True Globalization: Rejecting Cultural Hegemony

A couple days ago I got back from Eastern Europe: Romania, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary.

Part of traveling, or even more so living abroad, is a direct experience with globalization. You’re heading out from your origins & creating an effect in another place; you’re letting that place effect you. Ideally you’re creating value & producing something of substance while you’re at it, enriching both yourself and those around you.

Eastern Europe has seen an explosion of globalization within the past few years, and I suspect it’ll only increase in the next few.

There seems to be two bipolar camps around the question of globalization.

The first is a fundamentalist approach that tends to be nationalistic, and calls globalization “bad”. It calls for the regulation of borders, of the preservation of traditional entities like churches, parties, and cultures, and tariffs on unorthodox thought.

The second is a left-wing approach, considering globalization “good”, and under the guise of progressivism calls for a forced integration of countries, economies, cultures, business, and worldviews.

Now the honest analysis of these two bipolar approaches is recognizing that they are both hegemonistic; both attempt to change human interaction by forced authoritarian regulation. Both are artificial attempts to force an unnatural progression of events upon autonomous cultures and individuals. There might be a third, more nuanced and natural alternative: anti-control.

The harmful aspects of right-wing nationalism is a descent into ethnocentrism, limited worldviews, and regulation of otherwise productive actions like trade, entrepreneurship, travel, broadened worldviews.

But the harmful aspects of left-wing forced integration is a descent into the same cultural hegemony: assuming the authority to change a culture or individual’s behavior without permission. This is a root cause of violence, sparking eruptions of frustration where otherwise, nothing would be an issue. In the end, although operating under a guise of social progression, it’s still an elitist way of assuming control over the general populace. This isn’t globalization at all: it’s stratification.

If it is truly in the world’s best interest for individuals and cultures to broaden their worldviews, to have the freedom to explore new options, and to produce things bigger & better than the existing hegemony, then a the only truly natural way to embrace globalization is actually to let it happen through the permission & natural adoption of the population themselves.

The Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci developed the phrase cultural hegemony, which is “…the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class who manipulate the culture of that society […] so that their imposed, ruling-class worldview becomes the accepted cultural norm.” I think that this imperialistic way of control which has dominated politics and culture since the beginning of civilization can be applied to globalization: if it’s forced, it’s just another apparatus making the less powerful adopt the way of thinking that best serves the elite.

This hegemony, whether from the right wing or left wing, is a form of imperialistic ethnocentrism. Whether it’s cloaked by a mission of progressive integration, or a mission of nationalistic fundamentalism. This makes the gap between the controlling and the controlled even greater: it polarizes the population. On one side you have academia in the same bed as multinational corporations/government, in an almost unbridled form of pure fascism. On the other side you have everyone who is unlucky enough to be outside the privileged intellectual elite.

The only way to embrace a cultural shift which serves the needs of the common man, rather than an authoritarian apparatus of the state, is to allow it to happen naturally. The push-pull, heavily consequential realities of life tend to moderate the actions of everyday people: in a sort of grimly Darwinian way, good decisions are rewarded with good results and bad decisions suffer the consequences. If globalization…spreading ideas, experiences, traditions, and worldviews around the world…is truly for the benefit of society, then it will only naturally spread when the populace is enabled to act in their best interests. Regulating the ability to do whatever you want (to move wherever you want…to buy and sell wherever you want…to live wherever you want) only increases the chasm between the powers that be, and the rest of us.