Global America? The Cultural Consequences of Globalization

By Ulrich Beck; Natan Sznaider et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
Global Media, Cultural Change and the
Transformation of the Local:
The Contribution of Cultural Studies
to a Sociology of Hybrid Formations
Rainer Winter

To the memory of Karl Hornung (1903–1971)

The US-dominated mass culture is mainly viewed in a negative light. From time to time, it is even damned apocalyptically as one of the principal threats to modern society. Looking at it in this way, mass culture can cause conformity, passivity, political apathy, racism and violence. The globalization of products, coming primarily from the USA, is said to bring about the creation of a standardized and stereotyped culture by spreading the same ideas and myths across the world. This is emphasized by the process within the culture industry of focusing on American lifestyles, which are offered as a model for self-presentation to the entire world. Beyond this, it is said that the worldwide diffusion of mass culture is destroying the uniqueness of regional cultures. As far as Europe is concerned, according to Stefan Müller-Doohm in his overview of this pessimistic evaluation, this is destroying the broad base of the European culture of Enlightenment, whose place is being taken by the internationally standardized mass production of popular culture (Müller-Doohm 1993: 593ff).

New theoretical works and empirical investigations contradict this understanding of popular culture as mass culture, which was largely marked by a nostalgic understanding of the modern age. My thesis is that the current global media culture cannot be adequately understood within this negative framework. It loses sight of the dynamism, differentiation and pluralization of popular culture spread by the media as well as the practices and productivity of the consumers. Recent works emphasize that global culture is not simply a standardized culture across the world (cf. Featherstone 1995; Kellner 1995; Winter 1995; Tomlinson 1999; Lull 2001). They point out that consumption

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