Globalization and Indigenous Culture
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Comments on the "Global Triad" and "Glocalization"


Thank you very much. I'd like to thank the organizers of this conference for a very pleasant and very stimulating occasion, and in particular, to thank two people who have entertained me, and dealt with me with great courtesy, on previous visits to Japan, Professor Inoue and Professor Abe --- and others --- but those are the two people who have most continually been very helpful to me.

We are, of course, concerned --- or supposed to be concerned --- primarily, with Europe today. I'm not so sure whether it's a good or a bad thing, but the fact of the matter is, that, for some peculiar reason, much of this morning's discussion was not about Europe, nor about Asia, but about America. In this connection I want to emphasize something which quite a few of you know, namely, that I live in America, but that I am not, however, an American citizen, and have no particular intention of becoming an American citizen. If one has to declare one's cultural identity, I would say that I am a "quasi-European." I have to say "quasi" because, unfortunately, the French view of the British is that they are not genuinely European, so I can't win.

On the other hand, I am delighted to be in this position, because I think this marginality with respect to everything here does give me a certain vantage point, which I hope will prove to be fruitful.

But to be more direct, and perhaps a little bit more serious, we are discussing in the two full days of this very interesting conference, two components of what many scholars call the "global triad," meaning, of course, that there is a way, a fruitful way, in which we can consider the world as a whole as being centered on three continents --- and before people quickly say to themselves, if not publicly, "Well what about other parts of the world," I'll say just that I'll come to that in a moment --- but the major three components of the triad are Asia --- with particular reference to East Asia, and not necessarily forever, but at least for the last quarter of a century, Japan in particular. Secondly, there is, of course, Europe, particularly the countries that constitute the European Union. And thirdly, there is the Western Hemisphere, more particularly North America, and even more particularly, the United States of America. And there are very interesting dynamics concerning the relationship between these three components of the triad.

Unfortunately, from many points of view, certainly from mine, the triad does not include Africa. Africa is, unfortunately, I think precluded from the triad, except in the sense that France does have considerable neo-imperial control over Africa. But to all intents and purposes, Africa is out of the triad.

The relationships between the different components of the triad are interesting because they have a particular bearing upon the drive to European unification. Partly because, even though briefly, Professor Voyé did indeed touch upon this issue, in reference to Papal and Vatican statements, there is little doubt in my mind --- and this is open to discussion --- that much of the recent drive in the direction of European unification has been spurred by the fear of three major threats.

The threat from East Asia, particularly from Japan; the threat from the United States; and, in close proximity to Europe, the growing threat, as it is perceived in many parts of Europe, of Islam. And much of the dreadful conflict in the former Yugoslavia can partly be understood in those terms.

And interestingly, as Professor Voyé knows well, the part played by the Vatican in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, is something of great interest in its own right, and a matter of great controversy.

But having said this, let me turn very briefly --- perhaps not so briefly --- to the whole theme of globalization. Now, it had never occurred to me that I would ever hear people say so forcefully, and without seeming reservation, that globalization constitutes Americanization, or that globalization emanates, in some way, from the United States.

Because, after all, much of the contours of what we now call globalization were laid down historically before the United States ever entered the modern world system. It is of more than passing interest to note that two of the most significant nations in the modern world --- significant for various reasons, which is not to say that one necessarily has to love either of them, namely, the United States and Japan --- entered what is often called the international community --- the Euro-centric international community --- at approximately the same time, namely, the declining years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century. And ever since that period at the turn of the century, the relationship between Japan and the U.S.A. has often been problematic --- and violently problematic, of course, at one tragic time. But the major point is to emphasize that, in the long perspective of globalization, America entered the whole global situation a long time after its basic structure was set in place.

So it seems to me ridiculous, quite frankly, to talk about globalization as emanating from the United States. And moreover, to suggest that articles written in the Harvard Business Review in the late 1980s, prove in some way that globalization is an American phenomenon or an American idea, is very, very doubtful. Because I myself happened to be reading the Harvard Business Review in detail in the period about 1985 to 1990, and what is so striking --- and I challenge anybody here to go back and look at the years in question, 1985 to 1990 --- about the articles written about globalization, is the major significance of Japanese writers on the subject of globalization. In any case, as far as America is concerned, American business people and economists have, in fact, come to employ in recent years the term globalization almost obsessively, but --- and this is a very important "but" --- as far as academic disciplines are concerned, economists, particularly American economists, came very, very late into the situation of talking about globalization.

As far as disciplines are concerned, it was in the discipline of the sociology of religion, it was in the discipline of anthropology, the discipline of comparative literature, and to some extent, the discipline of political science, that the word and the term, and the exploration of the dimensions of globalization had been proceeding --- for at least ten years --- before economists, particularly American economists, ever began to use the word.

And teaching at an American university, I can only report here, autobiographically, that I had tremendous difficulty in trying to convince my colleagues in sociology, my primary discipline, and in other disciplines, to take the notion of globalization seriously.

On top of that, I can assure you that the anti-global sentiment is very, very strong in the United States of America. It is playing a key part in the current campaign to decide which candidate should run for president from the Republican Party; the phrase "anti-globalism" is a significant one in American politics; there are numerous movements which are directed in opposition to the teaching of the subject of globalization, to so-called "international education"; there have been people protesting at school boards all over America about American children learning about other countries; they fear that if they learn about ancient Greek philosophy or about Japanese religion or French philosophy, that their minds will be destroyed, in other words, that their views will be relativized.

Now, the term "relativize" is absolutely essential here. Because I think that a lot of what we have been talking about with respect to "indigenization" comes about because virtually every tradition in the contemporary world feels itself in some way to be threatened, to be "relativized." Relativized, broadly speaking, of course, means to be made one among an increasingly large number of different world views, of different traditions and so on. And the best example, which nearly everybody knows of, is shown in the case of the great controversy surrounding the publication of Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, where Moslems, or leaders of a certain segment of Islam, felt that Islamic views were being relativized, were being placed in a larger context. And so we had the ensuing fatwa issued against --- the death judgment concerning --- Salman Rushdie, and to this day, he still lives under heavy protection, and in hiding, coming out only occasionally.

Now, to go back to the Harvard Business Review. The articles written in that period of the late '80s by Japanese economists sometimes employed the word "glocalization," which is usually rendered in Japanese --- and excuse my pronunciation --- as dochakuka. This is a word, incidently, which has played an increasingly important part in my own writings, recently, about globalization. Because "glocalization" means the simultaneity --- the co-presence --- of both universalizing and particularizing tendencies.

Let me give you a little example here of a different kind. Some years ago the World Health Organization took upon itself the task of promoting world health. And in so doing, the major, influential figures within the World Health Organization said that they couldn't have a conception of "world health" without incorporating a whole variety of different traditions of medicine. And so the way in which this has been developed has been to try and obtain a sense of world health by incorporating particular traditions of medicine, by not favoring one medical tradition over another.

But the interesting point here is that when particular medical professionals in particular societies were called upon to produce statements about their own medical practices, some areas of the world did not really have a medical tradition, and so they had, in fact --- and I use the word advisedly --- to invent an indigenous tradition of medicine. And so, in the world in which we live, we have to be very conscious about the fact that indigenization is the other side of the coin of the homogenizing aspects of globalization.

Now, in Professor Voyé's paper, she in fact uses, without using my exact language, this kind of approach to describe the strategy or the globalization project within Europe, of the Roman Catholic Church, which she shows --- in my judgment very successfully and in a very interesting way --- to be following what I think she calls, herself, the "double strategy" of claiming a kind of universality, at least within Europe, and on the other hand, to relate that universality to particular sacred places, or what I believe Lilian Voyé, following Durkheim, calls "totemic places."

And indeed, in the contribution by Professor Dollfus, which was, of course, read in his absence, he insists that globalization in fact, produces differences. I would put it slightly differently --- it's more in line, in fact, with Professor Voy --- which is to say it's not so much that globalization produces differences, but to say that we should consider globalization, in and of itself, to be simultaneously homogenizing --- making things the same --- and at the same time, making things different.

Now, this is difficult, perhaps, for most of us --- including myself --- to grasp. But I think we have to get used to this interpenetration, this relationship between universality and particularity, or else we are going to continue to produce a distorted image of what is happening in the modern world. Even if we were to completely forget the word globalization, if we were to say, "Don't let's use this word globalization, it's a bunch of American rubbish" --- let's assume we say that, let's throw the idea out of the window --- but, if we throw it away, we've still got to come to terms with the obvious fact that we live in a world in which there is a much, much greater interdependence --- economically, politically, culturally, conferencewise, travelwise, touristwise --- and so on and so forth, compared, let's say, with fifty years ago, one hundred years ago, and so forth. So if we were to call it, not "globalization," but simply "X" we would still have the same kind of problem concerning the relationship between these universalizing and particularizing trends.

And this, incidentally, is not just a simple matter of the global situation, because one can see this kind of complicated relationship between the universal and particular occurring within a number of modern societies. I will, perhaps against my better judgment here, give an American example. In the American legal system, there has, in a controversial way, arisen in recent years what is sometimes called the "cultural defense." The term cultural defense refers to the way in which the lawyers acting on behalf of a defendant may say: "This defendant has been brought up in a different cultural tradition from that to which this court is used. And so, sadly, many people accused of wife-beating, of cruelty to their wives, have not infrequently claimed, not necessarily successfully, that within their own tradition, hitting your wife whenever you feel angry with her is perfectly acceptable. And there are a few cases in which, in fact, defendants have, so to speak, gotten away with this defense.

And this kind of defense has become increasingly important since --- as somebody said yesterday --- increasingly since 1965, when the whole immigration pattern to the United States was shifted towards, broadly speaking, favoring people from Asia rather than from Europe, that one gets a great mixture, a complicated mixture, of cultural traditions, people from different backgrounds, in court. And one gets some very, I might say, perverse cases like this, and here I draw on some cases that have happened in Western Europe.

For example, in Britain, people have, on occasion, tried to defend the practice of the mutilation of genitals of females as an indigenous, respectable tradition, deriving primarily, but not only, from East Africa. In this case, I can quite frankly say, and I hope that everybody agrees with me, that, thank goodness, that "cultural defense" has not worked in any case of which I am aware. But the cultural defense is not confined to the two countries which I have mentioned. The cultural defense has been made in various other parts of Europe --- in Sweden, in Germany, and so on and so forth --- again, not necessarily successfully. But the important thing to say is that there is a kind of world-wide tendency to increasingly bring the particular into relationship with the universal. As has been said, "the particular is what makes the universal work."

And a final example before I close my comments at this stage, we know, of course --- or many of us here will know --- that quite recently a conference was held by the United Nations on the whole subject of human rights. Many will also know that that conference was preceded by some regional conferences, and the Asian conference which took place in Bangkok probably received the most attention in the Western press, because its attempt to defy --- or at least present an alternative to --- the Western conceptions of human rights was so strong. Now some people would say that there is no such thing as universality here, and throw up their hands and say, "Nobody is going to win," and so take a very pessimistic attitude to the situation.

But there is a completely different way to look at the situation, because here we have a universal theme, human rights," accepted as a problem by virtually everybody concerned, east and west, north and south; so they agree on the universality of the topic of human rights, but they disagree --- they have particular points of view --- with respect to the contents of those human rights. Broadly speaking, the Asian is a much more collectivist conception of human rights, while the Western --- or the West European or the European generally and the North American --- is a much more individualistic conception of human rights.

But we might say that we shouldn't just look at things as they are at a particular point in time. As we sometimes say, the game goes on, so the next time this issue is discussed, there will again be controversy, there will perhaps forever be controversy, but my main point is that the tussle between the particular and the universal will go on and on.

Now, very briefly, to the term "glocalization," as I derive it from the Japanese term dochakuka.

As it is used in Japanese business practice, this term actually refers to the selling, or making of products for particular markets. And as I think most of us here know, Japanese business people have been particularly successful in selling their products in a variety of different markets, unlike the clumsy strategies of the Americans, who until very recently, were --- and you all know this very well --- stupid enough, and some of them are still silly enough, to believe that you can get Japanese people to drive on the "wrong" side of the road, because the wrong side of the road from their point of view is on the left-hand side; we know that, but other people don't. (The French certainly don't.)

But the basic idea of glocalization is the simultaneous promotion of what is, in one sense, a standardized product, for particular markets, in particular flavors, and so on. In my judgment, this does give a very interesting cast or tone, to the Japanese presence in the modern world. Because I myself believe --- and I am not saying this just because I am in Japan, just because I am sort of confronted here, in a very pleasant way, by many Japanese people, but I believe that because of the indigenous nature of the concept of glocalization, that the Japanese are in a particularly strong position to, in fact, identify themselves as genuinely global people, in a way which the Americans are not.

In fact, if one had to think of the two most opposite nations in this respect, I would say that the Japanese have a major strategic, cultural advantage in the whole globalization process, and that up to now, up to this point, the Americans are out of it --- they stand no chance, because they don't have a conception, they don't have a philosophical, cultural conception, of the interpenetration of the particular and the universal.

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$Date: 2001/05/15 05:58:52 $