American Popular Culture and Its Impact in a Globalized World

8526 words 35 pages
Americans, after all, did not invent fast food, amusement parks, or the movies. Before the Big Mac, there were British fish and chips. Before Disneyland, there was Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens (which Walt Disney used as a prototype for his first theme park, in Anaheim, a model later re-exported to Tokyo and Paris). – Richard Pells

1. Introduction

No matter what corner of the world, it is more than unlikely to walk up to an adoles-cent, mention the names Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Eminem or Bruce Willis and be confronted with a questioning face of ignorance. Performers and actors such as these have become increasingly omnipresent in people's lives all around the globe. American popular culture with its above-mentioned
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This tendency is commonly referred to as cultural hegemony or cultural imperialism. The term cultural imperialism emerged in the 1960s out of the "new" Left in Europe and the U.S.A. which laid emphasis more on the cultural than on the economic and political domina-tion of the West, with the West being primarily America. Ideas of people such as Herman Marcuse, Theodore Adorno, and Max Horkheimer led to a discourse "about a form of Western imperialism that, in addition to exploiting the economies of ‘Third World' countries, also manipulated the values and tastes of the native populations" (Pells 1997, 265). Critics nowadays, too, share the view that the popular cultural dominance of the United States will erode or even dissolve cultural diversity in the world. And globalization is said to be a major driving force. American pop cultural ex-ports are believed to promote a capitalist consumer society grounded on materialism. This consumer society in turn destroys traditional values and ways of living. One of the leading critics of cultural doom is Benjamin Barber (1995) who warns against a global "monoculture" he thinks is being imposed by American capitalism. We will find out later on if the forces of homogenization are truly stronger than the forces of diver-sity.
The concept of cultural imperialism can only be fully understood if one realizes what truly distinguishes the notion


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