The Dark Side of Globalization: Cultural Loss and Exploitation

Despite its potential benefits, globalization ultimately leads to negative consequences, including loss of cultural identity and exploitation of developing countries, making it a harmful force in the world economy.

The term “globalization” refers to the fast and continuously deepening connections among the world’s markets and businesses. It is frequently spoken of as a wonderful thing—a thing that has brought us closer together, made our lives richer, and our problems more solvable. But the oohs and aahs that often accompany its discussion also tend to make us tune out certain fundamental realities, which makes the young among us feel as though we’re standing on ground tilled by hard truths and are being told a bedtime story instead. While globalization holds the possibility of some good outcomes, it also has the potential for a number of negative outcomes. Two of the most common criticisms are related to what it can and is doing to the cultures of peoples around the world and what it is and can do to the economies of those peoples. Some argue that it is leading to the homogenization of cultures, the opposite of which was what was intended when societies adopted reforms to increase their participation in global markets. The theory was that if more societies and more people conformed to basic international best practices of economic and political governance, then this would be the “rising tide that lifts all boats.” The negative impacts of globalization should force us to really think about its place in today’s world. Who actually benefits from it, and is the cost to well-being and justice in our societies and around the world really worth it? In many ways, the globalization we know is a story of opposites. It is by far the most unequal process in recorded history. Global elites—those who use a global process to achieve their various ends—have clearly benefited, but what has been the payback in societies that appear on the surface to be far richer in many respects than societies of the past? And what are societies being asked to give up by way of their historic cultural endowments?

After taking these arguments into account, it is clear that we cannot ignore the part globalization plays in the reduction of cultural identities. Ergashev and Farxodjonova (2020) have pointed out that “the objective process of globalization produces both desirable and undesirable consequences for the cultures of the world” (p. 9). They insist that we must make careful distinctions between the global and the cosmopolitan and that we must not conflate cultural diversity with a kind of cultural degradation or, worse, cultural essentialism. The push for a singular global culture can threaten unique societal components, leading to a world that’s in danger of abandoning cultural diversity for the sake of what some see as “the natural order of things.” This move in the direction of sameness allows economically superior nations to set the standards for what is now happening at an accelerated rate in societies across the world. And that’s not even considering the implications for people in far-off places and cultures who are being asked to trade their ways of life for what will amount to little more than standard “global brands” of culture. According to Ergashev and Farxodjonova (2020), what is often called globalization is really the world getting together mainly for the benefit of one country, the United States. This is not trade based on equitable development; rather, it is the U.S., through its massive multinational corporations and guidance to institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, forcing half the world to do things its way when it comes to big “capitalist” projects. And the U.S. is not merely using the cheap labor of the South to enrich itself; it is using those labor forces to mainly make a whole lot of money for its big companies, while the local economies in the South—the economies that are supposed to be making those tremendous project profits stick around and benefit the local population—are kept on half-rations. Hence, even though globalization may seem like a force that brings us together and propels us forward, it makes us wonder if it is not too high a price to pay, considering the unavoidable and often detrimental effects it has on the preservation of cultural identity and on economic fairness. This, above all, is the most serious challenge to the idea of globalization as a human progress engine.

In addition, globalization has a bad impact that goes beyond making everyone the same and dividing society into haves and have-nots. Actually, it leads to the developing world being taken advantage of in some very basic ways. They’re put into trade agreements that are never to their advantage. They’re subjected to a world that means the profit from what they sell goes almost entirely back to the capitalist system and very little, if any, back to the workers who produced the item. International corporations work to increase their profits. They accomplish this by moving their facilities to places with few regulations and a cheap workforce. Though this is terrible for the people there, it does allow big business to not only survive but also thrive. It takes away all hope for a rather quickpath to sustainable development. Furthermore, globalization’s true practice is often tied to a kind of imperialism when using dominating powers (such as the U.S.) as the model for the world’s future development. It is then easy to see why some commentators have described globalization as “a second coming of cultural colonization” (Norberg-Hodge & Percy-Smith, 2010). Indeed, in many parts of the world, globalization is not seen as a “win-win” situation but as a “lose-lose” one, with economic and cultural imperial powers benefitting handsomely at the expense of the once-proud communities they reduce to poverty and near-poverty in their undemocratic wake (Hodgson, 2002). As an alternative to delivering undisputed benefits to the global community, the worldwide trend toward globalization spawns inequality and forces different cultures to merge into one, detracting from the equitable development of unique ways of life for different sets of people.

To sum up, though many claim globalization creates vast economic growth, cultural Fluorish, and tech breakthroughs, taken together the way it often seems to succeed is in stripping away culture and exploiting the labor and resources of developing countries. It does not have to be this way, and in fact, cannot go on this way. The choice, therefore, must be that of the international community to transform the adverse effects of globalization—its erosion of cultural identities and the exploitation of systemic poor governance, to name just some of its effects—into an international system that is to the benefit of all. Ergashev and Farxodjonova (2020) explain that the push for a single, worldwide culture actually threatens the very thing that makes us human—our incredible amount of shared and yet still-valued differences and diversities that we inherit and preserve. At the same time, Bouymaj (2020) points out that multinational corporations, in their insatiable drive for profit, often subject the people of poor nations to circumstances that prevent development and that these same corporations also frequently engage in practices that worsen the already problematic aspect of wealth disparities. The current state of affairs is worrisome. Globalization is not the inclusive force that it claims to be. In many ways, it is just another type of imperialism—serving the same ends for the same types of people. It is now more necessary than ever to reexamine the situation and rethink our place in it. Who really does benefit from the currents pushing ideas, production, and profit back and forth across oceans and borders? Why don’t we create a new system? Why do we in the societal margins pay the global price for these pathologies? In the future, we must push for policies that enforce fair trade. We must also defend and protect our local cultures and ensure the development we do partake in is sustainable. If we don’t do those things, we could see some very harmful effects from unchecked globalization. Our interconnected global economy should still leave room for each of us to have our own identities and for us to all be treated fairly.

Ergashev, I., & Farxodjonova, N. (2020). Integration of national culture in the process of globalization. Journal of Critical Reviews, 7(2), 477.

Bouymaj, I. (2020). Globalization’s Impact on Cultural Identity: Empirical study on 1st and 2nd Generation Immigrants (Master’s thesis).

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