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The Cultural Globalization Index

Culture is the most visible manifestation of globalization, whether it is the appearance of new cultural forms (such as Disneyland Paris) or the transformation of traditional cultural expressions into something a bit different (such as Egyptian McDonald’s restaurants serving their patrons McFalafel). While there are ample data to track the cross-border movement of people, merchandise, ...

Culture is the most visible manifestation of globalization, whether it is the appearance of new cultural forms (such as Disneyland Paris) or the transformation of traditional cultural expressions into something a bit different (such as Egyptian McDonald’s restaurants serving their patrons McFalafel).

While there are ample data to track the cross-border movement of people, merchandise, and money, it is extraordinarily difficult to measure the global spread of ideas and trends. However, it is possible to get a hint of a country’s level of cultural integration by identifying cultural proxiesthe conduits by which ideas, beliefs, and values are transmitted. One way to measure the globalization of culture is to chart the movement of popular media, which have more impact on our thinking than some of the other, more frequently cited symbols of cultural globalization (such as the proliferation of Starbucks coffee shops around the world).

We have created a ranking of the 20 most culturally globalized countries by measuring each nation’s exports and imports of books, periodicals, and newspapers. (The dissemination of movies would be another ideal indicator. Yet data for films are only available for a small number of countries. The most recent data on cultural trade available from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) date back to 1997). We then divide those total exports and imports by the nation’s population size. The higher a country is on this index, the more likely an individual in that country is to receive foreign cultural products.

One clear pattern that emerges from this ranking is that the globalization of culture may have a significant linguistic component. Three of the top five nations (Singapore, Switzerland, and Canada) have official bilingual policies. English-language permeation also tie into a country’s capacity to absorb international cultural products. Seven of the top 20 nations in this index (United States , United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Singapore, and Israel) are among the top 10 English-speaking countries in the world.

However, when we consider the bottom 10 countries (Peru, Romania, Morocco, Thailand, Turkey, Philippines, Egypt, Indonesia, China, and Pakistan), we see that multilingual nations are not guaranteed a high degree of cultural globalization: The Philippines and Pakistantwo countries where English is widespreadstill rank near the bottom. The biggest barrier to cultural globalization seems to be poverty, as all of these countries have a per capita gross domestic product of under $8,000, and 4 of the 10 have a literacy rate of less than 60 percent. Also, some countries, notably China and Indonesia , have government policies that restrict the import of foreign books and journals. Poverty, illiteracy, and lack of social openness all are associated with a lack of cultural globalization.

Source: UNESCO

Back to 2004 Globalization Index Download the Data of the Culture Globalization Index Download the Methodology Paper for the Culture Globalization Index

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