Smart Library on Globalization
Topics |  Bibliography |  Authors |  Expert Panel |  Help Print PDF Add
The general process of globalization (including the globalization of law and economic practice) is based on the globalization of culture.

What Is Globalization?

Legal scholar Lawrence M. Friedman argues that the process of globalization is, at bottom, based on the globalization of culture. But what does “globalization” mean?

According to Friedman, “The core meaning [of globalization] reflects a change in scale and in site. The term refers to movement, diffusion and expansion from a local level and with local implications, to levels and implications that are worldwide, or, more usually, that transcend national borders in some way.”

Globalization is about the global movement of people, images, goods and ideas.

What Are Features of Contemporary Cultural Diffusion?

While the transnational diffusion of people, goods and culture is not new, the contemporary nature of the diffusion is different in important ways from early eras:

  • More individual. The migration of groups of people is an ancient occurrence. However, the movement of people in the modern era is characterized more generally by a movement of individuals rather than a movement of groups.
  • More dependent on technologies of communication and transportation. Advances in the technologies of communication and transportation allow individuals to know about far-flung places and opportunities, as well as provide them with efficient ways to get there. It allows people to know, and to some extent be involved in, events occurring around the globe.
  • Does not require physical movement. While the diffusion of ideas, values and practices used to require people to move from one place to another, modern communication technologies like television and the Internet allow individuals to communicate with people, consume goods and culture and participate in global processes without requiring travel.

Even though such things as technologies, migration of individuals and commerce are involved in the process of globalization, culture remains the most important aspect of the process since the other aspects of globalization depend upon the globalization of culture.

The Content of Globalization

While trade and human capital are at the core of globalization, they, in turn, depend on a global culture. Global culture is the “messenger that prepares the way for international trade.” Global culture is to a great extent shaped and disseminated by the American media.

The American media influences global patterns of wants and desires, consumption and hoped-for consumption and the demands for goods and services. Globalizing trade goes beyond a mere transfer of goods. It involves a “globalization of consumption.” People around the world begin to want what Americans want.

How does globalization of consumption come about? Two important media are:

  • Television. Television disseminates largely Western “fashions, images, ideas.” At one point, the most popular television show around the world was Baywatch. In Baywatch “the primary image is of slimness, youth, beauty, free time, enjoyment, and a healthy dash of sex. These TV images are enormously seductive.”
  • Movies. Like television, American movies are another method of diffusing Western culture. Research indicates that in the early 1990s the United States commanded "a staggering 85% of the world's film market, and 90% of the European film market." Why would people outside the U.S. be so drawn to American movies? Friedman thinks that the answer has to be that Americans are good at identifying “what sorts of cultural junk-food people enjoy.”

Who Are the Primary Consumers of Global Culture?

Although many people throughout the world do not have the resources to mimic American tastes, industrialization has caused a world-wide increase in the middle class. The main consumers of this global culture are in this large global middle class. He describes this middle class as “consumers of fun.” This is the brute fact operating as the motor underlying the driving force of the economic aspects of globalization. While not everything American is globalized, when it comes to creating and appealing to middle class tastes, America is dominant.

Is the resemblance of middle class consumption merely a matter of external appearance (for example, middle class Japanese may dress and eat like middle class Americans or French), but does the similarity go deeper? Aren’t Japanese, fundamentally, still Japanese? While cultural differences remain, the similarities of global consumer culture create real and deep similarities. In Friedman’s words, “If you dress modern, eat modern, use modern tools, then you become modern. Your thought processes are, inevitably, altered.”

Data and Methods:

Data Source:

Review of legal research.

Funding Sources:

Not provided.

Full Text Availability:
Not Currently Available

Friedman, Lawrence M. 2001. “Erewhon: The Coming Global Legal Order.” Stanford Journal of International Law 37:347-64.

© Copyright 2018 CLG Portal. All Rights Reserved. Powered by