The question of the interrelationship between culture and globalization has been discussed by many researchers, leading to the development of the debate regarding the effects of becoming more culturally similar than different. Globalization significantly contributes to increasing cultural flows in the world and eliminating any cultural differences between various communities (Regev, 2019). The process of removing strict national barriers is related to making people more connected to each other. As a result, it is possible to observe how they adopt the culture of each other, and it is probable to speak about some convergence (Cleveland et al., 2016). Although nations were traditionally interested in accentuating their difference, today more focus is observed on promoting cultural sameness in the context of globalization processes. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of cultural homogeneity by discussing how globalization leads to connecting people and making them more culturally similar and assessing the disadvantages of these processes for identity.
Globalization Effects and the Advantages of Homogeneity or Sameness
It is important to start the discussion of the issue of sameness and difference in relation to global culture by defining the concept of culture. Thus, culture is a unique complex phenomenon that consists of certain values and people’s shared beliefs that are reflected in specific patterns of behaving, assessing the world, communicating in society, and feeling (Ladhari et al., 2015). Culture influences each aspect of an individual’s life, and at the national level, it affects the life of the whole state. However, today it is possible to observe the formation of a unique global culture that is based on the idea of sameness of people or homogeneity in contrast to heterogeneity associated with diverse national cultures (Cleveland et al., 2016; Regev, 2019). From this perspective, global culture is characterized by sharing the same or similar values, views, experiences, and norms by the representatives of different nations (Cleveland et al., 2016). Thus, in this context, a global culture seems to overcome the barriers of national cultures and unite diverse individuals on the largest global level.
Centuries ago, the representatives of different cultures emphasized their difference in terms of cultures and traditions, and they were not interested in developing positive contacts with other nations. The aspect of a difference could also be accentuated at the level of superiority as some cultures were discussed as more superior than others. The situation changed several decades ago when the authorities of different states saw economic benefits in globalizing and developing profitable relationships with the representatives of other cultures (Pacheco, 2020). Globalization has led to promoting the flows of cultural views, ideas, beliefs, and products in the world (Ladhari et al., 2015). In this context, the effects of globalization on culture are critical: it has resulted in making national borders more transcend and people’s views and beliefs more open and diverse. Thus, the citizens of different countries became more connected to each other because of the shared global culture.
In spite of the fact that diversity is still respected, much attention is also paid to convergence in cultures in order to make communication for people more convenient and productive. Therefore, respecting diversity, cultural differences, and identity, people also promote homogeneity in their societies (Ladhari et al., 2015). As a result, today, it is almost impossible to fully support the idea that culture is static because it develops and becomes actively affected by different cultural flows observed in the world. The reason is that, nowadays, there are a few cultures in the world that have not been influenced by American popular culture, for example. This impact is observed in relation to the food people choose all over the globe, TV series and films they watch, as well as clothes they wear or music they listen to. The advantages of these processes can be observed with reference to the fact that many people globally share the same interests and can easily communicate and understand each other (Hedegard, 2015; Regev, 2019). Their views and beliefs also become similar because they spread films, music, books, magazines, and other media.
The intensification of multiple contacts between individuals as the representatives of different nations leads to the cultural change that can be observed at both national and global levels. In smaller towns, the influence of different cultures on the national culture can be less evident in comparison to large cities where the degree of population diversity is extremely high (Hedegard, 2015). Multiple intercultural contacts, as well as the spread of popular culture, contribute to cultural convergence and then cultural hybridization in the context of one city, state, or even region, as it is in the case of Europe and the European Union. Cross-cultural contacts lead to developing respect and tolerance in people toward diverse individuals (Hedegard, 2015; Ladhari et al., 2015). Differences between the representatives of different cultures who live in the same city, state, or region become less obvious as these people start to share similar values (Regev, 2019). The advantages of these changes in cultures include the development of a specific type of culture that prevents individuals from developing conflicts that are significantly based on various cultural aspects.
From this perspective, a global culture associated with the principle of sameness in contrast to the accentuation of differences in nations tends to help all the people over the globe to interact positively. The proponents of the view that a global culture is a positive and beneficial phenomenon state that universalism and sameness in terms of their realization in the context of culture do not diminish the focus on diversity and plurality (Cleveland et al., 2016). The key idea is that, although a global culture tends to replace the diversity of cultures in the world, there are no attacks on the diversity of individuals because there should be respect for everyone and his or her culture. Thus, the proponents of a global culture and homogeneity mainly accentuate the positive aspects of globalization that include easier communication with different individuals, productive cooperation, effective educational and labor exchanges (Ladhari et al., 2015). When people focus on the aspects in which they are similar, it is easier for them to avoid conflicts and build effective relationships. Therefore, homogeneity is viewed as beneficial not only for socio-cultural relations but also for economic ones.
The development of the idea of a global culture is closely connected with the phenomenon of cultural cosmopolitanism. Thus, cultural cosmopolitanism should be viewed as a specific formation, “consisting of permutation and reconfiguration of traditional patterns of diversity, based on increased cultural commonalities between nations, ethnic groups and other forms of collective identity” (Regev, 2019, p. 3). Currently, it is almost impossible to avoid the impact of Western cultures on other nations and oppose the development of cultural cosmopolitanism. The reason is that “while nations and ethnic groups tend to preserve and foster strong perceptions of cultural uniqueness rooted in indigenous traditions and heritage, … they nevertheless face increased similarities between their own cultures and those of other social units around the world” (Regev, 2019, p. 3). The emphasis put on these similarities becomes the path to creating stable cross-national relations. Global culture and cultural cosmopolitanism are associated with eliminating differences in people’s lifestyles and values, and this aspect is significant for making individuals more open to diversity.
The spread of certain native traditions and values over the globe, which are the same or similar for people, creates the ground for building a world that is comfortable for any person. Researchers accentuate the possibility to value diversity through promoting the idea of one world culture, in which any individual is not only unique in his or her identity but also equal (Hedegard, 2015; Pacheco, 2020). From this perspective, it is possible to discuss the reference to a global culture or cultural cosmopolitanism as the openness to other cultures, and this feature is typical of the Western world. Modern tendencies demonstrate that people tend to be connected to each other through similarities in views and culture in order to achieve mutual understanding and cooperate effectively.
Being open to other cultures provides opportunities for developing active trade or commercial relations. Researchers accentuate the fact that the word “foreign” is not associated today with something negative because of this cultural openness, awareness, and cosmopolitanism (Cleveland et al., 2016; Regev, 2019). Recognizing the sameness of people belonging to different cultures, individuals do not ignore their differences but emphasize their areas for building contacts and achieving understanding. These factors are often named by researchers as advantages of a global culture (Cleveland et al., 2016; Ladhari et al., 2015). Thus, the aspect of sameness is viewed in most cases as an important predisposition of intercultural cooperation.
The Disadvantages of the Global Culture and the Idea of Sameness
In spite of the fact that many modern researchers discuss the advantages of cultural homogeneity or sameness as a result of globalization, there are also opponents of these views. One of the key arguments of researchers and experts who underline the important role of diversity in terms of cultures is that a global culture promotes and supports a consumer culture (Cleveland et al., 2016; Ladhari et al., 2015). The progress of globalization in the world is associated with open trade and the exchange of resources and products among nations. As a result, people living in different regions of the world, not only in large cities, can consume and use the same popular products, including iPhones, and eat the same food in McDonald’s restaurants.
On the one hand, the spread of the same products and the popularity of certain lifestyles in the context of the progress of a global culture and sameness lead to making people more connected to each other because of the same interests. On the other hand, the development of consumer culture can also provide negative outcomes for society because of people’s cultural change and the lack of individuality (Cleveland et al., 2016; Pacheco, 2020). In this context, it is almost impossible to speak about the further acceptable awareness of diversity in society and the respect for differences in people. The problem is that the focus on sameness can make differences in representatives of different races, ethnicities, nations, communities, and cultures more emphasized and less tolerated.
Therefore, one more important disadvantage of global culture that is actively discussed by researchers is the elimination of the role of diversity and individuality. As it was stated earlier, the accentuation of the sameness can potentially lead to the situation when cultural and individual differences of people are ignored and not tolerated because of the presence of a certain pattern or a culturally accepted norm (Cleveland et al., 2016; Regev, 2019). The spread of certain visions regarding popular lifestyles, products, types of appearance, and other cultural specifics are closely associated with the promotion of the idea of sameness. As a consequence, following the trends of globalization, many individuals choose to be like others instead of accentuating their difference and diversity (Ladhari et al., 2015). The focus becomes shifted to those aspects that are familiar in terms of cultural norms and standards (Regev, 2019). Although much attention is paid to supporting and respecting diversity in multinational corporations, communities, and other social units and institutions, there are still risks for developing otherness and differences. This problem is rather acute in the context of the progress of a global culture and its tendencies.
It is important to note that the risks of globalization associated with the spread of the idea of sameness and global connectedness are actively discussed in the literature on the topic. Thus, Hofstede developed the classification of cultures that are typical of various nations depending on their significant differences in approaching diverse aspects or dimensions of culture. These dimensions areas known as power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity, individualism, indulgence, and long-term orientation (Cleveland et al., 2016; Ladhari et al., 2015). The analysis of certain countries using these dimensions is applied in the existing literature in order to accentuate both differences and similarities in the views of representatives of these cultures (Ladhari et al., 2015). The findings of this analysis are usually important for managers working in multinational corporations in different countries in order to understand what particular features in the characters, attitudes, and behaviors of their employees differ from their cultural norms.
There is also an idea that a global culture uniting cultural principles and views for most people all over the world cannot exist. More attention should be paid to the spread of certain cultural patterns in regions as populations in them tend to assimilate and share cultures because of certain similarities. For example, countries located in the same region of the world often have similar scores related to Hofstede’s dimensions as individualism versus collectivism and masculinity versus femininity (Ladhari et al., 2015). As a result, cultural views and even consumer behaviors in these regions can be similar, but they differ from other regions and states (Cleveland et al., 2016). In this context, it is possible to state that a global culture does not erase the boundaries between all the states, and the diversity of cultural patterns of some regions of the world cannot disappear because of globalization trends.
Most negative effects of globalization are associated with the spread of popular culture as a variant of the global culture. On the one hand, globalization is associated with the appearance of specific consumer cultures (Cleveland et al., 2016). On the other hand, globalization means the adoption of popular culture as a norm for most active consumers in the world. The problem is that a popular culture imposes a certain way of living on people, affecting their diversity. The sources of popular culture in the world are the United States and some European countries, in which citizens and media set fashion and consumption trends to be followed all around the globe. The opponents of spreading Westernization in terms of culture compare modern ideas of globalization with the principles of imperialism when some cultures were discussed as minor (Cleveland et al., 2016; Pacheco, 2020). Therefore, the overall tendency is viewed as rather pessimistic because of the threat of discrimination for many cultures that differ significantly from the ideals associated with popular culture.
The threats of the development of global culture are still under-researched in the academic literature, providing researchers with more gaps to explore in order to address the problem of accentuating sameness or differences in cultures. Those scholars, who accentuate the disadvantages of forming and spreading a global culture in the world, state that the processes of acculturation among minorities as the representatives of minor cultures are usually associated with their loss of identity. According to Cleveland et al. (2016), “National frontiers are progressively permeable. People increasingly encounter cultural out-groups and cultural forces that transcend borders. Individuals and groups are consequently experiencing acculturation in their home environments” (p. 1092). The loss of identity becomes observed when individuals begin to substitute the elements of the local or national culture with the elements of the dominant culture or popular culture. In this context, the sameness among interacting people is intensified, but researchers are not sure regarding the effects of such acculturation and assimilation on persons.
Such processes lead to the situation when people become multicultural because of the specifics of their environments and the impact of popular culture. Researchers claim that the process is both influenced by the progress of a global culture and leads to the further development and adoption of this culture in the world (Ladhari et al., 2015; Pacheco, 2020). The cultural sameness of individuals becomes viewed as a positive aspect in spite of the effects of cultural assimilation on a person’s identity and understanding his or her belonging to a certain culture (Regev, 2019). The spread of a global culture is viewed as a positive process because it combines the elements of different cultures, helping to unite people.
However, the critics of this vision state that the spread of global culture in the form of popular culture is not viewed as a good process. Popular culture is discussed by most individuals as having a negative impact on persons and their choices. Thus, popular culture is viewed as being of low quality in terms of popularized clothes, food, music, films, or even values (Hedegard, 2015; Ladhari et al., 2015). Furthermore, a low-quality popular culture can also displace the principles and views associated with unique local cultures (Cleveland et al., 2016). From this perspective, it is important to state that many researchers tend to criticize the idea of the development of a global culture with reference to accentuating the sameness in people and eliminating differences. The reason is that they identify many threats and risks for people who adopt cultural cosmopolitanism or the ideals of popular culture to replace their local culture.
At the current stage, the disadvantages of the development of a global culture related to the progress of the idea of sameness among people from all over the world seem not to exceed the advantages. Thus, in spite of the fact that researchers have determined and explained a range of disadvantages associated with globalization and its impact on culture, the advantages of people’s reference to the idea of sameness are also significant. The reason is that the spread of certain popular ideas, values, beliefs and cultural artifacts cannot be prevented today, and the formation of a unique global culture is only at the early stage. Globalization can potentially lead to the situation when people regard each other as equal because they have minimal differences in terms of culture because of the process of acculturation.
However, in addition to certain positive outcomes associated with the facilitation of the connectedness between people, globalization can potentially lead to the disappearance of certain local cultures. The risks of negative effects on people’s understanding of their identity are also high. Therefore, the discussion of the culture-related issue of sameness and difference in people remains to be urgent today in the context of the intense globalization processes. More research is necessary in this field in order to understand the balance between the advantages and disadvantages of global culture for the world population.
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