Globalization and Indigenous Culture
[Table of Contents]

Duality and Differentiation in European Globalization


The procedures in the Europe Session of the Symposium were the same as those followed for the Asia Session on the previous day. Following the presentations of papers and comments by discussants, each of the papers' authors (including one proxy reader) responded to the discussants' comments, followed by further comments by the discussants. The discussion was then opened to questions and free discussion from participants in the audience.

Here, I would like to outline the individual debate held during the session on each of the themes of religion, language, and family/community, followed by a final summation of the discussion regarding the perspective of globalization.

1. Religions

In the conclusion to her presentation, Liliane Voyé observed that the Catholic Church, while following the same current as the European Union, aimed at the formation of a global community as a strategy against secularization. At the same time, against such time as that strategy might appear unrealistic, the Church has prepared a strategic retreat in the form of an insistence on the particularism of a "Catholic Europe." This "double strategy" seemed to correspond to the dual effect of globalization pointed out by Roland Robertson in his comments, namely that it tends both toward homogenization and universalization.

In response to Voyé's comments, Tôru Nishigaki inquired regarding the relationship between Catholicism and multimedia, referring to Marshall McLuhan, who seemed to estimate Catholicism highly, based on the fact that he saw in a television screen a resemblance to a church's stained-glass window. In addition to that question, Nishigaki asked Voyé concerning the strategic performance of the Church, namely, how Roman Catholicism copes with the danger of its potential relativization by electronic media like Internet which promote globalization, and the easy way in which religious cults might use such media to manipulate minds.

Voyé responded by noting that Catholicism certainly differs from Protestantism in setting importance on aesthetic images, as evidenced by the construction of numerous cathedrals and monuments. Churches and monasteries play a very important role in Europe, so much so that one could say there would be little worth seeing without them. In that sense, multimedia is relevant to Catholicism as regards the use of concrete images. The point of resemblance is in use of images to appeal to personal sensation.

Voyé also insisted that Catholicism has the character of externality in contrast to Protestant internality. Referring to "La part maudite," by Georges Bataille (whom Michel Foucault called one of the most profound thinkers of this century), Voyé explained the difference in traits between the two religions. Speaking of the resemblance between Protestantism and capitalism proposed as a hypothesis by Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Bataille said that since Protestants never spend their diligently earned profits on leisure, recreation or the "good life," those profits are, in the long run, accumulated and reinvested in various undertakings. This process is the fundamental principle of capitalism, namely the primitive accumulation of capital and surplus value. While Protestantism and capitalism share this characteristic in common, it is not true of Catholicism, which "consumes" its own profits.

In turn, Bataille classifies the notion of "consume" into two categories, using the French terms consommer and consumer. While the former means "productive consumption," consumption which leaves some product after the consumption, the latter term means "non-productive consumption" in which the consumption leaves no remainder. The "consumption" engaged in by Catholicism is equivalent to the latter, "non-productive consumption," profligate or extravagant spending undertaken sheerly for the external world. Hence Catholicism has the character of externality in comparison to the internality of Protestantism, which consumes resources productively for the internal dimension of the world. The ontological significance of Catholic religious architecture is precisely in embodying that externality. The only exception is music, which is a very Protestant art form.

We can also consider the relationship between Catholicism, images, and aesthetics from other perspectives, for example, pilgrimage. The pilgrimages to holy places of the Virgin Mary or the saints display a pantheistic and polytheistic aspect of Catholicism quite different from Protestantism. This aspect indicates clearly the popular religiosity of Catholicism, which might be called "Folk Catholicism." In pilgrimages, it is the sensate experience that is important; pilgrims touch the images of saints, light candles, offer many kinds of flowers to them or visualize them.

The other point involves the relationship between the Pope and congregations of Christians. When the Pope makes his visits to various places of the world, the Christians there participate in the congregation gathering to see him, or to observe his image on television. Their purpose is not necessarily to hear the Pope's authoritative messages --- for example, his prohibition of premarital sex --- nor to concur with them, but merely to participate in the immense congregations for themselves. At the base of this autotelic motivation of participation is the expectation that participants may, by the act of gathering in the same place, achieve a collective sense of union or solidarity --- and through that, a confirmation of their own cultural identity.

Voyé answered Nishigaki's second question in the following way: against the threat of the relativization of Catholicism and the appearance of religious groups practicing mind-manipulation, since the 1960s the Catholic Church has gone forward with the rationalization of its practices, as evidenced, for example, in the discouragement of pilgrimages. This policy, however, has led to the separation of the faithful from the Church, and rapidly diminished the number of worshipers attending Mass.

On the other hand, and contrary to the Church's intent, believers' desires with regard to Catholicism as a popular religion have increased, leading to, for example, an increase in the enthusiasm for pilgrimages. Based on this observation, Voyé concluded that the Church's response to the potential relativization of its ritual practices posed by the threat of electronic media in effect played the role of enlivening popular religion in Europe.

The issue of the nature of the Catholic Church as a form of multimedia, and thus its similarity to the modern electronic multimedia, is an important one relating to the quality of the performance provided by the Church. But Voyé's comments suggested an equally important point, namely, the "double strategy" planned by the Church. Concerning this point, a member of the Symposium audience, Raymond Baptist, asked Voyé's opinion regarding whether the Catholic project could succeed.

Voyé answered in the following way: according to the 1990 European Values Study, while Europeans are, as a whole, becoming estranged from Catholic institutions and may fail to understand the Church's doctrines or ethics, the residents of Catholic countries continue to say that they are Catholics, or if they are residents of Belgium, that may say they are Belgians, and therefore, Catholic. While the Roman Catholic Church still possesses the power to enforce its rules, for their part, the people form their primary relationship to the Church through their adherence to Catholic ceremonial forms in weddings and funerals.

This occurs simply because there are no other forms available, or because the forms available to the Catholic are so much more varied than those in the Protestant churches. And as a result, new religious movements tend to achieve less success in Catholic countries than in Protestant countries. In one sense, this fact means that the Roman Catholic Church can survive, but it likewise cannot be denied that the gap between the clerical hierarchy of the Church and the grass-roots will become ever wider. In the long run, most of the people will come to combine their Roman Catholicism with elements adopted from Asian religions and popular psychology, thus constructing their own patchwork cosmology. This segment represents those people living in the context of the "New Age." For example, according to the aforementioned European Values Study, twenty-five percent of Europeans now believe in the notion of reincarnation.

In contrast to this popular segment, few people inside the Church believe that the Church will be able to recover its influence, not merely in the spiritual, ethical dimensions, but also the social, political, and economic arenas. The Opus Dei movement to which Professor Voyé referred in her presentation, for example, is comprised of believers who look for a rediscovery of the Church's disciplinary authority and order. But this group itself represents a minority within Catholicism.

Agreeing with her in principal, Robertson drew attention to the distinction between the general process of globalization, and the projects of globalization as envisioned by the Catholic Church. Catholicism has tried hard to construct an intentional "sacred canopy," and it is precisely there that the nature of Catholic globalization differs from that of Protestantism. For example, Catholicism has proceeded with its proselytizing activities in Africa while subsuming to itself various African animistic religions. This stance illustrates how the Catholic Church has well adapted itself to local conditions by subsuming to itself various local rituals and beliefs, and it is in this sense that Catholic strategic performance can be well understood. In relation to Catholicism's performance and globalization, however, one issue that remains to be considered more deeply is the importance of Latin-America for Catholicism.

In sum, the theme of globalization and religion was discussed primarily from two perspectives: first, the issue of Catholic performance as it relates to the similarity between Catholicism and multimedia, or the affinity of Catholicism to the modern media. The second perspective focused on issues of the Catholic Church's strategy of globalization in Europe. As a general problem, the participants also discussed the potential for using multimedia as a means of transmitting religious knowledge.

2. Languages

In her presentation, Jeanne Peiffer both reevaluated and appealed for the European tradition of plurilinguism in the face of a globalization epitomized in the monistic control of languages by English. In her conclusion, she suggested that the European Union take measures aiming at greater mobility of European researchers, in order to enhance linguistic knowledge and facilitate plurilingual scientific exchange.

The core of Peiffer's presentation dealt with the way in which the globalization of information has influenced the scientific world; in her perception of the current situation, her description thus effectively agreed with that of Robertson, who pointed out the way in which globalization had led to the loss of global influence by France and the United Kingdom.

In his comments, Toru Nishigaki agreed in principle with Peiffer's insistence on plurilinguism, but he also pointed out that while it is only natural to respect each respective national language as a conveyor of human sensibilities and preferences, there is also a problem of how other regional languages outside the national languages will be handled within the context of plurilinguism. Second, he suggested, in witness of recent trends, that it might be preferable to use some international standard of "basic English" as a language in place of local languages as a medium of international exchange.

Peiffer responded to Nishigaki's two points by saying that since her presentation focused on communication within the scientific community, she could not comment specifically on the issue of regional languages. At the same time, she also noted that it was common knowledge that many movements are currently underway to preserve regional languages against extinction, and she offered her own personal opinion that such regional languages should indeed be protected.

Peiffer offered that support, however, on one condition, namely that people using a regional language should also be trained plurilingually, and that those languages should include not only major tongues like English, but others like Japanese as well, based on her view of the desirability that the world be abundant and complex. She further offered that it is necessary to consider multiple levels with regard to the use of languages in international communication. For example, while it is important to have a "lingua franca" for communication at the analytical level, the artificial languages hitherto promoted for that role have not been successful. As a result, she suggested that it was not necessary to develop a single standardized language for international communication. The development of a "standardized English," for example, would be merely to add one more tongue to the language list. In that sense, broken English is sufficient for the purposes of scientific communication.

On the other hand, when it comes to university teaching, the consideration of various problems on an international level, and other occasions where a higher, more subtle level of nuance is required, the only alternative is to use one's own native tongue, or the language in which one feels most competent.

In such cases, English is not always necessary. Though Hilbert's idea of formal language certainly symbolizes modernization, the present "post-modern" era is already no longer the same.

Nishigaki also took exception to Olivier Dollfus' criticism of the poverty of English, noting that English has great power of expression. To this, Isomura, who acted as proxy reader for Dollfus, indicated that English is certainly not a poor language, in the sense that it is always modified when used as "lingua franca" in various different countries. At the same time, he suggested that it could never serve to express the literature and philosophies of other languages, and he wondered whether Nishigaki was prepared to create a perfect English for that role.

To this question, Nishigaki first pointed out that the promulgation of media like Internet is already leading to the formation of a standardized English, and that that English displays two aspects. One is a very comprehensible and familiar aspect, and the other is a very informal, rude aspect. Communication is not a matter merely of transmitting information bluntly and simply; it must be capable of a delicate range of expression conveying deep emotion and proper logic. As a result, the kind of language now spreading spontaneously on the Internet is insufficient, and should be further objectified and made into a language for international communications. In that sense, it might be that French or German, which have more forms of speech, are more suitable for subtle expression than English. Here, however, English was provided merely as one example of such a language.

The discussion to this point dealt mainly with the issue of linguistic hegemony in the process of globalization. Based on its central use in the international scientific community and Internet, English is the de facto leader of that hegemony. Viewed from the converse perspective, globalization is currently being advanced by virtue of the fact that a single language, English, is being used.

On the basis of the perception of the situation, two kinds of proposal were thus made regarding the means to achieving more subtle levels of expression: one stated that a common international "lingua franca" should be constructed by the standardization of English, while the other suggested the solution of plurilinguism.

In a sense, the discussion here tended to be structured by prospective future practices and conditions, with the result that it might be considered as falling into the category of "applied-globalization theory." While that theme in itself is important, the issue that should likely be debated first is the one regarding the basic factors stimulating the globalization of language, a theme suggested by Nobutaka Inoue.

As possible factors in the promotion of linguistic globalization, Inoue suggested both economic and scientific-technological rationale. For example, computers are relevant to the latter, while English-particularly in the context of American business-is related to the former. These main factors in the promotion of linguistic globalization do not indicate the universalization of a single language, nor the creation of a new language, but merely an inevitable process in current society. Consequently, the transformation of languages in the process of globalization occurs as the result of natural selection from various emerging languages, and the languages which survive that process come to be used in the world. For example, if people understand they can do business, purchase goods, or travel abroad by learning broken English, then that language will expand. In short, globalization represents just such a process.

Another role, however, is played by culture. Peiffer thus added to Inoue's opinion the remark that in the selection of a common language, an important role is played by the image to be projected, for example, in the case of Europe, the cultural image of Europe is important.

Concerning this cultural factor, Robertson asked Peiffer her opinion regarding the reason for the selection of a language, for example, why English has been chosen as an international language in Holland or Denmark, but not in other countries like France. Peiffer responded that she had merely analyzed the way in which the scientific community had reacted to the globalization of communication, whether in resistance or in promotion, with the result that she could not offer a direct answer to Robertson's question.

With respect to economic and scientific-technological reasons as a primary force behind the globalization of languages, Yoshiya Abe made an observation regarding the relationship between education and profession. His question was basically related to the problem of English and computers, or languages and literacy. Noting an example from Japan, Abe observed that in recent years, the conditions for employment by major Japanese companies have included the ability to use English and the ability to use computers, and he pointed out how such conditions could lead to a hollowing of the curriculum at Japanese universities, and even the hollowing of domestic Japanese industries, or in short, a hollowing out of culture in the broad sense.

Agreeing that this problem is true in other countries as well, Peiffer noted that it was virtual suicide to respond by eliminating English education, and instead insisted on the need for plurilinguistic education to oppose the loss of substance.

Nishigaki went on to point out that if more universities come to focus excessively on providing attractive and well-planned curriculums in the subjects of English and computer literacy, goals may come to be narrowed to the one of becoming entrepreneurs. And that may well lead to the appearance of an even more highly competitive society. In such a society, we will be subjected to great stress, leading to constant anxiety about winning through competition. The resentment of losers, in turn, may be focused by inwardly closed religious or political groups which become huge reservoirs of violently explosive sentiments and make their appearance through the medium of the electronic media. As a result, it is very dangerous to assume that mastering English and computer literacy are simple keys to a rosy future.

In sum, the theme of globalization and language was discussed from two perspectives: the problem of the main factors promoting the globalization of languages, and the problem of the applied theory of globalization as regards plurilinguism and the selection and creation of a lingua franca. The question of languages in the domain of applied globalization theory was also discussed in the context of the potential for the development of automatic translation systems; other questions involved methods of maintaining plurilinguism, and the globalization of languages in Australia and other non-European areas.

3. Families and Communities

In his paper (read in his absence by Isomura Hisanori), Olivier Dollfus described the transformation of communities by globalization, and while recognizing its vast spread and impact, he concluded that globalization does not produce uniformity, but differences.

In response, Robertson added that globalization produces not merely differences, but uniformity together with differences. Based on his perception of the characteristics of globalization as involving both universality and particularity --- which formed the keynote to his comments --- Robertson observed that the essence of globalization is precisely in its simultaneous, compound effect of producing differentiation and homogenization.

To this, Nishigaki questioned whether a distinction should not be assumed in the level of differentiation observed in Europe compared to that in Africa and Asia, including Japan, and if so, how such difference should be considered. Nishigaki also suggested that if physical communities are currently in the process of decline and breakdown, then virtual communities might be capable of replacing some of their functions, and that in any event, globalization is now making possible home offices, a development which in turn may allow families to move out of great cities to countryside areas where they live and work together. He suggested that such a practice should represent a positive development that might work towards preventing the erosion of the family.

Following the comments of discussants, Isomura, who read Dollfus' paper in his absence, responded and directed several questions of his own to the discussants. He first suggested that since Dollfus' claims were already included in Robertson's comments, the latter should prove no problem for Dollfus' position. On the other hand, with regard to the relationship between the United States and Japan, which seem to form opposite poles in globalization, Isomura took exception to Robertson's observation that --- in contrast to the United States --- Japan was truly adapting to globalization by its practice of "glocalization." Isomura suggested that this was the opposite of the true state of affairs. Raising the example of IBM, which employs some twenty-thousand people in Japan, Isomura noted that while the U.S. parent multinational may continue to control corporate capital, both the Board Director and President of the Japanese branch were Japanese citizens, a practice followed by U.S. companies in other areas of the world as well, thus making the company highly "glocal." In contrast, he noted that this does not normally occur when Japanese companies go overseas.

To Nishigaki's first comment, Isomura mentioned that within the European style of differentiation, some people in France were now calling for a new kind of discrimination or "differential racism" in cases where certain forms of Asian-African differentiation --- Islam, for example --- have entered and interacted with the French situation,

Large number of Asians and Africans are flowing into France, which itself is an immigrant society. Given the current high level of unemployment and other socio-economic problems there, the suggestion of a differential racism, whereby immigrants with heterogeneous cultures and religions should be forced to return to their home countries, or forced to live in specific residential quarters in France, is gaining a certain level of support.

To Nishigaki's second question, Isomura responded by suggesting that virtual communities not only would fail to succeed in substituting for the direct communication of physical communities, but that as their limitations were exposed, they would function to promote the growth of real physical communities, leading to increased personal mobility and the truly global melting-pot.

Nishigaki responded to Isomura's comments by adding a bit more pessimistic assessment to his earlier optimistic projection regarding families. Citing Alvin Toffler's The Third Wave, Nishigaki pointed out that the increase of recomposed families created through repeated divorce and remarriage may bring serious consequences for sexual relationships and human psychology. As a result, the problems of the family in globalization must be considered simultaneously from those two perspectives. Nishigaki also agreed with Isomura's comment to the effect that virtual communication can stimulate real face-to-face communication, and that it would be desirable to create some means for encouraging and promoting such opportunities for live, face-to-face communication. Did this then mean that we must continue to live in large cities? Here, he suggested it might be possible to arrange for opportunities for real communication even while living distantly separated, but that it was a problem which required further consideration.

4. Conclusion

The discussions of the Symposium dealt with globalization in the context of three themes: religion, languages, and families and communities, and thus served to clarify certain aspects of the globalization process.

The comments of Roland Robertson were particularly important in this regard. According to Robertson, an important point of globalization is whether the process itself will result in the loss of the unique meanings of symbols, methods of expression and their communication. If, for example, one considers that Shakespeare's plays are highly evaluated when performed in their translated form all over the world --- including Japan --- it no longer becomes an issue of whether Shakespeare is written and performed in English or not. Similarly, Japanese sumo wrestling has become highly popular in its performances all over the world-including the United Kingdom; as such, it, like Shakespeare, no longer represents the unique tradition of a single country, Japan. In short, globalization means that symbols and methods of expression lose their own origins and become more international and universal in nature.

At the same time, the phenomenon of globalization is frequently confused with cultural imperialism. The latter refers to the lifting of a cultural element from one specific context and its transplanting to another context, most frequently, transplants from the First World to the Third World. An example would be the advance of the American-capitalized McDonald's restaurants throughout the world.

It remains a question, however, whether it is appropriate to refer to such a phenomenon as "imperialism," and Robertson suggested that it was indeed not proper to label it as such. The McDonald's in each part of the world adopt traits of their host countries, so that a McDonald's in Tokyo is not the same as one in Paris or London. On the other hand, it is equally true that Chinese food can be purchased all over the world, even in Italy and France. As a result, even if one considers the phenomenon of cultural imperialism, it should not be limited to a one-way flow from the First World to the Third World, but also in the opposite direction.

What Robertson is pointing to here is the nature of globalization as a process of "decontextualization." From Robertson's point of view, religions, languages and communities are all being subjected to the same process of decontextualization; it is in that sense that his observation regarding globalization's duality --- its simultaneous universality and particularity, or homogenization and differentiation --- must be reemphasized.

But as Nishagaki suggested, are there no differences between European and Asian globalization as regards its characteristics of decontextualization and simultaneous homogenization and differentiation? This question was raised in a more detailed form by an audience participant, Hirochika Nakamaki. While basically agreeing with Robertson's idea of a "global triad," Nakamaki introduced a question regarding whether globalization might not be understood differently within each of the world regions represented by East Asia, Europe, and America.

In response, Robertson agreed with the importance of Nakamaki's observation, adding that other differences in the interpretation of globalization were also possible, for example, depending on the state of religious tradition and the degree of modernization, or differences in the nature of religious and political groups. Taking the case of Canada and the United States as one example, Robertson pointed out that Canadians always understood their society to be a global one, and tended to highly evaluate the human dimension of globalization's communality. Americans, in contrast, tended to hold a negative image of globalization. In a sense, this discussion can be broadly contained within the scheme of "universality" and "particularity" which Robertson earlier pointed out.

In conclusion, Robertson noted that the current discussion on globalization is itself complex, as indicated, for example, by the multifarious ways in which the term itself is being defined. At the same time, it is also necessary to continue to consider new evaluations of the advancing process of globalization, since globalization may foment the resistance of nationalistic and ethnic groups, as well as the totalitarian suppression of such varieties of localism, and also because anti-globalization movements themselves may eagerly anticipate another kind of globalization. In this sense, the problem of globalization is profoundly interlinked to our world vision at the end the end of the Cold War, and the collapse of Communism. As noted by Nishigaki, in the context of our relationship to rapidly advancing information technology, the Internet, and multimedia, globalization --- including its social and technological aspects --- represents one of the most important issues facing us today.

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