March 16, 2006

Globalization isn't an American conspiracy

According to William Marling, author of How 'American" is Globalization?

Is a McAmerican conspiracy pervading the world?

Contrary to what people might think, says Case Western Reserve University Professor William Marling, the author of the new book, How "American" is Globalization? (Johns Hopkins Press), specific cultures won't let it happen.

A whole spectrum of ideas surrounds globalization from the influence of American culture on other countries to a massive conspiracy by America to take over the world and make everything American.

"Nowhere is that assumption questioned," said Marling.

Based on research and his personal experiences of living outside the United States for six years in Asia and Europe, Marling debunks the notion that globalization carries a cultural American component and observes that cultural constraints prevent a McAmericanization of the world.

The former financial reporter for Fortune and Money magazines employed his investigative skills and knowledge of bottom line finances to determine where on the spectrum of globalization the United States actually falls.

His book takes a three-pronged look at how strong the American influence is, to how local culture determines what can be globalized, to the book's conclusion about what's best about America that can be exported.

In Marling's effort to "disentangle" American culture from societal advances around the world, he explains how modern progress contributes more to globalization than the promotion of American culture.

What prevents an Americanization worldwide is what he describes as "the clutch of cultural constraints" such as language, food, education, ways people live and local attitudes.

"Imagine parking a Hummer on the streets of Osaka or serving a beef burger at a McDonald's in the predominantly Hindu culture of India," states Marling.

It won't happen, he concludes.

But the part of what is American, and is assimilated into other cultures, are tools and technology such as containerized freight, bar codes, cash machines, franchising and ATMS that have uses and can organize daily life, he said.

"Americans have always been good at logistics, and by far, are the best in the world," says Marling.

For example, he writes about the longshoremen of Marseilles, France, who use the American-developed, hand-held bar code scanners to log freight.

"They still call them marteaux, after the hammers that their grandfathers used to remove shipping manifests," he said.

According to Marling, the transport of American technology to other cultures has not changed but strengthened them.

International companies like IBM and Microsoft have invented and adapted computer software and keyboards for specific languages, such as some African ones with as many as 450 characters.

Instead of languages going extinct and being replaced by the English language, Marling reports that "today, more languages exist than ever before."

Cultural preservation also pervades entertainment. He writes how cheaper technologies allow for television stations to proliferate in remote parts of the world where in the past it was cost prohibitive. The movie industry is also international in financial backing, but can be very cultural specific like the Bollywood of India and the Nollywood of Nigeria that produce films that appeal to the cultural nuances of their particular countries.

Where Marling sees Americans doing it right is how things move from one place to another.

He points to transportation hubs such as the one in Louisville, Kentucky, where UPS has agreements with businesses within minutes of the distribution hub to transport supplies and products to and from the hub to shorten delivery time to the consumer or customer.

Regionally, he says Ohio has its own bragging rights when it comes to technologies the world can use.

He points to Diebold, a North Canton company with new high tech voting machine, and new Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology tags developed by The Kennedy Group in Willoughby, the next generation of bar codes that suppliers will be required to use by Wal-Mart.

Marling concludes that the American influence on culture is much less than people think, and that it is the tools that people can use to adapt to their own cultural uses that are going global and changing the way the world operates.

Marling's new book will be published in May.

For more information: Susan Griffith 216-368-1004.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, March 16, 2006 08:22 AM | News Topics: Authors, Public Policy/Politics

Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.