Loss and Survival in Global Culture
Globalisation has created a world in which many people feel connected, whether that’s through the power of the internet or the ability to travel around the world at their leisure. However, this is not the case for every individual; there are many people who do not have the same capabilities or potential as the rest of the world. Mainly third world countries such as parts of Africa, Latin and South America and parts of Asia could be regarded as ‘losers’ in the globalised world, missing out on some of the benefits that come with globalisation. According to the Global Internet Report 2014, conducted by the Internet Society (2014), in some places such as Somalia, Niger and Madagascar, less than 5% of the populations have access to the internet, which compared with the United States there is approximately 85% internet penetration; this is seriously concerning in terms of equality. What is clear is the United States and countries such as the United Kingdom, China, and Japan have all benefitted greatly from globalisation. Huge corporations such as McDonalds have taken advantage of opportunities arising from the globalised world; they are the ‘winners’ of globalisation and continue to reap the financial benefits.
In a globalised world shrouded in consumerism, when it comes down to who wins and who loses, the big corporations and conglomerates such as McDonalds, Disney and the Murdoch Empire, thrive. Their success is fundamentally linked to their economic stability and potential and McDonalds has found a way to adapt in order to survive the harsh markets of different countries. With the ability to transport their goods to far corners of the planet, McDonalds has increased its potential target market exponentially.
By allowing their management teams to adapt company policy and make important changes to their menu, they have become both a global and local company at the same time. Communication technologies as well as the facility to travel and speak other languages are all benefits of a globalised world which McDonalds have exploited for economic gain.
The advent of the internet enables companies to contact each other and share ideas with other executives instantly, creating a business environment based on communication and equality. Therefore, the issue of distance for a globalised company is eradicated thanks to the advancements in technology. McDonalds has used this to their advantage and have successfully created a company which is economically fruitful in local and global respects. The company’s financial ability to build restaurants all over the world and also transport goods and people, has allowed them to become so successful in a global world.
The homogenisation of our cultures can be seen as both a positive and negative outcome of globalisation; the ‘winners’ have used this to their financial gain. Travel and transport has transformed the consumerist culture, allowing quick and easy access to products, which before globalisation, would have been very difficult. Cuisine and the way we eat our food has altered dramatically, which is another area that companies such as McDonalds have exploited. Malcolm Waters, Professor of Sociology at the University of Tasmania, Australia argues that, ‘the globalization of “McTopia”, a paradise of effortless and instantaneous consumption, is also underpinned by its democratizing effect. It democratizes by de-skilling, but not merely by de-skilling McWorkers but also by de-skilling family domestic labor.’ McDonalds has managed to infiltrate both the restaurant and the takeaway industries. Consumers are enjoying McDonalds in the comfort of their own homes, and as Waters says, ‘de-skilling’ the family providers.
Importantly, this ‘effortless and instantaneous consumption’ is spreading around the world and the Americanized culture of fast food is being adopted in other countries, leading to great success for the market leaders, but it is having negative effects for others. This is also leading to a homogenised food industry; McDonalds adapting their ‘Big Mac’s’ and ‘Double Cheese Burgers’ to suit the needs of the location they are in. This is increasing their consumer market again by appealing to the consumer’s pre-existing familiarity with certain foods as well as introducing their American dishes. McDonalds has become a landmark of many countries, resulting in a decline of alternative and native cultures.
However, although McDonalds is a ‘winner’ in terms of globalisation, this comes at a cost. A 2006 article by John Vidal discusses the impact that large fast food companies are having on the rainforest. ‘The report, published today, follows a 7,000km chain that starts with the clearing of virgin forest by farmers and leads directly to Chicken McNuggets being sold in British and European fast food restaurants.’ He goes on to suggest that, ‘much of the soya animal feed arriving in the UK from Brazil is a product of “forest crime” and that McDonald’s and British supermarkets have turned a blind eye to the destruction of the forest.’ This implies that McDonalds are damaging world resources and perhaps tarnishing their already cloudy reputation as a global fast food chain.
The vast networks in transportation of products which McDonalds uses all over the globe, could be argued to have extremely damaging effects which are increasing climate change. However, at the present time McDonalds seems to be balancing their financial drive with their environmental responsibilities. In the UK, their television advertisements have been focusing on promoting the ‘local’ aspects of the company, sourcing their produce locally and being ‘environmental stewards’ (McDonalds, 2015). Currently, their image is very strong and there is no sign that McDonald’s success is going to be hindered in any way.
Members of the third world have become the ‘losers’ of the globalised world. They are economically and technologically impoverished compared to first world countries. The lack of economic stability and infrastructure has led to the third world lacking in health care and also social development. Compared to the first world, impoverished countries such as parts of Africa have much less chance to travel and develop businesses because they are unable to receive financial backing and loans. Goldin & Reinert – 2012, suggest that ‘poverty is, to an important extent, a poverty of learning, and any improvement in the way globalization benefits poor people will involve supporting poor peoples’ learning in multiple realms.’ This is linked to the concept of the digital divide between the first world and the third world, in which technology, and in turn education, becomes difficult and not equal to the rest to the world. Globalisation, in its nature should be a promoter of an equal and fairer social culture; however, this is not the case because of the financial imbalance between the countries. Interestingly, Jan Aart Scholte of the University of Warwick, points out that ‘a computer costs the average Bangladeshi eight years’ wages, whereas the average American can purchase the equipment with one month’s income’.
This statistic is shocking, and it demonstrates that globalisation has only happened for those who are in financial or political positions of power. As a result of this financial inequality, the third world is seen to be the ‘loser’ of globalisation, and some people could suggest that they are not a participant at all, with many first world citizens turning a blind eye to the struggles which face others in part of the world.
Companies such as Apple and Microsoft, huge global companies, create ‘needs’ to make people want to buy their products. They create desire by fabricating a reason for you to spend hundreds of pounds on products which enhance your life for short periods of time, until they can create a new product which ‘seems’ even better than the previous model. This is how the global affects the local, by creating needs which replace existing traditions, activities or products. What is evident is that money creates opportunities for the powerful companies of the first world to influence what happens in the smallest of communities, but this creates disequilibrium between societies, leading to the divide in equality between the first and third worlds.
In contrast, the local can sometimes rebel against the global powers of consumerist forces, and keep their traditions and culture untarnished by the McDonaldization of the world. However, even some of the most remote places have still been influenced by the ideologies of the Americanised world. For example, the food industry is constantly adapting and collectivising many cultures and cuisines. With the impact of consumerism, cuisines, especially delicacies from remote countries, are making their way into wide ranges of cultures. This is the ‘homogenising’ effect of globalisation, and in the opinion of many, for the third world countries whose traditions are being consumed by the millions of first world citizens, this is at a loss to their heritages.
The effects of globalisation have created a divide of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in a world which is trying to achieve equality. What is clear is that capital is equal to success and that the digital and economic divides are affecting the world’s population in the same ways, by creating poverty in education and basic human rights. It is also important to note that the Americanization and McDonaldization of the world has created benefits for some and serious detriments for many, including deforestation and climate change. From this, it could be argued that no matter who ‘wins’, whether that is financially, technologically or socially, there are losses and negative impacts of globalisation on the planet. Importantly, in order to close the gap between societies, there needs to be a collective effort for the spreading of capital across all nations and countries, to help those in need and to create equality.