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“In Praise of Cultural Imperialism” by David Rothkopf Essay

In the article, In Praise of Cultural Imperialism, David Rothkopf illustrates a progressive new world order where information is the new global currency and the United States, “the indispensable nation,” is the bank. In his article, Rothkopf contrasts the victimizing tendencies of ‘cultural barriers’, which are the unmistakably causing ethnic, religious, ideological, tribal or nationalistic conflicts, to the uniting tendencies of western globalization. Rothkopf predicts the inevitable merging of all the cultures under the common benefits originating from globalization once “they have realized that to compete in the global marketplace they must conform to the culture of that marketplace”

The United States whose policies are evidently “the best model for the future” will lead this next step in civilization’s evolution, all the while making sure that “if common values are being developed, they be the values with which Americans are comfortable.” Rothkopf further states that it is in the US’s best interest “to encourage the development of a world in which the fault lines separating nations are bridged by shared interest” ultimately leading to a more peaceful and tolerant future: “Globalization is a vital step toward both a more stable world and better lives for the people in it.”

Rothkopf, the former Deputy Undersecretary of the Commerce Department under the Clinton Administration and now the president of an international advisory firm, is also an adjunct professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University. Consequently, his views clearly demonstrate a pro-American capitalist’s stance on the issues pertaining to American economics, cultural imperialism and foreign policy. In his article, Rothkopf describes the power of culture and its influence over this new age global environment, with its power to “bind and to divide in a time when the tensions between integration and separation tug at every issue that is relevant to international relations.”

Moreover, he claims that although critics of globalization may condemn the “homogenizing influences of globalization,” the effects of globalization are more consistently positive than negative. This is because globalization has an integrating dimension to it. Rothkopf believes that the “United States is in a position not only to lead in the 21st century as the dominant power of the Information Age, but to do so by breaking down the barriers that divide nations–and groups¬†within nations–and by building ties that create an ever greater reservoir of shared interests among an ever larger community if peoples” This “removal not only of cultural barriers but of many of the negative dimensions of culture” could only result in stability…right?

Rothkopf views could be easily dismissed, as an arrogant fantasy-ridden interpretation of the future. However, although many cultures may not see the benefits of melting themselves into an existence that is in every aspect dominated by western values, the influence of American culture on the rest of the world is evident. Whether this influence will or has been completely positive has yet to be proven. Although Rothkopf believes that globalization is the key to a peaceful future whose culturally uniting fundamentals lie with the United States, he underestimates the complex nature of culture and its strength in relation to globalization. Culture is not something that can be simply defined as Webster’s Third New International Dictionary does, nor will it be easily moulded into a tool to be used for the expansion of American interests.

Many cultures around the world, such as in the Muslim block, guard their culture and religion with their lives, for culture and religion are one in the same in Islam. As was illustrated on September 11th, many will even sacrifice their lives for causes they perceive threaten the existence of their culture/religion. Another aspect of globalization that Rothkopf does not develop is the apparent social stratification created by globalization. It is arguable that to sustain globalization, cheap labour must readily available. If undeveloped countries become developed and the poor majority become empowered, where will the cheap labour come from?

Although Rothkopf may bring attention to the overbearing extension of American cultural values over the globe, he underestimates how the rest of the worlds’ varied and contrasting cultural values will effect the global environment. Consequently, his extremely biased perspectives undermine some of the more valid points of his article.

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