The Middle East Tribune

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Impact of Globalization

The impact of globalization on Arab culture is not a matter of simple statistics and reports. It is, in essence, a diagnostic line of analysis to consider its pluses and minuses on the Arab general public.

Globalization consists of social, economic, and political adjustments that people may embrace to epitomize their culture and incorporate into with the world. It is a concept that has economic, social, and political roots; and thus many consequences.

To a large extent, globalization promotes the integration of the world and calls for the removal of all cultural barriers. Although globalization is a vital process to transfer knowledge and education to the world, it still has its negative effects on most cultures and civilizations. Its impact on cultures, particularly on Arab culture, is somewhat controversial.

Many nationalists and cultural trustees of the Arab world, for instance, condemn the influences of globalization on their culture. Conservative Arab nationalists and fundamentalists argue that their culture cannot adhere to many globalized notions. For them, any claim to the contrary is just an inspiration to degrade other cultures in favor of a dominant one, or an attempt to certify the domination of one culture, mainly the modern version of Western culture, over the others.

While its advocates rationalize that with the support of those momentous technological information devices, such as computers, satellites, internet and social media, Arab culture can be acclimatized to retain most globalized concepts despite its variances with Western culture and the distinctions between their historical and religious roots.

Critics of globalization argue that this cultural invasion will lead to the disintegration of identity and cultural spirit. Contrastingly, its cheerleaders consider the decline of cultural distinctions as a substantial sign of enhanced communications, a measure of integration of societies, and a scope toward unification of civilizations.

Actually, the magnification of global media networks and satellite communication technologies enable some dominant powers to have a truly global reach. Distinctly, technological superiority is a definite advantage when it comes to originating a culture as it formulates its universal appeal. Though it is a necessary credit, it is also insufficient.

The fact that the internationalization of information has provided networks of communication and interaction between different cultures of the world is clear and certain. However, the great accomplishments of this Information Age, which shortened the time, distances and shrank the world, should not be employed to determine the guidelines of any civilization or reshape the Arab national cultures.

However, it is worth noting that the tools now obtainable in order to bring cultures closer have also drained many cultures of this world. This is mainly because the organic structure of culture is grounded in human intellect, traditions, and activities, most of which were implanted in a particular geographical and historical settings.

On the economic level, a 262-page annual study commissioned by the UN Development Program, in 1999, counseling the unevenness of globalization revealed that open markets are contributing to cultural insecurity in poorer nations, which have removed barriers against Western imports.

This imbalanced flow of Western economic views and lifestyle heading for one direction, from rich countries to the poorer and from giant industrial countries to the developing nations, have made in effect these lesser countries under invasion by the global socioeconomic forces of the industrialized West.

Louise Frechette, the then UN Deputy Secretary-General, argued (while addressing UN delegates, in 1999) the phenomenon of globalization saying: “It brings up many opportunities to learn from each other, and to benefit from a wider range of choices, but it can also seem very threatening.’’

She added, “instead of widening our choices, globalization can seem to be forcing us all into the same shallow, consumerist culture ­ giving us the same appetites but leaving us more than ever unequal in our ability to satisfy them. Many millions of people have yet to feel its benefits at all.”

In fact, this rapid economic, technological, social, and political intrusion of foreign culture into the Arab world may put their cultural magnitude in jeopardy and will force people to fear for the loss of their religious and societal characteristics.

However, should globalization have been introduced with significant educational, social, and economic support of which Arab countries could flourish alongside foreign cultures, then it might have been fully accepted as a universal culture, not a western one, in which Arabs may come under its umbrella at equal terms with other cultures.

History shows that bridging cultural gaps and functioning as a home to diverse peoples requires a superior ideology and social structure that have far-reaching economical systems that can adopt foreign cultures and surpass any cultural hindrance. Yet, none seem to have it all.

At large, compelling a Western model on dissimilar countries may harm the economic future and cultural standing of Arab countries as well as that of other worlds. However, alternative approaches harmonizing economic and cultural diversities should be pursued, and not sameness of the culture.

Unfortunately, what is globalized is only the image of modernity, not modernism. Though information barriers have dropped off, yet a cultural stone wall is rising up instead.



 Autor’s Note: This article was first published in “The Daily Star” newspaper


21 comments on “Impact of Globalization

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  2. Rehan Rashid Ali
    October 20, 2016

    Hi Mohammad I have a question for you. To what extent would you say that the perceived degradation of Arab cultures at the hands of globalisation has contributed to ISIS’s ideology? Are their actions in some way a response to this phenomenon of globalisation?


    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      October 20, 2016

      I don’t think that globalization is the main factor, which contributed to the ISIS ideology–though it has helped in their practice However, globalization has contributed to the degradational change of Arab societies, all because Arabs were not ready, in all means, to get out of the traditional box they have created.
      The effects of Globalization cannot be reversed, neither its aftereffects. Yet it seems that it has started to disqualify itself as you can see in most of the western world.


  3. liu naotala
    September 30, 2014

    I enjoyed your article. In the article and in the comments the theme is cultures always changing, and does the same with globalization insists its influence on the native culture. As the waves of globalization continue to crash against the native culture, change is no longer a choice, it now becomes survival. Its not cultural change more than it is cultural assimilation. And when the Arabic language become endanger of extinction, (you might say not possible, but many cultures impacted by globalization in time have experienced or are on the verge of experiencing the threat of it. I am Samoan, and my country is small in relation to Arab countries, but the more influence and impact globalization has on a culture, the more of a necessity it is to assimilate and survive globalization. I wish I can comment more but I have to pickup my son from school. Thank you.


  4. michaelharrington
    July 26, 2013

    Thoughtful article…
    Culture is organic – always changing and adapting. We tend to view our particular national culture of the moment as immutable, unchanged from the past and needing to be preserved for the future, but that’s just an understandable case of myopia and nostalgia. Kids with iPods and smart phones don’t really miss horse carriages.
    I think the real challenge is to recognize those who are empowered by the present culture and refuse to relinquish that power in the face of change. In this sense, culture is not really the relevant factor as much as the constellation of power. But change has to be managed if we don’t want fear to trump all other benefits.


    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      July 26, 2013

      It’s not strange to read such loaded comment from you Michael. I read a book 30 years ago may be more, probably by Samuel Johnson, where he wrote that there is one unavoidable fact about people that they die and change like clouds. Yes change will always be the subject.
      Thank you Michael


  5. depth
    July 12, 2012

    We all need to see the dynamic nature of culture and the speed with which it has change over time. With such understanding we might then be able to appreciate what it is that globalization is achieving. Over a long time there has been cultural changes but the apparatus that is used to bring about these changes seem to have been more local than foreign and I think that is where the challenges lie these days. With globalization the speed at which culture is breaking down and new culture is being created is almost unbearable to a greater population of the world.
    These inequalities cannot be decimated, it has to be addressed.

    Hope we can foster a greater understanding among the greater percentage of the affected population. Better World????


    • M. Moussalli
      July 13, 2012

      At large, I agree with your comment. In addition, I think that your closing sentence is what should be done to make a better world. Thank you for your comment


  6. Belinda Silva
    May 11, 2012

    I enjoyed your article.

    I feel we tend to look at the world in terms of our own lifetimes. However, if we take a step back we see the world, humanity, and cultures continually change. We are alarmed when we look at the social, cultural, environmental and economic issues as a current snapshot in time (our time).

    As opposed to fighting against change, thereby creating negativity and conflict, we should be discussing ways to direct it in pursuit of harmony.


    • M. Moussalli
      May 12, 2012

      Dear Ms. Silva,
      It’s my pleasure to know that you have enjoyed reading my article.You have presented a good psychological analysis about coping with change seeing that you considered globalization as an apparatus for change or change per se.
      In most viewpoints, globalization is not of that nature since It does not contain political or cultural concept or theory. It’s a global informative communicative open system to bring people more close and facilitate better economic interaction.
      Having said that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been utilizied to enforce change, and here where the problem begins because most developing nations and ultra-conservative people considered it as invasion of their culture, religion and traditions.
      I think your closing sentence is what is needed to achieve development and hence change
      Thank you Belinda


  7. Sami, the bedouin.
    April 19, 2012

    The Arab world has witnessed a dramatic change in the past two decades, specially in Saudi Arabia and the Arabia Gulf that are indulged directly into the western economic machine … However, this change is hollow and a leap in the open air into the unknown awaiting cliff !!

    This is because the west is, and specially America, is trying to enforce the shadow of its culture and specially the consumptive aspiration of it, the image of development but not the internal mechanism of it… and there is a Western intentional policy to keep the Arab world undeveloped but just a market for their products !!

    This in turn, explains why the West in general, and specially America in cooperation with “israel” are trying to block any economic leap in the Arab and Muslim world, and even to deprive the Arabs and Muslims from the tools of development ( the nuclear power and Hi technology as a key tool for real and substantial development) and keep them just a hollow societies with no abilities to resist the economic and social invader … and this also explains why the West devastated Iraq and brought it back decades … to keep plundering the Arab and Muslim oil and promote their unnecessary and even sometimes useless products that dont suit neither the culture nor the geography…

    This, in turn, explains why is the spontaneous rejectionist tendency among the Arabs for the American culture in specific and the West in general !!

    Of course Globalization has a great impact on the Arabs and Muslims but it creates a hollow society that neither developed nor genuine to its roots… and this is the firtile habitat for the extremist Muslims and even Arabs !!

    The American culture is a devastating culture worldwide as the French Roger Guarudi describes it as the “culture that digs a graveyard to humanity” !!!

    The American economic dominance deprives (or at least tries to block) the others cultures from any positive contribution, and tries to dictates its consumptive and hollow cultural impact and economic suppression !!!


    • M. Moussalli
      April 20, 2012

      At first, I thank you for your comment. I also would like to note that i enjoyed surfing your good blog. Actually, I read your comment in which I felt your anger and frustration. There are many Arabs feel the same, mainly because of the unresolved Arab-Palestinian cause. Though I agree with core of your argument, nevertheless I don’t lean to blame others, before I blame ourselves.

      In all versions of history books, Arabs have done so many mistakes and blockheaded actions, in this regard, to which they did not need enemies to bring them down. While the Israelis made a brilliant homework to win the West on their side, which allowed their notion and state to survive all challenges. I have read history word by word to find that Arabs made fatal mistakes, and still doing the same mistakes over and over again. Should we put the blame on the smart, even if it is the enemy, for being smart and ruthless in securing their interests, or rather blame our people and correct the mistakes, as possible.

      As for the effects of globalization, we should try to take it in its good parts, not the whole package.

      There is a say I would like to convey to you: “when two thieves face a barking tied up dog in his corner, the smart one will stand by the dog, while the stupid will keep standing in front of the dog”
      Thanks for you comment


  8. David W
    April 4, 2012

    I can’t imagine development without culture change: and that’s true of all cultures and all places. The culture of OECD nations today (example: I live in Australia) is very different from the cultures of these same nations 50 years ago. The impact of globalisation works on all cultures, not just Arab or other developing country cultures.

    Another example is the economic rise of China, and the economic decline of the United States. Both are the tied up with globalisation. In China, this created a feeling (at least in the cities) of great optimism: something new to the culture. In the United States, it has sparked an outbreak of extreme conservativism, isolation and fear.

    I agree completely: we can ask how globalisation changes cultures, but not if they will change. They most certain will.

    We can also ask not just how this will change will “happen”, but how we want the change to work. In my view, the tension in all countries is that between what to keep of the old way of doing things (from marriage traditions to manufacturing industries), and what needs to be let go in order to embrace new opportunities.


    • M. Moussalli
      April 4, 2012

      Dear Mr. David W,

      At first, I thank you for your argumentative comment and appreciate your work manifested at your blog. Though I agree with some points of your comment, still there are some points need to be cleared.

      Changing of culture is not mandatory to achieve development; examples include the U.S., Denmark, Finland, and many other countries and nations. Unless, you mean changing of economic concept and aspects to meet the prerequisites for development is a cultural change, which is not. It’s a change in the way of living.

      Culture, in my dictionary as well as in Princeton and Webster dictionary, is the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; and/or the characteristic features shared by people in a particular society at a particular time and place.The idea of discussing the impact of globalization is not made to eliminate the effect of globalization, but rather to annul its negative effects or disturbance of the social, religious, norms etc. of the receptive nations. Since, the mainstream of globalization didn’t provide yet development or change nor reduced poverty in most developed countries.

      I agree with your argument that we should care about how we will make the change work. I think we could do that only by accepting that there are things and concepts in this world we cannot change, religious and social norms are surely among them.

      Given your example regarding the decline of the US and rise of China, is a solid evidence that economic and financial might is variable while cultural identity stays. Super empires, like the Greeks, Romans and others, for example, had the upper hand of Judaism, Christian and Islamic cultures for some time. But they failed to change any.

      Thanks again


  9. Anonymous
    March 31, 2012

    For clarity in our critique of loaded concepts such as globalization, it is crucial to unpackage what we mean and the contextual environment we are referring to. Quite often we use the term…when all we are concerned about the spread of Western individualism and morally erosive consumer norms.


  10. Ekomenzoge
    March 31, 2012

    To me, globalisation is or was a way for the western nations to impose their way or life or culture to other nations or countries. Till date, we do not have a free market economy where each nation can determind price. Prices of goods are determind by some few nations. Wars are determind by a few. Rules are determind by a few, etc. So what is GLOBALISATION in itself. Globalisation should be dead, for it works in favour of a few.


  11. mblobs
    March 26, 2012

    I used to believe, and still want to believe, that globalisation could mean a reaching out between cultures and could foster an understanding of different cultures for and by all. But, like many aspects of our not-so-brave world, it has become linked to economics, and the drive for profit in monetary terms, neglecting that in cultural terms. However, I am optimistic in that the more individual voices, as persons from various cultures, may be heard through ICTs, for example, there can be a reaching out and receiving that can enrich a global understanding of different cultures. I am not so interested in the “national” as such. Wherever we are, be it in the “nation” of our birth or not, it is the cultural values that we can share that for me makes for a “globalisation” in the sense that I would like to see.


  12. Bernard Fedeer
    March 23, 2012

    Are you addressing Arab culture or Muslim culture? Outside of Arabia, we have the same phenomenon that we see in the spread of Christianity. Diverse cultures accept the veneer of the religion–and sometimes even the language–but superimpose that over long-lived and tenacious local or tribal or national cultures. Vittorio Lanternari, for example, points to Haiti, for example, where the practice of Voodoo is “almost wholly pagan and African under a veneer of Christianity.” Similarly, what we see in Afghanistan is the operation of the old tribal customs and beliefs under a veneer of Islam. Contrast the practice of Islam in Arabia and in Indonesia.

    So I am not clear whether you’re talking about Arab culture or Islamic cultures. Even Arab culture adapts to the country in which Arabs find themselves.Even Arabs themselves often take on the coloration of the country in which they find themselves; they may be said to be united only in the sense that the share the support of the same pillars of Islam. When the Arabs spread across Africa, for example, very different cultures developed in the different regions.


    • M. Moussalli
      March 23, 2012

      In reply to Mr. Bernard Fedeer comment:
      I didn’t mention the case of Muslims culture at all. Yes, it’s about Arabs culture. Generally, I do agree with your notion. Nevertheless, the case of coloration of some millions of Arab immigrants and expatriates are not the criteria in which we can explore the fear of loss of identity of more than a hundred of millions of fundamentalists and traditionalist.

      Having said that does not mean that I don’t favor the globalization process; at the contrary, I believe that humans are alike by instinct, but meant to draw the attention of the directors of the globalization process (mainly Western developed nations, like USA for example) to take into consideration the issue of cultural adaptation so that globalization can bring people closer to each others, not only connect them.
      Thank you for commenting


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