Global Monoculture

This thread is inspired by the following article:

I’ll start the debate- though the article is somewhat snarky, I think it makes a number of valid points. In particular, that in a free society, consumer choices dictate what products and services are offered in the marketplace. Starbucks can’t force people to go into their stores, so if they are voluntarily going, it must mean that Starbucks is providing something that a segment of the market desires.


That a large portion of society tends towards blandness, mediocrity and conformity comes as no surpise to anyone here. If you want to start a debate though it would be good for you to take some kind of position.

i think television is the biggest problem. all people have fantasies and television can deliver canned fantasies. there was a Scientific American article about television addiction. the biggest problem is kids watching from age 3 seeing commercials designed by psychologists.

see: HIDDEN PERSUADERS by Vance Packard

global television brainwashed neurotic consumerism!

Dal Timgar

On the other hand, all is not roses for the global monsters, since McDonalds obviously isn’t providing what the market desires.

When on a trip, I make it a practice not to eat at any establishment that I could eat at locally. I also try to avoid Wal-Mart as much as possible.

The idea of a global monoculture is as likely to happen as is the return to past cultures. One reason the French get so upset with the idea is that they used to be the ones that were doing the influencing and they have lost most of that influence. William the Conquerer started it, Peter the Great helped it along and Napoleon did his part. Then came Waterloo. :rolleyes:

I think it’s asanine to say that Europeans and Arabs hate us because of Starbucks.

I think people exagerate the benefits of the local mom & pop store.

There is plenty of room for small stores that provide specialized services.

Big chain stores don’t provide the same product in every locations. For example, there are something like 50 formulas for Coca Cola sold in diferent locations throughout the world.

Well, I think the article’s point was that Starbucks is being used as an example of a kind of overweening U.S. cultural hegemony that is wiping out local culture. Hollywood films are shown in France, and the French film industry suffers. German television carries reruns of “Friends.” Starbucks displaces Swiss and Austrian coffeehouses, and thanks to McDonalds, the Barcelona restauranteur has to close up. There is a cadre of people who believe that U.S. corporations expanding abroad are obliterating rich cultural traditions that are otherwise irreplaceable, and that a “fair trade” arrangement would preserve these cultural traditions and keep out the American cultural hegemonic influences. I was kind of curious as to how many of those people are floating around on this Board, which is why I started the thread, in part.

Well, the only reason I ate at McDonald’s in Moscow was that they were the only place one could buy anything at all to eat at 11 pm if one didn’t want to spend $40 and several hours in a fancy, surreal Russian restaurant. That, and my Russian boyfriend convinced me I should, just for the sheer camp value of getting a Happy Meal printed in Cyrillic. (He, a Ph.D. historian and employee of the Russian Academy of Sciences, spent much of our brief stay there arguing with the cashier, because he wanted the Happy Meal with the helicopter in it.)

I would actually have been much happier to eat some actual Russian food, but there was nowhere reasonably quick and cheap to do so. So yeah, I believe that cultural diversity is a good thing in general, but in order for it to be maintained, sometimes it has to adapt.

*Originally posted by jeevmon *
Well, I think the article’s point was that Starbucks is being used as an example of a kind of overweening U.S. cultural hegemony that is wiping out local culture.

Does the American music industry suffer because of U2, Shakira or The Beatles?

Starbucks and McDs cater to a specific market and its ridiculous to think that they will drive out every other competing business. There are McDonalds in New York City, right next to a dozen other restaurants and delis.

Some people don’t like change.

Companies market to what people want. If people were so nostalgic over the old mom and pop cofee shops, they wouldn’t go to Starbucks. Sombody must like having them around.

The idea of global monoculture is absolutely ridiculous.

I see people living in New York that are in the largest single melting pot in the world, and I am up to my ears in diversity.

Society has always had a merging of cultures, for as long as there has been migration and people learning new languages. It only enriches us to come closer together as a world.

If cultural traditions are wiped out, then obviously they weren’t important enough to people to keep around, and SHOULD be thrown out. I mean jesus, how important is it if some specific kind of parade performed in a specific type of lederhosen stops happening? All it is, is sounds and colors, and the entire world has more access to more different types of sounds and colors than at any time in history. Culture is extraordinarily complex now, and there is much to be found among it. In fact, other than pizza, I have to seek out American food specifically to eat it.

When Le Cirque goes out of business because of the McDonald’s that moved in next door, I’ll start to worry, until then I’ll lose respect for anyone that worries about the monoculture in the future. Things change, it’s the way the world works, get used to it and move on. America is changed just as much by it’s forays into the rest of the world, as the rest of the world is changed by America’s entrance.

I think America’s “monoculture” has allowed for the mainstreamization of ideas such as “not all people resembling our enemies are our enemies” anyone remember how much anyone who agreed with communism was considered an enemy? These days, we understand that not all muslims are our enemies, even though we were attacked by muslims. Fear of a corporate monoculture is just anti-Americanism.

We export our culture, if you don’t want it, stop paying for it and we’ll stop exporting it.


This ‘global monoculture’ arm-waving is driven entirely by the protectionist instinct. The U.S. is not innocent of it but many European nations can be quite zealous about it.

Although many Americans visit southwest Ireland, I recently did not see Starbucks and only saw one McDonald’s. No chain establishments were seen on the Dingle peninsula. I did observe many Shell and Texaco gas stations.

Okay, something I can sink my teeth into.

I don’t think the threat of monoculture is to big cities but to small ones. Neighborhood coffee shops, delis and grocery stores thrive in NYC but they are being crushed in small towns. The chanins drive out independant book shops, restaurants and stores. Having a Wal-Mart come to town is the death knell for independant retailers and grocery stores.

Ya it really sucks having one large store where you can find so many things and for such good prices. Wal-Mart built it’s entire empire on the premise that this did not suck; the market rewarded Wal-Mart by proving them right. Sorry, but I have trouble getting swept away in the romantic notion that smaller, independent = better.

Easy to say if you aren’t a small town merchant whose business was killed by a Wal-Mart in a nearby town.

Shell, of course, is owned by the Dutch, not by Americans. When I was in England I was amused when people ranted about Burger King as an American influence, when, at the time, BK was owned by the British conglomerate Diageo. <shrug>

This worrying about the global monoculture is not too different from the idea that there is a group somewhere that controls the whole world through the World Bank and Federal Reserve. I believe the Masons are involved in the whole conspiracy.

One reason that this is happening is because of the increase of communication and transportation. When I was a kid many things that are available year round today, were only available seasonally. Oranges, tomatoes, apples, etc. Home cooking was done at home. My great grandmother in California lived in a different world. People like to say it was a simplier world and that is right. For us today it would be boring. If you are willing to give up your cell phone, sending faxes, driving on expressways, watching TV and starting to squeeze your own orange juice, that is what it will take to slow down global monoculture.

:wink: [sup]I thought so.[/sup]

Well, mechanical looms also killed the business of cloth weavers. But it resulted in cheaper and higher quality cloth for consumers. If consumers value a broad selection of products at discounted prices, and the small town merchant can’t or won’t provide it, then he will naturally lose business to someone (i.e. Wal-Mart) who will. The consumers in his area do not benefit from having a limited selection and higher prices, even if the merchant does. And the economy is not run or should not be run for the benefit of merchants of any size. It is run for the benefit of consumers. Yes, the market is a terrible way to allocate goods and services, except for every other method that has been tried. And part of the consequence of having a market economy is that there are economic competitors who go out of business.

Like in the sense that democracy is a terrible way to run a govt. but it’s the best way we have? There really aren’t many other good ways to allocate goods and services without a market system. Not in a large scale society anyway.

jeevmon handled this perfectly IMO, can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Protectionist policies often come to pass due to the very point you bring up. An objective analysis would show you that the net benefit to the consumers will outweigh the losses taken by the less efficient nearly everytime. But the consumers are diffuse whereas those who stand to lose know who they are and will likely vote that way.

That’s because the market follows the natural order of things, and not some propped up idealistic system that is impractical.