Network Power

Indeed, while this convergence in ways of thinking and living may extend to influence cultural forms like music or food, it need not necessarily do so.  It is striking that in this moment of global integration producing massive convergence in economic, linguistic, and institutional standards, we should be so worried about restaurant chains and pop music, neglecting much more significant issues.  Famously, Sigmund Freud argued that nationalist rivalries between neighboring countries reflected the "narcissism of minor differences," a pathological focus on relatively trivial distinctions driven by the desire to keep at bay an anxiety-provoking recognition of fundamental sameness.

That is from David Singh Grewal’s Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization, one of the most interesting books on cultural globalization in recent years.  He uses the ideas of social networks and peer effects to argue that widespread cultural convergence is occurring, most of all in ways of life.  Here is the book’s home page.

There is much wrong in the central thesis.  "Ways of thinking" may be less diverse across countries (France is more like Germany than it used to be) but ways of thinking are now much more diverse within countries and in fact within the world as a whole.  What’s so special about having diversity distributed according to geographic or political criteria?  Once you get over the geography fetish, many of the author’s main mechanisms don’t hold up as accounts of growing sameness of ways of life and thinking.  Has the author spent much time poking around Second Life?

Nor is he capable of simply coming out and saying that lots of countries in the world *ought* to be doing more to emulate Anglo-American ways of thinking.

The following claim is also questionable:

To reshape or reduce the power that the social structures we create have over us, we can only summon the organized power of politics.  The large-scale voluntarism of sociability, by contrast, has always delivered the most varied and elaborate forms of individual subjugation.

Cranky Tyler is about to come out of his shell, so maybe it is time to end this post.  It’s still a book worth reading and thinking about.

On a not totally unrelated topic, here is a good post on babies and globalization.

Comments

This is only tangentially related, but I thought I'd share it... Here in Sana'a, Yemen, there are only a few American restaurants and they are clustered together. There is a KFC, a Pizza Hut, and a Baskin Robbins in this group. If you go there, you'll notice something, the customers all almost all locals. Foreigners don't go there very often. I assume that the foreigners already know about the quality of the food... Anyway, one day some friends and I were walking near them and an Australian friend said, "You Americans, you ruin everything..." She was only partly joking. I responded, "Yes we do. But curiously, we ruin things by bringing things that are really popular to places..."

I've never understood the angst that people feel about "cultural imperialism." If people like like it, that's their business, and companies should be rewarded for offering services that people like.

Isaac Crawford
Blogging in Yemen
www.isaharr.com

it is time for Cranky Tyler to come out of his shell.

however, scattered global communities of fans or enthusiasts or practictioners are becoming the norm. Many people are in a sense cultural expatriates, physically living in one community but culturally participating in other, perhaps virtual, communities.

You seem to claim that Star Trek fans are a separate cultural group in a weaker but similar way as local Chinese communities, or the Jewish diaspora. I find that dubious. Or am I picking a particularly bad example for your thesis?

But Cranky Tyler is so funny!

at, I think you have an interesting view, but I do not share it. My main problem is that self-selected subcultures are qualtitatively different from cultures. The people within a subculture share characteristics, because they chose a group they resembled, and because they conciously adopt manners from the group.

Cultural differences go much deeper, they have a lot to do with a shared childhood, with upbringing, with the resulting assumptions you make about people, about their values, their knowledge.

If I were to meet a Dutch Trekkie wearing a uniform, I would immediately be able to guess, quite accurately, whether it's a joke or serious, how weird it exactly is, if it is costing him friends, how his parents think about wearing that uniform, and probably what he thinks of the A-Team. For an American Trekkie, it would be harder, and might require some questions. If I were to meet a Korean Trekkie, I would have no idea. For all I know, wearing a fan uniform could be an old tradition on holidays, going back to ancient Korean theater.

If Star Trek fans start homeschooling their children in Trekkie style, then I can see it turning into somthing resembling a distinct culture.

globalaiztion is only the progressive realization of interconnectedness ... the first model? nature

For a work-in-progress which uses a network perspective to rebuild a political project, see also : http://yannickrumpala.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/knowledge-and-praxis-of-networks-as-a-political-project/

The internet world is so complicated. Nobody knows what will exactly happen in the visual world.

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