated Haiti. Haitian musicians resent the foreign style, although like their Antillean counterparts they do not hesitate to draw on its musical innovations. Haiti’s compas style was originally a modified version of Cuban dance music and Dominican merengue.

The Canadian government discouraged the American book-su- perstore Borders from entering the Canadian market, out of fear that it would not carry enough Canadian literature. Canadians subsidize their domestic cinema and mandate domestic musical content for a

On these episodes, see Guilbault (1993, chap. 5).

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