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Globalization and Cultural Change in International

Globalization and Cultural Change in International
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  Globalization and cultural change in international business research Bryan W. Husted* Tecnolo´gico de Monterrey and Instituto de Empresa, Escuela de Graduados en Administracio´n y Direccio´n de Empresas, Ave. Eugenio Garza Sada, 2501 Sur, C.P. 64849 Monterrey, N.L., Mexico Abstract The four articles in this special issue invite the reader to reflect on the impact of global business onvalues, ideas, and ethics around the world. In this comment, I advance four arguments that questionassumptions regarding the impact of global business on culture. First, national cultures are not homogeneous and the impact of globalization on heterogeneous cultures is not easily predicted.Second, culture is not the same as cultural practice. The spread of practice does not equate with thespread of culture. Third, globalization does not represent a rupture with the past but is a continuation of  prior trends. Fourth, globalization is only one of many processes involved in cultural change. Byquestioning these assumptions, we can build on the work of the authors of this special issue in order todevelop a more accurate understanding of cultural change around the world. D  2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.  Keywords:  Globalization; Cultural change; Business 1. Introduction When the Portuguese explorer, Alfonso de Albuquerque, arrived in Malacca, Malaysia, in1511, he encouraged the marriage of the local Malay women with the Portuguese men.Unknowingly, he was about to create a Creole culture referred to as the ‘‘Kristang’’ or Christians, a community that survives to the present day, speaking an archaic form of Portuguese, observing the Roman Catholic religion, and preserving many Portuguesecustoms (O’Neill, 2002). Neither truly Portuguese nor Malaysian, the Kristang represents 1075-4253/$ – see front matter   D  2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.intman.2003.08.006* Tel.: +52-81-8625-6146; fax: +52-81-8625-6098.  E-mail address: (B.W. Husted).Journal of International Management 9 (2003) 427–433  an entirely authentic cultural expression related to, but different from, the srcinal parent cultures. Cultures inevitably change when they come into contact with other cultures, newideas, and different practices. This process of cultural change is a fact of social life.This special issue looks at the impacts of globalization on cultural changes from severaldifferent perspectives. A common theme is that globalization is an inexorable trend that isworthy of study, regardless of whether its consequences are good or bad. There is a sense insome of the articles that globalization is somehow different from processes of cultural andsocial change that have taken place in the past. Globalization seems to be associated withhomogenization and standardization, at least at a cultural level. Somehow, we are becomingmore alike than different. Yet the experience of the Kristang in Malacca reminds us that cultural and social change has always occurred. The key is to identify what is unique about such change today.Much of the work on globalization by international business scholars makes a series of assumptions that need to be carefully examined. First, cultures are considered to be relativelyhomogeneous. Second, cult ure is largely viewed as a practice, rather than the ‘‘softward of themind’’ as Hofstede (1997) calls it. Third, globalization represents a major rupture with theway life is experienced by many people. Fourth, globalization is the single major force that isshaping the cultures of industrialized countries today. In this comment, I would like toexamine these assumptions and then suggest some ways in which these assumptions may betoo limited and need to be relaxed. 2. Assumption 1: Cultures are homogeneous Bird and Stevens (2003) and Amine (2003) share an assumption that cultures, both global and national, are fairly homogeneous. However, this assumption is highly questionable.Research indicates that national ‘‘cultures’’ usually represent the values and practices of thedominant groups in society, and not of the marginalized (whether the marginalized groupsrepresent a majority or a minority in the society). In every society, there are many contestedissues. For example, polygamy in Muslim countries is accepted by the male population andrejected by large numbers of women (Turiel, 2002). Such a result is not surprising as  polygamy serves the interests of men. Cultural values of high power distance support theinterests of the ruling class in a society. Collectivist values, which place priority of the groupover the individual, are in the interests of individuals who exercise power over groups.Whether such values are widely shared within a society is an empirical question that needs to be studied carefully.If the picture of national culture is one of heterogeneity, what does globalization in thesense of some sort of cultural standardization mean? Certainly, there are shared businessvalues and orientations around the world, just as there are probably shared concerns, values,and orientations among mothers around the world or among schoolchildren or manuallaborers. But possibly, such similar values may be the result of a similar response to common problems of similarly situated groups, rather than a result of the influence of one culture uponanother. For example, Haidt et al. (1993) found that the moral reasoning of college students in  B.W. Husted / Journal of International Management 9 (2003) 427–433 428  Recife and Porto Alegre, Brazil, had more in common with college students in Philadelphiathan with that of low socioeconomic status groups in Recife or Porto Alegre. The similarityappears to have more to do with class and education than with cultural homogenization brought about by the influence of U.S. culture on Brazil. Globalization as cultural stand-ardization may thus affect different subcultures within a given society differently, leavingsocieties just as heterogeneous as before. 3. Assumption 2: Culture as cultural practice There is no doubt that many cultural practices have spread around the world. Everythingfrom the internet and hip-hop to TQM are part of the daily lives of millions of people.However, one must ask whether the adoption of a cultural practice is the same as the adoptionof a culture. In other words, is culture nothing more than cultural practice? For example, in theUS, there is a subculture called the ‘‘Goths,’’ noted for the black clothing they wear. As oneweb page explained: ‘‘Goth unashamedly celebrates the dark recesses of the human psyche.Put the back of your hand on your forehead, and you’re there: dark sensuality, sweepingsadness, morbid fascination, forbidden love, the beauty of enduring pain, you get the picture’’(Goth Primer, 2003). In Mexico, the Goths have arrived and are known as ‘‘los Dark.’’ Theytake the English word ‘‘dark’’ because of their distinctive clothing. Do these Mexican Darkshave more in common with the U.S. Goths or with their Mexican relatives, friends, classmates,or coworkers? They adopt the trappings and clothes of the Goths. They listen to the samemusic and often can sing along with the English lyrics even though they do not understandmuch of what they are hearing. Do the Mexican Darks accept the beliefs of the U.S. Goths? At least from personal conversations with the few I have met, the answer is no. What does theexperience of the Goths tell us? Are we moving to a global culture? It seems unlikely.What does seem to be occurring is the adoption of diverse fashions and styles acrosscultures. In fact, global fashion has been around for a long time. You can find a similar fashion in football soccer with young men in Cameroon and Canada adopting the haircutsof international soccer legends. As a result, one can consciously adopt a cultural practice, but ‘‘joining’’ a culture, if such a phrase makes sense, is much more difficult. Culture ismore subtle, oftentimes something of which we are not even aware. There are some thingsthat the U.S. business executive, the Goth student, or the African-American mother have incommon that make them more alike than unalike—they are all human and face the sameexistential problems of human beings. It may indeed be possible to feel more attached to people halfway around the world than to one’s next-door neighbors, but it would bedifficult to feel more attached to people halfway around the world than to one’s ownfamily, friends, work companions, or fellow members of community and religiousorganizations.Certainly, cultural practice is one level of culture, but it is at best a shallow level. It is not the deep mental programming related to values about which Hofstede (1997) writes. If globalization implies nothing more than a standardization of cultural practice, we arespeaking of globalization in only a very superficial sense.  B.W. Husted / Journal of International Management 9 (2003) 427–433  429  4. Assumption 3: Globalization as a rupture Throughout hist ory, there have been movements toward integration and standardization as Ricks (2003) and Clark and Knowles (2003) correctly acknowledge. The Roman Empire at  one point extended from what is now Portugal to Turkey and from England to Egypt. Latinwas spoken widely in the Mediterranean world. Many trends in fashion, art, architecture, andmusic have transcended local boundaries to cross-continents. Baroque music was beingcomposed at the same time in Austria, Spain, and Mexico. Religions like Islam andChristianity have had very significant integrating influences. Islam is currently Britain’s fast growing religion, a consequence not only of immigration, but also of the conversion of former Christians. In the sports arena, Fe´de´ration Internationale de Football Association(FIFA) operates in more countries than any other organization or group in the world.Political ideas like liberalism and socialism have gone beyond their European srcins toaffect nations around the world. Socialism emerged in the 19th century and its ideas swept theworld in the 20th century. Although many countries never elected socialist governments, themovement left an indelible mark on labor policy and practice, even in the United States.Earlier, in the 18th and 19th centuries, classical liberalism, largely born in France, swept theglobe and had an important impact on the rise of constitutional governments in Europe andAmerica. In this context, it is not surprising that the green movement is of global dimensions.Even without increasing trade, the environmental problems of the planet would be severe. Inother words, some sort of transnational green movement would have emerged anywaywithout the globalization of economic activity.One significant difference between the current green movement and earlier labor move-ments is that it is being carried forward more by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) than by political parties. The internet has accelerated communication, reduced transaction costs,and made coordination of the efforts of thousands of environmental NGOs possible. Soglobalization is not new, but the pace of globalization is. 5. Assumption 4: Globalization as the major force characterizing cultural change Certainly, Ricks (2003) and Clark and Knowles (2003) agree that globalization has been occurring for millennia, but if globalization were the only force acting on cultures, then wewould have arrived at McDonald’s land long ago. Clark and Knowles (2003) speak to thisissue when they ask in what direction globalization is occurring and what factors inhibit globalization. Globalization is counterbalanced by strong local influences. Primitive art hasexisted and continues to exist around the planet. Local tunes and rhythms continue to be played around the world. Despite the grand ideas mentioned earlier that transcend national boundaries, politics continues to be dominated by local issues. Most global trends weresrcinally local practices.Some local practices are attractive elsewhere and begin to diffuse. However, theintroduction of a foreign cultural practice in a new culture often results in hybridization.Mickey Mouse is recognizable around Latin America, but is routinely adapted to the needs of   B.W. Husted / Journal of International Management 9 (2003) 427–433 430
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