Teaching Social Studies in Virtual Space/Cultural Anthropology/Cultural Imperialism/g2

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Group 2: American Cultural Imperialism[edit]

Directions: Divide the work up between your group members and remember to cite your sources.

What are some possible examples of American cultural imperialism?[edit]

American cultural imperialism—roughly—takes on two structural forms: active and passive cultural imperialism. Passive cultural imperialism is a softer than the more direct, active cultural imperialism and, as such, requires that “the receiving culture adopts the foreign values without perceiving the fact that they are, in fact, becoming slaves of a foreign culture.” Examples of passive American cultural imperialism include (but are not limited to) the wide array of consumer products available around the world: e.g. McDonalds, Disney, Hollywood, and the values perpetuated on American television. Active cultural imperialism is one nation’s direct control over another whereby the dominant nation’s culture is reproduced in the less-dominant culture by active force. Examples of active American cultural imperialism are the conquering of Indigenous peoples in the America’s by European settlers, the foreign policy of the U.S. which promotes neo-liberal economic policies, and the military and economic consequences the U.S. imposes upon nations who are not receptive to the global agenda of the United States. A large gray area exists between passive and active cultural imperialism. Should Peace Corps volunteers and Christian missionaries be considered active or passive imperialists? http://www.tbsjournal.com/Archives/Spring01/white.html

What is Consumerism?[edit]

Consumerism is a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts. The term is often associated with criticisms of consumption starting with Thorstein Veblen. Veblen's subject of examination, the newly emergent middle class arising at the turn of the twentieth century, comes to full fruition by the end of the twentieth century through the process of globalization.[1]

Globally, there are wide inequalities among consumers. In 2005, the world’s wealthiest 20% consumed 76.6% of the total private consumption. In comparison, the world’s poorest 20% consumed 1.5%. More specifically, the resource consumption for the world’s richest fifth can be seen below:

  • Consume 45% of all meat and fish, the poorest fifth 5%
  • Consume 58% of total energy, the poorest fifth less than 4%
  • Have 74% of all telephone lines, the poorest fifth 1.5%
  • Consume 84% of all paper, the poorest fifth 1.1%
  • Own 87% of the world’s vehicle fleet, the poorest fifth less than 1%[2]
What is Dependency Theory?[edit]

Dependency theory is a body of social science theories that are grounded in the idea that resources from impoverished, underdeveloped countries are removed and used by wealthy “core” countries, increasing the wealth of the wealthy states while exploiting the poor states. Developed in reaction to modernization theory, dependency theory first gained popularity in the late 1950’s.[3]

The basic premises of dependency theory include:

  1. Poor countries provide natural resources, cheap labor, and markets for wealthier countries, without these, the latter could not enjoy the standards of living that they do.
  2. Wealthy nations work to keep poorer countries in a state of dependence through a variety of means, including debt accumulation, political influence and media control.
  3. Poor countries are not “behind” or “catching up” to wealthy countries. They are poor because they were “coercively integrated into the European economic system only as producers of raw materials or to serve as repositories of cheap labor, and were denied the opportunity to market their resources in any way that competed with dominant states.”
  4. When impoverished countries do try to counter the effects of exploitative wealthier states, their attempts are actively resisted through economic sanctions and military force.[4]
How might the theories dependency and consumerism interact? Explain why this interaction might happen.[edit]

Dependency theory serves to promote inequality amongst global consumers. Consumerism creates unequal conditions in which the world’s wealthiest exploit the most impoverished. Thus, dependency theory and consumerism work in tandem to keep the wealthy on top and the poor at the bottom.