Thinking about globalization:
- is there a single global culture or many varieties of global culture?
- how does localization take place?
- what is the impact to local communities of globalization?
What does globalization look like? McDonald’s?
- Global village idea, from modernization theory (Coca-Cola’s early understanding of globalization); this is “globalism” (international, between nations; transnational means crossing national boundaries, multinational means located in more than one nation, globalization emphasizes the interconnectedness of local societies throughout the world;)
- Is there one homogenous global culture? Or are there increasingly heterogenous local cultures? Increasing interconnectedness of local cultures through transnational flows of media, people, commodities, and practices is causing social shifts and cultural dislocation
McDonald’s as the symbol of globalization
- 1955; Ray Kroc opened first restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois, and created the McDonald’s Corporation; buys all rights to McD’s concept from the McDonald’s for US$ 2.7 million
- In 1990, there were 11,803 restaurants worldwide; by 2007, there were 31,377 restaurants worldwide (from Watson article and 2007 McD’s annual report)
- Critique of McDonalds (and there are many): cultural imperialism (form of exploitation from the export of US, European, and Japanese culture to other parts of the world, Watson 1997:5)
- José Bové’s 1999 bulldozing of a McDonalds in Millau, France made him a central figure in the anti-globalization movement
Main points from Watson’s article
- Local aspects of transnational companies – 2/3 of McDonald’s restaurants are franchised, meaning that they are licensed from McD’s corporation by local companies
- Importance of children as consumers in East Asia
- Issue of standardization of taste, modified menus, local tastes
- Industrialization of food
- McDonaldization vs. localization
Thinking Quote: Cultural Imperialism
“Theorists who write about cultural imperalism argue that it is the domination of popular culture – rather than outright military or political control – that matters most in the postmodern, postsocialist, postindustrial world. … The cultural message we transmit through Hollywood and McDonald’s goes out across the world to capture, and also to undermine, other societies … Unlike more traditional conquerors, we are not content merely to subdue others: We insist that they be like us” (Watson 1997:5; remember our “jihad vs. McWorld discussion”).
Thinking Quote: Globalization, Popular Culture and the Family
“In response to these changes [from rising incomes] a new family structure has emerged, one that focuses on the needs and aspirations of the conjugal unit, the married couple. Conjugality brings with it an entire set of attitudes and practices that undermine older assumptions regarding the meaning of life” (Watson 1997:15-16).
Thinking Quote: Culture Producers?:
“As Robert Kwan, Managing Director of McDonald’s in Singapore, puts it: “McDonald’s sells … a system, not products.” The aim is to create a standardized set of items that taste the same in Singapore, Spain, and South Africa… McDonalds may not be able to control the taste responses of individual consumers, but it can make the experience of eating relatively predictable” (Watson 1997:21-22; how does this fit in with our discussions throughout the term of culture)
Thinking Quote: Global or Local?
“It therefore comes as a shock to many Americans when they travel abroad for the first time and discover that public friendliness is not the universal norm. In fact, the human smile – a complex alignment of facial muscles – is not always interpreted as a symbol of congeniality, openness, or honesty; quote the opposite is often true. In Russia, a visible smile can be tantamount to a challenge.” (Watson 1997:31)
Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic
Zhang Jinghong’s ethnography on tea is what she calls a ‘cultural biography’ (from Arjun Appadurai): an examination of the politics linking a commodity’s value and exchange to its detailed social biography (Zhang 2014, 9). This is currently a popular genre not only in anthropology but in popular non-fiction – commodity books that focus on one popularly consumed product (coffee, bananas, etc.).
Puer tea (sometimes also anglicized as pu’er) should be understood in the same vein as wine in American culture, where purists compare Columbia Valley vs. Napa Valley vs. Finger Lakes; or from my perspective, the search for the answer to the eternal question, Pat’s or Geno’s:
In transforming the market for Puer tea, both producers and consumers relied on the symbolic meanings of the tea as marketing device (for producers) and as explanations for consumption (by users). Zhang will be looking at how these symbolic meanings are produced:
These symbolic meanings are strategically inherited from those applied to Chinese tea generally over a long period of time; more importantly, the construction and application of these symbolic meanings is taking place at a critical moment in China’s transformation in politics, economics, and consumer culture. The Puer tea fad symbolically represents multiple desires that contrast the past with the present, as well as different places and actors. (Zhang 2014, 17)
Why is tea a crucial commodity in China? In addition to everyday individual consumption, tea is served to guests for hospitality and is essential in managing social relations, given as a gift. In Chinese religious practices, it can also be used to negotiate between the mundane and the sacred. Traditionally, tea drinking was seen as high culture among Chinese literati elite, as depicted in poetry, calligraphy, painting. Today, people talk about the health aspects of drinking tea – (especially when contrasted with alcohol consumption). Remember our reading of Sidney Mintz’s article on sugar (as fuel for the industrial revolution) – tea was the drink that launched the merchant fleets who created an empire where the sun never set. For Zhang, “the symbolic meanings of tea in China are actually generated by both conscious and unconscious representations, and naturalized by the strength of contributions from both folk and elite culture”(Zhang 2014, 19). She summarizes part of what constructs the symbolic meaning of tea (in China) are four desires – the desire to become wealthy, to live healthy, to revive the past, and to find authenticity. To help explain this, she further introduces a Chinese term 江湖 jianghu – literally meaning rivers and lakes, this idea is a cultural metaphor for the borderlands: a space located between utopia and reality, a space for self-reliance/self-discovery, a space with competing social groups/disciplines.