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By Tracy Wolfe

Crisis in CulturesPopular culture is one of the most important parts of modern society which determines a way of living built up by a group of people and transmitted from one generation to another. The role of culture is extremely important because it helps to distin­guish the members of one category of people from those of another. Recent years, scholars speak about such phenomenon as crisis in cultures which has a negative impact on global community and social situation. Thesis Crisis in cultures is a result of globalization processes, new social values and technological influences which conflict with traditional social behavior and morals.

Modern nations enter the globalization process with macroeconomic motivations and political arrangements that respect a very complex logic. The measures taking are complex, as well, involving the reduction of importing barriers and political economy alignment. But these movements are taken here as conditions more than as direct causes of the process we want to describe. From the other side, companies enter globalization as they accumulate innovation capabilities that allow them to grow and expand into new markets, and this is what we will be covering in the next topics. Although the globalization phenomenon is intrinsically related to the existence of a borderless world, the geographic barriers played a central role in the shaping of industries, markets and knowledge. On the other hand, globalization ruins authentic cultures brining alien values and traditions to Asia and Africa (Forbes, 1995). “Although real threats are poised against the lifeline of cultures – including ours, one can not solely blame outside forces for all the weaknesses of national cultures facing globalization” (The Crisis of Cultures, n.d.).

Following Huntington (1998) cultural and religious identity is the main factors which lead to crisis in cultures. In some Eastern countries the creation of social culture influenced by religion traditions is seen as a priority and a great deal of time and effort is given to obtrusion of religious dogmas. Islamic fundamentalism is considered now as the main adversarial political and cultural form which competes with western traditions and modernization of the western world.

Processes of globalization and modernization have an impact on western cultural trends and values. Modernization embraces all spheres of life changing gender roles and status of women in the society. In contrast to Muslim culture, Western culture embodies recent technological developments and innovations, and it is opened to new ideas and innovative tends. Modernization has changed the nature of social relations in the West. It is important to understand the role of equal rights policies and the perva­sive influences which it exercises over the behavior of people. Modernization process has changes cultural traditions which previously restricted women’s activity outside the domestic sphere. Changing production patterns have restructured agriculture, social landscape and traditional sources of income. The main impact of modernization of the West is on cultural development and traditions as well as development of social institution of marriage and justice. In the West, modernization has resulted in social and cultural decay.

There is a point of view that western culture represents low morals and false traditions as a result of new social changes and law. Following Huntington “In this new world the most pervasive, important, and dangerous conflicts will not be between social classes, rich and poor, or other economically defined groups, but between peoples belonging to different cultural entities” (Huntington, 1998, p. 27).  Many Islamists accuse western world in lack of traditions and morals which lead to social degradation. They state that it is dangerous thing to forget about human dignity and human code of ethics. Low morals and absence of personal values lead to amorality and decay of the West (Adams, 1975).

On the other hand, it is possible to predict that confrontations between the old and new values will deepen, which lead to increasing number of social protests and civil disobedience.  Among those most directly influenced have been the new social movements, addressing a broader range of issues but from a simi­larly critical perspective. These have taken a wide range of differ­ent forms and their impact in the diverse fields in which they have operated has often been highly significant. “Cultural distinctions shall remain valuable, however, the global spirit of culture shall scrutinize the value and merit of all such differentiation” (The Crisis of Cultures, n.d.). The danger that such a contextualized view of equality might encourage discrimination and disingenuous reasoning is real. Equality requires identical treatment and place the onus of justification on those seeking to depart from it.

In spite of great liberal achievements and human rights movement, gender battles have a negative impact on modern cultures leading to cultural crisis. What is new in the modernist era is the attempt to gender mass culture as feminine in a wholesale way. Adams (1975) has drawn attention to the role Nietzsche plays in this. For Nietzsche, woman is one of the most pernicious threats to the development of the artistic genius of the male. This kind of other side to the romantic view of the artist can be easily traced in literature. The number of plots in which the aspirations of a high-minded man are frustrated by his silly wife is far too long to list.  There is more than a little of it in the way Charles and Diana have been mythologised: he with his water colours, chamber music, solitude and deep thoughts, she with her shopping, pop music, and dining at McDonalds. More broadly, Adams has pointed out that the ‘fear of the masses in this age of declining liberalism is always also a fear of woman, a fear of nature out of control, a fear of the unconscious, of sexuality, of the loss of identity and stable ego boundaries in the mass’ (Adams 1975, p. 52).

Adams explains (1975) that “Mass culture is imposed from above. It is fabricated by technicians hired by businessmen; its audience are passive consumers, their participation limited to the choice between buying and not buying” (55). It was McDonald (1955 cited Adams 1975) who coined the term ‘midcult’ to characterize that section of the community which attracted particular odium from this school of criticism, who, for example, knew enough about art to enjoy the odd popular symphony but who were not sufficiently seriousminded to enjoy ‘real’ classical music–presumably Bach or Schoenberg. The midcult sector borrows unthinkingly or opportunistically what it wants or likes from high art but refuses to identify its interests openly or totally with high McDonald in its struggle against the masses.

The mixture of populism, on the one hand, and indifference and hostility, on the other, has formed the parameters of the public’s view of television, in America especially. Relatively few intellectuals have been attracted to it unless in a captious spirit as an object of criticism. As Huntington (1998) has observed, departments of television studies, as distinct from film studies, usually have a marginal status in the academy and are not infrequently staffed by a heterogeneous assortment of people, many of whom are openly hostile to the products of the medium. Furthermore, television production has never had the individualist, entrepreneurial nature of film, with the consequence that the networks have been more important than the creative personnel.

Apparently even the Fox News accepts that the idea of television discussing itself is absurd. In fact, there is a real need for a program to do just this, but Fox News does not seem to me to fit the bill. It is fundamentally light and populist, with more than a touch of the fanzine: its original presenter used to end each episode by urging the viewers to remember that television was ‘wonderful’. The dominance of mass media and its impact on culture can be interpreted as crisis because such media giants as Fox News dictate the will and vision to potential viewers. News reports can be compared with propaganda which has a great impact on the world perception and priorities of people. This documentary film unveils truth about Former Fox news, Rupert Murdoch and unfair practices followed by the studied. Fox News manipulated and organized habits and opinions of the society through false values and news in favor of the government (the Bush Administration). It manipulated the social machinery controlling the opinions and habits of middle and low classes. This documentary shows that one person, like Rupert Murdoch, could control public opinion and create a certain culture (Outfoxed 2004).

On the one hand, these views help to determine specific features and behavior patterns of people from different countries. Moral visions of religions are relevant to all of life—economics, politics, and culture. This means that citizens of a particular country necessarily express their views and follow cultural norms grounded on moral beliefs and traditions. Stereotypes also evoke a particular explanation for the co-occurrence of a specific set of attributes. In some cases, stereotypic beliefs allude to the underlying reason that, at least subjectively, accounts for the unique association between a series of characteristics and a target group. A social stereotype is often seen as a set of unified features that builds upon some underlying social characteristic.

Another important area of concern is new fast food culture which ruins traditional food patterns. Most fast food restaurants popularize and promote unhealthy eating behavior which leads to obesity problems. Most food proposed in such restaurants is fat saturated with high caloricity level. In spite of advertising efforts to promote health conscious menus or calorie free diet, hamburgers and fried potato are the most “dangerous” products sold by fast food. Following Schlosser (2001) social dimensions are manifested in the ability of mass media to control the circulation of ideas about body image and fashion. People copy or borrow their identities from the media, and very often body images are misrepresented and just exploited by the media. Unfortunately, many people forget about an old method created to solve health related problems without any artificial substances. Many health professionals are concerned by the prevalence of distorted body image which may be fostered by their constant self-comparison to extremely fat figures promoted in the media.

In modern world, this process (confrontation) leads to crisis in cultures which compete on the international arena. It should be mentioned that influence of civilizations is a highly complex subject which has an impact on cultures and societies in different ways: through norms and traditions, religious concepts and social institutions and globalization processes. Both civilizations have a great influence on culture in which people tend to see them as societies in microcosm with their own specific believes and ways of transmitting these cultures to their members (Arendt 1993).

New technology and internet have created a new culture which affects traditional one. For instance, Internet chat rooms have a great impact on personal identity and inner “self” of visitors. In recent years the understanding of “self” has been changed, because as a collective sentiment, it needs to be upheld and reaffirmed. Internet and chat rooms open new opportunities for people to change their identity and a social “self”. It means that a man can communicates as a woman, or a child can identifies himself as an expert in particular field. Cyberspace makes it possible for every person to create a unique identity according to personal expectations and desires, but it hides negative and even dangerous consequences for people he/she communicates with. In this situation, stipulated gender identities exist only in cyberspace, which defines and organizes them. The search for identity includes the question of what is the proper relationship of the individual to society as a whole.

Internet chat rooms represent a new form of social interaction which affects and changes human relations towards impersonal communication changing culture of people. Language of signs and symbols becomes the embodiment of culture and is a means whereby people communicate to other people, either within their own culture or in other cultures. On the other hand, Internet chat rooms deprive every user a chance to send verbal and non-verbal messages to the recipient. Internet creates its own culture which reflects in its language what is of value to the people (Turkle, 2004). When one has identity one is situated; that is, cast in the shape of a social object by the acknowledgement of his participation or membership in social relations. Violence and aggression are the main things expressed in chat rooms through “wrong” identities. The main effect of online communication is a “dual nature” of people who use chat rooms. Autonomy is not established by a kind of release from social constraints, so that the unencumbered self can realize individually-determined ends, but is realized through full participation in the civic order or disorder.

In sum, the stability of the social system depends on the characteristics and stability of the culture. More generally, mass media has provided a new arena for the expression of nationalist aspirations, but lack ability to meet social traditions and values. On the other hand, new cultural environment becomes an effective tool in the hands of mass media and advertisers trying to influence social values. On the margin of credibility, some of these projects have carried rejection of existing institutions to extreme lengths – living in elected poverty, in communes rejecting conventional family forms. New technological changes and modernization have a growing impact on the global community and politics, economic and religion eventually spread­ing outwards into the West with both the pluses and minuses of this cultural force.

Works Cited Page

  1. 1. Adams, E.M. Philosophy and the Modern Mind: A Philosophical Critique of Modern Western Civilization. University of North Carolina Press, 1975.
  2. Arendt, H. Between Past And Future. Penguin Classics, 1993.
  3. 3. The Crisis of Cultures: Identities and Differences. N.d. http://www.unu.edu/dialogue/papers/mohajerani-ks.pdf.
  4. 4. Huntington, S. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Simon & Schuster; 1st Touchstone Ed edition, 1998.
  5. Forbes, B.D. Religion and Popular Culture in America. University of California Press, 2000.
  6. Outfoxed – Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. Directed by R. Greenwald. The Disinformation Company, 2004.
  7. Schlosser, E. Fast Food Nation. Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
  8. Turkle, Sh. “Cyberspace Identity” in Behrens, L., Rosen, L.J. Writing and Reading across the Curriculum. Ninth ed. 2004, pp.275-283.

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