Influence of American culture on the rest of the world has always been a very important, yet troublesome issue in world’s social and political reality. Culture consists of some mixture of attitudes, practices, values and beliefs and hidden assumptions that people in common about appropriate behavior (Schein, 1992). Central to the concept of culture is the fact that any culture is goal oriented. These goals are reflected in people’s behaviors, beliefs, life patterns, and hopes.
According to Clifford Geertz (1973), Culture is best seen not as complexes of concrete behavior patterns, customs, usages, traditions, habit clusters, as has been the case up to now, but as a set of control mechanisms; plans, recipes, rules, instructions for governing of behavior. This paper provides a deeper understanding about Americanism and how American culture Influences on the rest of the world. Influence of American Culture
American popular culture spreads like a cancerous sludge across the entire world, eliminating the uniqueness of all cultures. American power and cultural influence are unquestionably at their climax. “Americanism” was recognized even though its acceptance generated a fierce and lengthy debate through modern history. It is defined as a characteristic feature of the United States, and refers to principles and practices inherent to American society and culture.
It refers to processes in which economic, technological, political, social, cultural, and/or sociopsychological influences emanating from America or Americans impinge on values, norms, belief systems, mentalities, habits, rules, technologies, practices, institutions, and behaviors of non-Americans. These diverse influences are conveyed by the import in foreign contexts of products, models, images, ideas, values, ideals, technologies, practices, and behavior originating from, or at least closely associated with, America or Americans.
Core Values of American Culture Before turning attention to forces challenging the core values constituting the American conception of the good life, it may be helpful to examine some of these core values. According to Spindler (1963), the traditional values that make up the core of the Anglo American pattern fall into the following five general categories: (1) Puritan morality, (2) work–success ethic, (3) individualism, (4) achievement orientation, and (5) future-time orientation. Culture Americanization
Non Americans pick and choose what they want from the American cultural repertoire and then turn these borrowings into something of their own. Apparently inspired by the notion of “traveling cultures” as put forward by postmodernist anthropologists like James Clifford, Kroes has suggested that “Americanization” ultimately “should be the story of an American cultural language traveling, and of other people acquiring that language. What they actually say in it, is a different story altogether” (Kroes, 1996).
According to these experts, Americanization is essentially the reception of a cultural language, a set of symbols that Europeans (and other foreigners) within the US cultural orbit have gradually Adopting US formats and models may very well lead to US-inflected changes in local practices and even national identities: “Adaptation, in the form of imitation, runs the risk of advancing rather than resisting Americanization. Mimicking the Americans has made the French more like their New World cousins” (Kuisel, 2003). The Powers in the American Flows
Americanization belongs to the broader category of processes of social change through which a more powerful group or collectivity comes to exercise control over less powerful/subordinate groups or collectivities as we find most markedly in the relationships between colonized people and their colonizers. Take, for example, the context of the Anglicization of Britain’s colonies and other regions under their respective hegemonic influences in the era of European imperialism, or as manifested, in a different way, in the Sovietization of most Central and Eastern European countries in the post-World War II era (Jarausch and Siegrist).
Just as “colonization” has its counterpart, “decolonization,” which refers to “the process by which a territory sheds colonial status and becomes a legally sovereign independent state, recognized as such by other states” (Abernethy, 2000), “Americanization” also has its counterpart, “de-Americanization. ” Although uncommon, the term indicates the process by which a society, sector, or group of people sheds American influences and becomes relatively autonomous vis-a-vis US projection of power.
De Americanization thus refers to the reversal of the flow of power toward a stronger articulation of local identity and powers. Although the term has been employed differently, here de-Americanization refers simply to the decline of Americanism/ American influence in a given foreign context. Current Culture Paradigms of Americanization United States culture influence, the term in its then prevalent, crude version suggested that Americanization should be understood as a process in which a hegemonic America manipulated and ultimately imposed its ways on passive recipients, reducing them to “colonized” people.
This process would bring about a kind of global cultural synchronization or homogenization that served American interests. Those who followed this approach rebuked the US government and the US business community for imposing American culture on foreign countries. American Cultural versus Public Diplomacy Cultural diplomacy is a dimension of public diplomacy, a term that covers an array of efforts to foster goodwill toward America among foreign populations. The impact of any public diplomacy is notoriously difficult to measure.
But there is scant encouragement in polls such as the one recently conducted by the BBC World Service showing that, in more than 20 countries, a plurality of respondents see America’s influence in the world as “mainly negative. ” Doubtless such attitudes have as their immediate inspiration the invasion of Iraq and the abuse of prisoners in U. S. military detention facilities. But deeper antipathies are also at work that have been building for years and are only now bubbling to the surface. The term public diplomacy is admittedly a bit confusing because U. S.
public diplomacy, though directed at foreign publics, was originally conducted by private organizations. The pioneer in this effort was the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, founded in 1910 on the principle “government, although representing the will of the people in a mechanical sense, could not possibly give expression to a nation’s soul. Only the voluntary, spontaneous activity of the people themselves -as expressed in their art, literature, science, education, and religion could adequately provide a complete cultural portrait. ” Meanwhile, the export of American culture prospered.
This was hardly surprising, given the opening of vast new markets in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia, and elsewhere. But the numbers are staggering. The Yale Center for the Study of Globalization reports that between 1986 and 2000, the fees (in constant 2000 dollars) from exports of filmed and taped entertainment went from $1. 68 billion to $8. 85 billion -an increase of 426 percent. But if the numbers are surprising, the content is sobering. The 1980s and ’90s were decades when many Americans expressed concern about the degradation of popular culture.
Conservatives led campaigns against offensive song lyrics and Internet porn; liberal Democrats lobbied for a Federal Communications Commission crackdown on violent movies and racist video games; and millions of parents struggled to protect their kids from what they saw as a socially irresponsible entertainment industry. And to judge by a Pew Research Center survey released in April 2005, these worries have not abated: “Roughly six-in-ten say they are very concerned over what children see or hear on TV (61%), in music lyrics (61%), video games (60%) and movies (56%).
” We can discern a troubling pattern in the decades before September 11, 2001. On the one hand, efforts to build awareness of the best in American culture, society, and institutions had their funding slashed. On the other, America got the rest of the world to binge on the same pop-cultural diet that was giving us indigestion at home. It would be nice to think that this pattern changed after 9/11, but it did not. Shortly before the attacks, the Bush administration hired a marketing guru, Charlotte Beers, to refurbish America’s image.
After the attacks, Beers was given $15 million to fashion a series of TV ads showing how Muslims were welcome in America. When the state-owned media in several Arab countries refused to air the ads, the focus (and the funding) shifted to a new broadcast entity, Radio Sawa, aimed at what is considered the key demographic in the Arab world: young men susceptible to being recruited as terrorists. Unlike the VOA, Radio Sawa does not produce original programming.
Instead, it uses the same ratings-driven approach as commercial radio: Through market research, its program directors decide which popular singers, American and Arab, will attract the most listeners, and they shape their playlists accordingly. The same is true of the TV channel al-Hurra, which entered the highly competitive Arab market with a ratings-driven selection of Arab and American entertainment shows. It would be unfair to say that these offerings are indistinguishable from the commercial fare already on the Arab and Muslim airwaves.
After all, they include State Department scripted news and public affairs segments, on the theory that the youthful masses who tune in for the entertainment will stay around for the substance. Yet this approach is highly problematic, not least because it elevates broadcast diplomacy over the “people-to-people” kind. It was Edward R. Murrow, the USIA’s most famous director, who defended the latter by saying that in communicating ideas, it’s the last few feet that count. The defenders of the new broadcast entities point to “interactive” features such as listener call-ins.
But it’s hard to take this defense seriously when, as William Rugh, a Foreign Service veteran with long experience in the region, reminds us, “Face-to-face spoken communication has always been very important in Arab society. Trusted friends are believed; they do not have the credibility problems the mass media suffer from. ” It may be tempting to look back at the Cold War as a time when America knew how to spread its ideals not just militarily but culturally. But does the Cold War offer useful lessons? The answer is yes, but it takes an effort of the imagination to see them.
Let us begin by clearing our minds of any lingering romantic notions of Cold War broadcasting. Are there millions of Arabs and Muslims out there who, like Vassily Aksyonov, need only twirl their radio dials to encounter and fall in love with the golden glow that is America? Not really. It’s true that before 1991 the media in most Arab countries were controlled in a manner more or less reminiscent of the old Soviet system. But after CNN covered Operation Desert Storm, Arab investors flocked to satellite television, and now the airwaves are thick with channels, including many U.
S. offerings. Satellite operators such as Arabsat and Nilesat do exert some censorship. But that hardly matters. The Internet, pirated hookups, and bootlegged tapes and discs now connect Arabs and Muslims to the rest of the world with a force unimagined by Eastern Europeans and Russians of a generation ago. It is indeed odd, in view of the Bush administration’s conservative social agenda, that $100 million of the money allocated for cultural diplomacy goes to a broadcast entity, Radio Sawa, that gives the U. S.
government seal of approval to material widely considered indecent in the Arab and Muslim world: Britney Spears, Eminem, and the same Arab pop stars who gyrate in the video clips. In sum, the world’s cultures are changing, and they are changing fast. But we live in an era of cultural plenty and quality. We become individuals through our culture. No matter how strange and irrational other cultural patterns may appear to us, the very existence of the practices implies that all cultures do their job.
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