Communications Media, Globalization, and Empire
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Explores global communications media in the 21st century

In Communications Media, Globalization, and Empire, an international team of experts analyze and critique the political economy of media communications worldwide. Their analysis takes particular account of the sometimes conflicting pressures of globalization and "neo-imperialism." The first is commonly defined as the dismantling of barriers to trade and cultural exchange and responds significantly to lobbying of the world's largest corporations, including media corporations. The second concerns U.S. pursuit of national security interests as response to "terrorism," at one level and, at others, to intensifying competition among both nations and corporations for global natural resources.

Notes on Contributors
1. Globzlization, Media, and Empire: An Introduction by Oliver Boyd-Barrett
I. Global Media or Local Media Globalized?
2. Cosmopolitans and Conquistadors: Empires, Nations, and Networks by Graham Murdock
3. Film and Globalization by Toby Miller and Richard Maxwell
4. Cyberspace, Globalization, and US Empire by Oliver Boyd-Barrett
II. Regulation and Cultural Competition
5. Globalization, Public Service Broadcasting, and Citizen Responses by Granville Williams
6. Regulating globalization: Domestic Response to International Investment in China's Media Market by Jia Lin
III. Global, National and Local—Mutual Accommodations
7. Xinhua News Agency and Globalization: Negotiating Between the Global, the Local, and the National by Xin Xin
8. Localization Strategies of International Media Companies: Entering India in the 1990s by Geetika Pathania-Jain
9. Transnational Media and National Vision: Television in Liberalized Indian by Anshu Chatterjee
10. Hispanic Media Globalization by Mercedes Medina
IV. Global Media, Global Economy
11. Deregulation, Privatization, and the Changing Global Media Environment by Richard A. Gershon
12. Global Advertising in Asia: Penetration and Transformation of the Transnational Advertising Agencies by Kwangmi Ko Kim
13. Toward Globalization or Localization: Multinational Advertising in Eastern Europe by Izabella Zandberg
14. Global Corporations, Global Public Relations by Liese L. Hutchinson and John J. Pauly



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Date de parution 20 février 2007
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780861969142
Langue English

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Communications Media, Globalization and Empire
Communications Media, Globalization and Empire
Edited by Oliver Boyd-Barrett
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Communications Media, Globalization and Empire
1. - Oliver Boyd-Barrett
ISBN: 0 86196 666 0
Ebook edition ISBN: 9780-86196-914-2
Ebook edition published by John Libbey Publishing Ltd , 3 Leicester Road, New Barnet, Herts EN5 5EW, United Kingdom e-mail: ; web site:
Printed and electronic book orders (Worldwide): Indiana University Press , Herman B Wells Library - 350, 1320E. 10th St., Bloomington, IN 47405, USA
2016 Copyright John Libbey Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved. Unauthorised duplication contravenes applicable laws.
Notes on Contributors
Chapter 1  Globalization, Media and Empire: An Introduction Oliver Boyd-Barrett
Chapter 2   Cosmopolitans and Conquistadors : Empires, Nations and Networks Graham Murdock
Chapter 3  Film and Globalization Toby Miller and Richard Maxwell
Chapter 4  Cyberspace, Globalization and US Empire Oliver Boyd-Barrett
Chapter 5  Globalization, Public Service Broadcasting and Citizen Responses Granville Williams
Chapter 6  Regulating Globalization: Domestic Response to International Investment in China’s Media Market Jia Lin
Chapter 7  Xinhua News Agency and Globalization: Negotiating Between the Global, the Local and the National Xin Xin
Chapter 8  Localization Strategies of International Media Companies: Entering India in the 1990s Geetika Pathania-Jain
Chapter 9  Transnational Media and National Vision: Television in Liberalized India Anshu Chatterjee
Chapter 10  Hispanic Media Globalization Mercedes Medina
Chapter 11  Deregulation, Privatization and the Changing Global Media Environment Richard A. Gershon
Chapter 12  Global Advertising in Asia: Penetration and Transformation of the Transnational Advertising Agencies Kwangmi Ko Kim
Chapter 13  Toward Globalization or Localization: Multinational Advertising in Eastern Europe Izabella Zandberg
Chapter 14  Global Corporations, Global Public Relations Liese L. Hutchison and John J. Pauly
T he idea for this book originated during a 2002 conference that took place in Spokane and was inspired and organized by Professor David Demers for the University of Washington’s Center for Global Media Studies. David subsequently edited the conference proceedings ( Terrorism, Globalization and Mass Communication , Spokane: Marquette). My contacts with several of the participants in that conference inspired the present volume. To their number I have found others who helped to provide an even richer array of perspectives on globalization, media and empire than might otherwise have been possible. In this book, contributors have tried to unpack many of the under-theorized issues concerning the relationships between communications media and the processes that are commonly described as “globalization”. My discussions with contributors have also sought to foreground the changing context of globalization studies in the wake of “9/11”. This event triggered a new phase, among other things, in the struggle of the United States for maintenance of economic, political and military hegemony in the face of intense struggles around the world for the redress of historical grievances; political, economic and cultural autonomy; and scarce resources. And all these have significant implications for the role of communications media and perceptions of them.
I have many people to thank for helping this project along the way. First, of course, I must express my gratitude to the contributors themselves, who bore with the project for almost three years before it was ready to submit to the publisher. I greatly appreciate the support that John Libbey and his series editor, Manuel Alvarado, have provided, not least by their decision to adopt this volume for inclusion in what I consider to be a ground-breaking, intensely scholarly series of media titles that John and Manuel have accomplished over the past two decades. I recall with great fondness my faculty colleagues as well as students at the Department of Communication at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and I thank them for providing me with an environment of incredible trust and encouragement during a deeply disturbing period of US and world history. The book was completed after I left Pomona to join the School of Communication Studies at Bowling Green State University, as School Director. Here, I must thank Professor John Warren, graduate coordinator, through whose offices I acquired the help of a graduate assistant, Kang Sun, who scrutinized the references and undertook much of the formatting and other editorial labors.
My deepest gratitude must be to family members who have supported my publishing endeavors without complaint throughout what I must now acknowledge has been a long career. Above all, I thank my wife, Leah. And I thank my four, now grown-up, children: Claudia, Francesca, Jonathan and Daniel. With them I look forward with hope upon the face of Claudia’s daughter, Sofia, our first granddaughter, and believe that there is still time to help make this world a happier and a safer place.
Oliver Boyd-Barrett Bowling Green, Ohio March 2006
The Contributors
Oliver Boyd-Barrett , Ph.D., is Director of the School of Communication Studies, Bowling Green State University, Ohio. He has held previous appointments at California State University in Pomona, Leicester University (UK) and the Open University (UK). He has published broadly in globalization, international news, news agencies, and educational communications. His publications include Contra-Flow in Global News (with Daya Thussu); The International News Agencies; The Globalization of News . His current writing project is on media and discourses of terrorism.
Anshu N. Chatterjee , Ph.D., teaches Political Communication and South Asian Political Development at the Naval Post-graduate School in Monterey, California. She received her Ph.D. from University of California at Berkeley in 2003. Among her recent publications is “Globalization, Identity, and Television Networks”, in Manuel Castells (ed.), The Network Society , Edward Elgar, 2004.
Richard A. Gershon , Ph.D., (Ohio University) is Professor and co-founder of the Telecommunications & Information Management program at Western Michigan University where he teaches courses in Telecommunications Management, Law & Policy and Communication Technology. Dr. Gershon is the author of Telecommunications Management:Industry Structures and Planning Strategies (2001) and The Transnational Media Corporation: Global Messages and Free Market Competition , and winner of the 1998 book of the year by the US Cable Television Center and Magness Institute. Dr. Gershon has twice been selected for teaching honors, including the Steven H. Coltrin Professor of the Year Award (2000) by the International Radio & Television Society (IRTS) and the Barry Sherman Award for Teaching Excellence (2001) by the Management and Economics division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). He is the co-founder and current President of the International Telecommunications Education & Research Association (ITERA).
Liese L. Hutchison , M.A., APR, is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Saint Louis University, with a secondary appointment at the Center for International Studies. She teaches Public Relations Principles and Practices, Public Relations Writing, Public Relations Ethics, Cases in Public Relations, International Public Relations and Integrated Communication Campaigns. Prof. Hutchison has taught at SLU’s Madrid campus, at the Maastricht Center for Transatlantic Studies in the Netherlands and as a Fulbright Scholar at Concordia International University in Tallinn, Estonia. Her research interests include studying the consequences of globalization, international PR, crisis communication, social responsibility and ethics, and PR education. An active public relations consultant and volunteer, her recent volunteer work includes serving as a national media spokesperson for the American Red Cross during crises such as Hurricanes Charlie, Ivan and Katrina.
Kwangmi Ko Kim , Ph.D., (Pennsylvania State University) is assistant professor of mass communication and communication studies at Towson University, where she teaches advertising-related courses such as Principles, Media Planning, and Campaigns. Also, she works as advisor to the Towson chapter of the American Advertising Federation, a student-oriented advertising club. Her research has focused on the globalization of the advertising industry, particularly on the Asia-Pacific region, and the development of US cigarette trade talks with Asian countries. Her articles and book chapters in International Journal of Advertising ; Asian Journal of Communication ; Mass Communication and Society ; Advertising in Asia: Communication, Culture, and Consumption ; Terrorism, Globalization and Mass Communication: Papers Presented at the 2002 Center for Global Media Studies Conference reflect those interests. Currently, she is working on a comparative study to analyse US and Korean newspaper coverage of cigarette trade talks. Her recent chapter, “Being a ‘good’ woman in Korea: the construction of female beauty and success”, will be published in a book, Commercializing Women: Images of Asian Women in the Media , by the Hampton Press.
Jia Lin , Ph.D., is a researcher at Waggener Edstrom, a PR agency serving high-tech industry. She completed her doctoral degree in Communications at SNYU, Buffalo, with a dissertation on Weblogs as indicators of urban culture in American cities. Her research interest spans from mass communication to Internet research. She applies her quantitative and qualitative methodologies together with computer-assisted analysis to examine such diversified topics as Internet diffusion, weblog vs. alternative media and media globalization. She has taught a variety of communication courses with a focus on expanding students’ perspective of worldwide interaction. She used to be a journalist in China and also worked in public relations and advertising industries.
Richard Maxwell , Ph.D., is Professor and Chair of the Department of Media Studies at Queens College, City University of New York. His recent publications include Global Hollywood 2 and Herbert Schiller .
Mercedes Medina , Ph.D. is Associate Professor at University of Navarra (Spain). She teaches courses in Broadcasting Economics and Audiovisual Content Management. She is the author of Valoración publicitaria de los programas de televisión (1998), European Television Production. Concentration and Pluralism (2004) and Estructura y gestión de empresas audiovisuales (2005). She has published chapters of books, including “The impact of European media groups in the Spanish television market”, in Evolving Media Markets: Effects of Economic and Policy Changes (1998); “Competition between New and Old Media in Economic and Financial News Markets”, in Media Firms: Structures, Operations, Performance (2002); “Time Management and CNN Strategies (1980–2000)”, in Time and Media Management (2003) and “New forms of Globalization: expansion of Spanish Communication Groups in Latin America”, in Terrorism, Globalization and Mass Communication (2004). Professor Medina is member of the editorial board of the International Journal on Media Management and The Journal of Media Economics . She is the director of the Media Management Department and assistant director of the Master in Media Management (MGEC) in the School of Communication, University of Navarra.
Toby Miller , Ph.D., is Professor in the Departments of English, Sociology, and Women’s Studies and Director of the University’s Program in Film and Visual Culture at University of California, Riverside. He studies the media, sport, labor, gender, race, citizenship, politics, and cultural policy via political economy, textual analysis, archival research, and ethnography. Editor of Television & New Media and editor of book series Popular Culture and Everyday Life (Lang), he was also Chair of the International Communication Association Philosophy of Communication Division, editor of Journal of Sport & Social Issues , and co-editor of Social Text, the Blackwell Cultural Theory Resource Centre , and the book series Film Guidebooks (Routledge) and Cultural Politics (Minnesota). He has recently become the co-editor of Social Identities . After working in broadcasting, banking, and civil service, Toby Miller became an academic in the late 1980s, when cultural studies was starting its boom, and was able to parlay a combination of his work experience, theoretical interests, and political commitments into a new career, since which time he has taught media and cultural studies across the humanities and social sciences at the following schools: University of New South Wales, Griffith University, Murdoch University, and NYU. He is at UCR across three departments and a program, with the intention of sustaining and developing a dynamic interdisciplinary research environment in media and culture.
Graham Murdock is reader in the Sociology of Culture at Loughborough University (UK). Before moving to Loughborough, he worked for some years at Leicester University where he was a leading member of the pioneering Centre for Mass Communication Research. He has been a Visiting Professor at the University of California at San Diego, The Free University of Brussels, Bergen University, and Stockholm University. He has written widely on the social and cultural organisation of mass media but is best known for his work on the political economy of communication and on the future of broadcasting. He is a former head of the Political Economy Section of the International Association of Mass Communication Research. His work has been translated into eighteen languages. He is currently researching the social impact of new communication technologies and the relations between broadcasting and the Internet.
Geetika Pathania-Jain , Ph.D. facilitates communications courses as a faculty member for the University of Phoenix. Her current research interests include global culture, as well as the political economy of global television. She has published on collaborative strategies of media firms in the Journal of Media Economics , July 2001, entitled “Global Parents, Local Partners: a Value-Chain Analysis of Collaborative Strategies of Media Firms in India”. Other publications include: “Responses to Transnational Television in a STAR-struck Land: Doordarshan and STAR-TV in India”, in Srinivas Melkote, Peter Shields and Binod Agrawal (eds) International Satellite Broadcasting in South Asia: Political, Economic and Cultural Implications (1998), and “Ambivalence in a STAR-ry Eyed Land: Doordarshan and the Satellite TV Challenge”, in SAGAR: South Asian Graduate Research Journal 1 (Spring 1994).
John Pauly , Ph.D., is the William R. Burleigh and E.W. Scripps professor and dean of the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University. His research focuses on the history and sociology of journalism, cultural approaches to media research, and the history and moral reputation of public relations.
Granville Williams is Principal Lecturer in Media and Journalism at the University of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire and a Visiting Fellow with the Department of Geography and Sociology at Strathclyde University. He edits Free Press for the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, a UK-based media reform group, and is a member of the Broadcasting Experts Group of the European Federation of Journalists. His main research interests are analysing the impact of media ownership on democracy, and the role and importance of corporate lobbying in the formation of media policy in the UK and internationally. His most recent publications have been two reports on European media ownership: Threats on the Landscape: a survey of who owns what in Europe (2002) and Eastern Empires: Foreign Ownership in Central and Eastern Europe (2003).
Xin Xin researches Chinese Media, news agencies and globalization at the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), University of Westminster. She worked as a journalist for Xinhua News Agency for several years before embarking on an academic career. Since 2003 she has been working on her Ph.D. while teaching at CAMRI. Her research aims to explore the impact of marketization on China’s media system as a whole, and the national news agency in particular, examining how the market reshapes the relationship between the state, media and other forces. Publications include a journal article on the transition of the relationship between Xinhua and newspapers in China (in Media, Culture & Society ). She is a member of the editorial board of the journal Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture (WPCC), and the editor of the issue “Media in China”.
Izabella Zandberg , Ph.D. is a communication researcher interested in issues of media and public sphere, advertising, international communication and cross-cultural research. Her professional experience includes design and implementation of strategic communication campaigns for various commercial and non-profit organizations in the US and Eastern Europe. She currently works as a research associate for Westat, a social science company, where she conducts policy research and evaluations of social communication campaigns. She previously provided research support to organizations such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and served as a visiting scholar in the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Global Studies in Culture, Power and History. Dr. Zandberg holds a Ph.D. in Mass Communications from the College of Journalism, University of Maryland and M.A. in Journalism from the University of Warsaw. Her latest publications include “Civil society, radical media and alternative public sphere in post-Communist Poland”, Electronic Journal of Communication 13(4).
Chapter One
Globalization, Media and Empire: An Introduction
Oliver Boyd-Barrett
T he act of communication in itself is an arguably insufficient object of study: communication is no more nor less important than the universe of both silence and noise from which communication emerges and which gives it shape, just as the spaces between objects represented in a painting have vitality no less essential to the scope for meaning of the whole. To understand communication we must understand that which is not “there”. To communicate is simultaneously not to communicate; to enlighten may at the same time obscure; to inform may deceive. From such a premise, we should conclude that the title of this book is much less than the product of its silences.
For many decades from its inception during the first half of the twentieth century scholars advanced the study of media when more correctly they may be said to have promoted a propaganda of public opinion and pluralism; they concentrated on the place of media within the nation rather than media’s role in construction of the nation. In dealing with the administrative entity that we call the state , and the cultural product to which it lays claim and that we call the nation , they understated the dependence of these upon the play of symbolic power through media. Their focus on media within the nation took insufficient account of the play of international interests, technologies, finance, and ideologies in shaping media; and marginalized the adventures of national media on international markets, and the role of media in securing the compliance of populations both domestic and foreign with the international political and economic ambitions of domestic and transnational elites. Transnational dimensions of media activity were first presented (in the 1960s) in the context of benign discourses of modernization and democratization, or discourses of cultural protection for local (often elite) cultural products, in preference to malign discourses of imperialism, whose relevance should surely have been acute in the decolonization context of that period. When in the 1970s scholarship did seize on the importance of media as tools of political, economic and cultural subjugation of nations, classes, genders and races, in competition for the earth’s resource and for the precious time and trusting fealty of citizens, subjects and employees, discussion soon reverted to audiences and the nebulous processes by which human beings struggle to make meaning from texts on the basis of limited cognitive and cultural resources. The political economy of media as agents of both imperialism and resistance, was further diverted, hijacked even, during the 1990s, by discourses of globalization that focused on markets and regulation more than interests and social classes, on discontinuities between modern and pre-modern more than continuities, on the surface chatter of trade and cultural policies more than long-term strategies of power. Discourses of globalization, attending to interdependencies, networks, transformations of space and time, transnational corporate networks, the seductions and utilities of corporate products, constant assurances of goodwill for mankind and a better future, stand in sharp opposition to the discourses of imperialism, with their attention to hubris and control, victimage and justice, and the critical interrogation of media as vehicles of product promotion, distraction, and self-exculpatory consolations for, diversions from and denials of an incessant savagery and enslavement that, with particular intensity these past few hundred years, has visited alike colored and white, man and woman, and the very earth itself, its creatures, forests, oceans, and air. Neither set of these incompatible narratives is complete: globalization theories focus on the benefit of liberal markets and understate the continuance of protected markets (e.g. US government subventions and favorable tax policies in such areas as agriculture and movies). Imperialism theories excoriate the nefariousness of the empire’s cultural product yet are reluctant to acknowledge the potential for liberation in exposure to new informational and entertainment paradigms and technologies.
Globalization, as I argue in Chapter Four , is not new; if it is remarkable this may be because many of us have been reared within the walls of the nation state, a recent innovation. Many things we profess to find surprising about globalization, such as homogenization and hybridization of cultural forms, complexity of trade relations, human mobility, the undermining of local authority are in fact ancient. Think, if you will, of world religions such as Catholicism that over fifteen hundred years ago exercised a highly standardizing impact on the most intimate beliefs and behaviors (e.g. sexual relations), while subtly accommodating previous cultural forms, over many thousands of miles, through complex networks of agents (priests, monks and nuns organized into national and international orders and administrative units) and mass media (e.g. the systematic production of bibles and books of learning by teams of monastery scribes using manual, illustrated lettering). Or recall the silk road that for three thousand years established trading connections stretching from the Mediterranean to China via Central Asia and Kazakhstan, permitting the flow of “silk from China, precious stones from India, silver goods from Iran, Byzantine cloths, Turkic slaves, Afrasiabian ceramics” (Anon., 2006). Consider, too, the demographics of Southern California in the middle of the nineteenth century including numerous indigenous tribes; the descendants of missionaries and soldiers from Mexico City, many of whom had originated in Spain; gold prospectors from every part of Europe and Asia, including large numbers of Chinese; whale hunters from Russia; traders from South America. And as for the undermining of local sovereignty one has only to recollect the province of Israel and the subservience of its rulers and priests, through Pontius Pilate, to Caesar at the time of Christ. If contemporary globalization has a claim to distinction it is in the combination of the scale to which the different countries of the globe are participants in the global economy; the role of transnational corporations rather than governments in activating such participation (albeit subject to regulation by intergovernmental bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization); and the role of advanced media and communications technologies in supporting the global economy, for example by enabling instantaneous informational, entertainment symbolic exchange almost regardless of distance.
This descriptive conceptualization, however, has more than a few flaws. It may imply that the global economy operates neutrally for the general benefit of all, when some would prefer to argue that it is driven by transnational corporations headquartered in a handful of western countries, for the benefit of wealthy elites. It implies that the exchange of information and entertainment is essentially egalitarian and benign, when some would prefer to argue that much of the information and entertainment comes from the western world, predominantly the United States of America, often highly unbalanced in its representations of the world and world issues. Discourses of globalization render largely invisible the fragility of a global economic system that threatens to exhaust the earth’s productive resources, is overwhelmingly dependent on soon-to-be extinct gasoline energy, under conditions of global warming and other forms of incipient human-induced natural catastrophe, that may yet reverse the process of globalization back to a “dominance of the local”. The troubled history of these discourses is itself much older than many of their adherents appreciate.
Chapters in Part One pose the question as to the extent to which global media are global extensions of (a few) national media or represent a media universe in which all human groups are well represented. In Chapter Two , Graham Murdock shows that the dualistic conception of globalization as either progressive interdependency or intrusive invasion, either a liberal project of cosmopolitans or an acquisitive design of conquistadores, was acknowledged at least as far back as the writings of Immanuel Kant in 1795. Murdock shows how this dialectic has been transformed by the changing relations, under contemporary globalization, between transnational and local media in their struggle for a claim to truly “indigenous” cultural product, within a market template that both share and that reduces the “authentically” national or local to a marketable, symbolic commodity. Competition also often yields to interdependent collaborations between transnational and local. These enhance the commercialization and marketability of media product and undermine older, state-supported or public service media. Thus they advance the inevitability of the internationalization of capitalism, both through classic advertising and newer, more comprehensive strategies of product promotion, including product placement. Both glorify the moment of purchase and pleasure of ownership, while hiding from view the conditions and externalities of processes of production. What has changed in recent decades, Murdock argues, is the role of nation states, which used to be major impediments to the internationalization of capital, as in the case of both India and China during the Cold War. Neither country wanted to buy into western conceptions of the modern. Now, with the entry of these giants to the global economy, capitalism has achieved what Murdock calls a “mobile consumerism”, its success fed by an expanding middle class, and consumer-oriented youth cultures.
Sources of resistance remain, in particular the rise of fundamentalisms. These mobilize pre-modern sentiments even as they leverage the tools of modernity to achieve their ends, which usually have to do with nationalist, ethnic or religious purity. While this suggests an opposition between mobile consumerism and fundamentalism, Murdock argues there is a complicating, third force at work, namely “critical cosmopolitanism”. This is represented by forces that do not uncritically buy into the consumerism project, but remain aware of and concerned about the externalities and conditions of the processes of production. They make extensive and imaginative use of new communications spaces that become manifest when technology evolves faster than the capability of regulators to control it. While access to the resources and possibilities of the Internet are unequally shared, and its overall influence possibility limited, critical cosmopolitanism often makes effective use of it to foster a global, moral consciousness and citizenship.
US representation of itself and the “other” through Hollywood film is likely a paradoxical factor that helps provoke fundamentalist resistance to mobile consumerism, even if Hollywood imagery has mostly and positively served US interests through the promotion of western modernity. It is a truism of media research that local audiences prefer local product, yet Hollywood is still the foremost example of US-based media imperialism. In Chapter Three , Toby Miller and Richard Maxwell note that although non-US film makers of color make most movies, the public history of film is largely the history of Hollywood. Hollywood movies dominate screen entertainment around the globe, accounting for between 40–90 per cent of the movies shown in most countries, and sucking up most global investment in film. While the industry likes to account for its success as a perfect example of the operation of market response to popular demand, Miller and Maxwell argue that precisely the opposite is true, that Hollywood is sustained not by the market but by state subsidies, whether of the US itself or of other nations competing for movie production dollars. State interests are fourfold: movies promote American goods and consumerism, directly or indirectly; movies are effective propaganda – the authors refer to American movies teaching “American values” to Japanese moviegoers after the US dropped H-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; moviemaking serves the military, both through propaganda, and in the transfer of animation skills to battlefield training software; movie production has positive multiplier effects for local economies.
Another truism of media research is that the explosion of television outlets through terrestrial, cable, satellite, video and DVD distribution stimulates local entertainment production. Yet as a source of movies shown on all these channels, Hollywood has grown more rather than less influential in most countries, while its once strongest rival, European movie production, has declined. Europe remains Hollywood’s most valuable overseas market. Through much of its history, Hollywood has all but wiped out local film industries, and now dominates in countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Egypt that once had strong domestic industries. Vertical integration, Fordist production principles, and innovation, have played their part in this saga, but so too have state subsidies. State-supported Hollywood imperialism is represented through subsidies for overseas export activity, inducements to make use of cheap non-US labor, and outsourcing. With China and India in the global economy, Hollywood relishes the prospect of penetrating the countries that account for two thirds of the world’s screens. Even while Chinese import controls restrict entry of Hollywood movies to a mere handful, these nonetheless account for substantial percentages of revenues earned.
In sum, one might conclude from Miller and Maxwell’s analysis, as from most other contributions to this volume, that Giddens’ claim (2005) that “media imperialism makes no sense, really” demonstrates a profound misconception of the relationship between aggressive territorial and cultural interventions by nation states – often in alliance with economic elites – and communications media. Media imperialism theory is the specific focus of Chapter Four , where Boyd-Barrett analyses the importance of information and communication technology (ICT) industries in supporting US global economic dominance in the period 1975–2000. He argues that ICT represented a focus of US response to the comprehensive swirl of threat that it confronted in the 1970s, and an arena for the application of deregulatory, neo-liberal policies in the 1980s. The break-up of AT+T, in particular, heralded a shaking-up of telecommunications, facilitating the mass application of networked microprocessor technologies (NMT) throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Boyd-Barrett charts NMT-supported US global hegemony at the turn of the 21st century, and the strong representation among US and US-allied transnational corporations (TNCs) of knowledge-based and ICT industries. Simultaneously, he charts a strong relative decline in the strength of US global dominance, also represented by a decline in its lead of ICT, mainly at the hands of Indian and Chinese competition. Assessing the implications of the growth of ICT in India and China, Boyd-Barrett inclines to the view that although interdependencies are thereby established between the USA and Asia, these may be less significant in the long term than mutual perceptions of the intentions of each of these major powers with respect to the leveraging of their economic power for the pursuit of national security and ambition. Concerns that feed such ambitions embrace estimations of future conflict in competition for global energy supplies during the difficult upcoming transition from a gasoline to a post-gasoline energy era, in the face of mounting ecological and environmental sources of global catastrophe. Such a view helps explain neo-conservative politics. Neo-conservatism is a response to the prevailing weakness, from a US point of view, of neo-liberalism which, while underwriting US dominance for a quarter century also nurtured its relative demise by accelerating the rise of Asian powers. Once again, globalization has everything to do with imperialism; and communications media likewise have everything to do with imperialism, and resistance to it.
Discourses of imperialism, I have suggested, are more likely than those of globalization to focus on the specific agents and agencies that make things happen. Part Two of the book focuses on issues of regulation, and the cultural dimensions of regulatory issues, especially in the interaction between national media development and regional or global regulatory agencies. In Chapter Five , Granville Williams explores the activities on the one hand, of the CEOs of media conglomerates and their lobbyists and, on the other, of citizen activists. He identifies two prevailing models of broadcasting, established early in the 20th century in the USA and in the UK: the commercial and the public service broadcasting (PSB) models respectively. Under globalization, he argues, PSB came under intense attack by corporate lobbyists who claimed that PSB was unfairly privileged in the market place. They favored the unregulated growth of private television services that paid lobbyists their fees. Like Murdock, however, Williams finds evidence of redemption from corporate power through citizen campaigns. These resist the colonization of communications space by for-profit, advertising-driven entertainment, in favor of a broadcasting that informs and educates for citizenship and democratic choice. Williams explores the arrogance and hubris of corporate power in his case study of Time Warner, whose CEOs in the 1990s implacably opposed any kind of government quotas or restrictions on their bid to control both media content and global distribution across a wide range of different media. They saw themselves marching towards a new world order in which global business would reign supreme over government, education or nonprofits. The takeover of Time Warner by AOL near the peak of the bubble turned into a farcical, if tragic, saga. One thing the merger had in common with many other aggressive acquisitions was a debt accumulation so crippling that few of the merger’s touted advantages were achieved. Williams traces how media corporations, through their lobbyists, paid intellectual firepower and bribes, emasculate threats to their ambitions from politicians and regulators. In Europe, organizations as diverse as the Association of American Chambers of Commerce, the International Communications Round Table, the European Publishers Council, and Association of Commercial Television in Europe resolutely attacked pro-PSB stands and directives such as the European Union’s Television Without Frontiers . Yet in both the USA and in Europe, citizen movements successfully resisted the private grab for public communications space. For example, in the USA, the FCC failed in its 2003 attempt to further weaken controls over the concentration of media ownership, and in Europe, attempts to eliminate public funding for the BBC and prevent renewal of its charter floundered.
Globalization in its most recent manifestation has three sub-phases. The opening phase was the adoption from early 1980s of neo-liberal, deregulatory policies by the Republican government headed by President Ronald Reagan in the United States, and the Conservative government headed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain. Such policies aggressively responded to multiple threats to international capitalism in the 1970s, including strong trades unionism at home, the emergence of Third World, non-aligned power centers and trade cartels (demonstrated by OPEC countries during the oil “crisis”). The outcome was sharper power conflict between the USA and the Soviet Union. The Western world, under the leadership of the USA and Britain, set itself against conciliatory international political and economic negotiation. In macro-economic terms deregulatory polices served western interests at the cost of exacerbating divisions of wealth within and between nations. Negative externalities of globalization, and the protests they inspired, surfaced with greater frequency and intensity during the 1990s, during a second phase of globalization. This was represented by such episodes as the Zapatista uprising on the start of implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, the collapse of the Mexican peso later that same year, the Asian financial crisis of 1997–98, and the Seattle riots in 1999. The third phase was marked by China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, signal that the world’s most populous country had joined the capitalist global economy. By this time it is was apparent that the other great Asian power, India, was well embarked on a similar economic odyssey, breaking from the socialist legacy of Gandhi and Nehru. As Chapter Four demonstrates, these transformations, from the neo-liberalism of the 1980s to the emergence of the Asian economic giants at the turn of the 21st century, were accompanied and in part driven by the dialectics inherent in the development and application of ICT.
In Chapter Six , Jia Lin explores the implications of China’s accession to the WTO for China, and for accessibility to the domestic Chinese market for foreign ICT capital. She examines China’s delicate balance between media commercialization, on the one hand, and political and cultural integrity, on the other. In only 20 years, the world’s most populous country moved from outright rejection of foreign cultural products, through restrictions on their importation (while often conniving at rampant piracy), to international trade pacts that facilitate foreign direct investment. Lin traces the development of a regulatory framework during the 1990s that governed the importation of audio and visual goods as well as regulating foreign participation in local production and distribution. She notes how official regulation was often obscure, and not necessarily implemented, creating an ambiguity that allowed greater activity by western investors prior to WTO than might otherwise have been supposed. Chinese central authorities were determined to push certain sectors of public industry, including state-owned media, towards self-reliance through commercialization, and in response the media often looked to partnerships with western investors as a way forward. These partnerships typically were dominated by the local partners. Foreign investment and foreign expertise seemed a worthwhile exchange for local personnel, contacts and infrastructure: for western investors, the reward was access to the mouth-watering immensity of the Chinese market. Not all these collaborative ventures were successful; many investors grew frustrated, even alienated, by the restrictiveness and unpredictability of official Chinese policy or its implementation. But most big western names stayed the course even at the price, for example, of self-censorship and other modes of adaptation such as product localization. Their patience was to be rewarded with the prospects that opened up in China’s market following accession to WTO.
Part Three of the book moves from a specific focus on regulatory issues, to broader questions of how competing interests at global, national and local levels are articulated and negotiated, and the implications for individual media agencies. In Chapter 7 Xin Xin examines a national Chinese media conglomerate, Xinhua news agency, as a case study of the interaction between the global, national and local. Xin argues that the opening of a national market to foreign investment should not necessarily be considered a manifestation of weakness, or undermining, of the nation-state, as some earlier theories of globalization implied. Rather it is a process that develops through interaction between the global, national and local; of these, the national is the level at which domestic media conglomerates typically accommodate market forces in part by negotiating with the State for a reconfigured relationship between the nation and the global and local levels. Xin notes how recent central government policy in China has fostered market competition between local forces while maintaining central power intact. This involved central encouragement of the local proliferation of profit-driven media. The center restricted their expansion, however, in order to buttress and protect the role of national media, including CCTV and Xinhua. These remained pliable agents of central government influence. National media have not been spared the imperative to commercialize, nor the pressure to engage in competitor-collaborative relationships with local media, yet have been unable to achieve complete independence from government. Their need for continuing government subvention, protection (e.g. of their intellectual property rights) and approval of whatever innovative entrepreneurial activities they may propose, and the government’s need for media that both have national/international reach and are also pliable, serves the system of centralized authoritarianism that has characterized Chinese government for two thousand years.
Among other things, national media serve the center by acting as gateways for the infusion of international products into China. Global players may establish direct relationships, but given the absence of a secure and predictable legal framework (as Lin makes clear in the previous chapter), it is safer and more convenient for them to work through strong (centrally approved or enabled) intermediaries at national level. These intermediaries gain their power in a combination of ways: financial muscle, where they depend on large advertising-supported business on the domestic market, and political muscle where they leverage large audiences (primarily domestic, but also foreign) as political capital that may be invested in return for government subvention and protection. The return that they derive from these benefits, however, also leashes them to the needs and objectives of the state. Because central financial support is only partial, the national media conglomerate must still compete for revenues on the domestic market (albeit from a privileged position) with global, national and local suppliers.
A number of chapters explore further permutations of the relationships between global, national and local. A prevailing theme of research on media and globalization, one that is illustrated in the chapters on China by Lin in Chapter Six and Xin in Chapter Seven , is the advisability and often the necessity for global corporations to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with local companies, an approach that typically reduces risk and uncertainty for both partners while enhancing local acceptability of global product and strategies. These partnerships are not limited solely or even most significantly to manifest content. In Chapter Eight , Geetika Pathania-Jain explores the localization strategies developed by transnational media for penetration of Indian markets during the 1990s. Focusing on both content and non-content dimensions, she explores homogenization in the modes of production and distribution. Specific practices of localization that she identifies include (a) localization of programming content, which includes (i) splitting satellite beams; (ii) ceding creative autonomy to locals; (iii) creating culturally specific made-for-market programming (through local language, cultural iconography, humor, cultural sensitivity); (iv) enhancing visibility of local artists; (v) basing local programming on American formats; and (b) the cosmetic localization of programming through (i) dubbing, (ii) sub-titling, and (iii) using local hosts to “link” programming. She notes that it is only in the larger cultural-linguistic markets that we see customization take place.
Depending on whether one regards localization as merely a minimal, strategic, revenue-optimizing gesture, or as a refined and respectful assessment of the local cultural preferences that must be served in order to attract viable audiences, one may find in India evidence either of a barely disguised media imperialism or of a carefully nuanced and diversified accommodation to complex cultural formations. Chatterjee in Chapter Nine considers the impact of foreign media in India on representations of local values. Many theorists of media and globalization focus on processes of homogenization of cultural product that often attend commercialization. Commercialization is a way of readying local business for integration into the global economy, and for competition from foreign media penetration. Chatterjee argues that commercial, foreign media influences may have provided more scope for representations of competing ideas of national cohesion than had previously been feasible when Indian television was limited to a state sanctioned monolith (Doordarshan) of public service broadcasting. Tracing the development of different models of national integration in India, he identifies secular and non-secular versions of centralized nationalism, as well as alternative ideologies of accommodation through diversity. Doordarshan initially espoused a secular modernization based on the role of media as agents of modernization, notably in the dissemination of applied agricultural science. Low priority was accorded potentially divisive issues such as culture and religion, a strategy that, by default, seemed to authenticate Hindi as the hegemonic language.
There was a pronounced shift in the 1980s towards more middle class, business-friendly programming and more nationally-relevant but consensual representations of culture. The development of religious, mythological soap operas in the late 1980s arguably initiated a new era of “symbol politics”. Commercialization of television at this time coincided with a revitalization of community symbols, in response to vigorous democratic political, cultural and social movements at state and national levels. The newly liberalized environment might have increased the dangers of economic and cultural domination, except that the filtering influences of national and sub-national social and political institutions actually encouraged a diverse representation of national and local objectives and values. Both foreign and domestic private television suppliers as well as public service broadcasting responded to the new diversity at both national and state levels. Transnational media institutions entering India tried to acknowledge and represent the country’s regional, cultural and linguistic diversity. They incorporated diverse cultural symbols, religious themes and national objectives in order to win the attention of targeted political and social segments. This suggests that global media organizations are not necessarily as cohesive as the previous generation of transnational media, rooted as they were in their home markets. Additionally, pressures of deregulation and competition for revenues forced Doordarshan to address the decentralizing demands of regional audiences and cultural institutions by establishing a network of regional language channels. The growing power of the regional elite at the national level also added to this pressure. In conclusion, it appears that the influences of global commercialization and the entry of transnational television materialize along lines already set by domestic social and political conditions, offering diverse implications for domestic value systems.
Discussions of transnational media in the context of globalization generally focus on the activities and impacts of media that are ultimately owned and controlled by identifiable US corporations. Within discourses of media, cultural imperialism and globalization, other media do occasionally achieve a presence, notably British (largely on account of the BBC and Reuters), and French media (largely on account of Agence France Presse). Britain and France have a shared history of territorial imperialism; their influence on pre-independence and post-independence growth and development of media comes under the umbrella of media or cultural imperialism. The phenomenon of media as agents of imperial, economic or political control by one country over another or of resistance to such control is even more widespread. One has only to think of the influence of German media in Nazi Europe, and the strong contemporary influence of German-owned media interests in Austria or Central Europe; or of Russian media in Eastern and Central Europe during the Soviet era; of Hong Kong media in mainland Chinese media in the last few decades before Hong Kong was returned to mainland China by the British in 1997; of Thai media in Cambodia; of “diasporic” media serving expatriate populations, such as Indian film and television distributed to Indian communities worldwide.
The case of Hispanic media is addressed by Mercedes Medina in Chapter Ten . She asks whether it is possible to talk about a global Spanish media market. Motivations for Spanish media expansion are similar to those of US media: to increase revenue, compensate for saturation of domestic markets, diversify risk, maximize resources, achieve synergy and economies of scale. Their strategies usually include the formation of mutually beneficial, strategic partnerships. While movement is often from Spain to South America, a unique feature of Hispanic media imperialism is the “staging point” advantage. This is the advantage, for the Spanish, of using partnerships with Latin American concerns as a point of departure to gain entry into the exceptionally wealthy US Hispanic market or, alternatively, the advantage for media businesses of either North or South America in using Spain as a point from which they may gain entry into Europe, as in the case of Mexican Televisa’s “Galavision” and “telenovelas”. It is useful for North American media corporations to link with South American and Spanish media to better enable North American media satisfy the programming needs of their domestic Hispanics. Difficulties and limitations of Hispanic media collaborations include the sharing of the “same” language. Differences between different kinds of Spanish may inhibit automatic access to local audiences. Medina notes that only the bigger, wealthier Hispanic markets are involved. She considers the concept of a “global” Spanish market, a claim that she suspects may be pretentious. She finds that Hispanic media products do add value to the diversity of available product worldwide, and concludes that Hispanic products help complete rather than compete with Anglophone media globalization.
Part Four of the book looks at the relationship between communications media and the dynamics of economies generally at national, regional and global levels, not least through the importance of media as targets of, and vehicles for, international advertising and public relations campaigns, and the implications for citizenship and the public sphere. Previous chapters (e.g. Jain) helped demonstrate that the transnational export and extension of media influence is not limited to and may be much more profound than the dissemination of mere media contents. Just as Jain’s examination incorporates the adoption of western business practice , either by Indian media or joint ventures between western and Indian media, Gershon’s focus in Chapter Twelve is the near worldwide adoption of the neo-liberal model and its application in the media realm, with specific reference to telecommunications. Neo-liberalism is often motivated, he argues, by perceived inefficiencies of centralized planning and government protected monopolies. His chapter includes a strong summary of the philosophy of deregulation and its intended benefits, and a frank acknowledgement of the limitations of that philosophy in application.
The new model places its faith in the market as the basic engine of growth and prosperity; and the market, by definition, is open to unrestricted trade and competition. Transitioning to the new model, in many countries, involves the selling off of previously state-owned enterprises and re-investment of resulting resources. What results, according to the advocates of this model, is a world whose economy is centered on a collaboration between governments and transnational corporations and within each of these categories. In practice there is great diversity in the extent to which nations wish to open up all sectors of their economies to free and open competition and trade, and in how they perceive the relationship between competition and efficiency. In the US, Gershon notes (see also Boyd-Barrett, Chapter Four ) that the FCC was perhaps the regulatory agency most enthusiastic about deregulation, as evidenced in the break-up of AT+T, although comprehensive legislation for media deregulation was not introduced until the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which made competition the fundamental principle of regulation. Britain was the first country to apply deregulatory philosophy to the break-up of state-owned PT+T (postal, telegraphic and telephonic) monopolies that once characterized all European countries. Britain was also among the first European countries to adopt the long-established US commercial model of broadcasting, by opening the market, hitherto dominated by the BBC, first to highly regulated advertising-supported private television services, and later to cable and satellite. By permitting a license-backed PSB operation (BBC) to exist alongside privately-owned advertising-supported commercial systems, Britain was among the first European nations to raise the issue, addressed also by Williams in Chapter Five , as to whether PSB providers enjoy unfair market advantage over their competitors. Although the British government agreed to the renewal of the BBC charter on the basis of the license fee, from 2006, it introduced legislation (the 2003 Communications Act) comparable in purpose to the US 1996 Telecommunications Act, and whose significant feature was the formation of a super-regulator, OFCOM, covering all significant branches of the telecommunications industry. It remains to be seen whether, in seeking definition of “significant market power”, the 2003 Act will go further than its US equivalent towards correction of unhealthy concentrations of media power. Gershon extends his overview to Japan’s dual public service and commercial broadcasting systems; and to the role of the EU in promoting, but also restricting, deregulation across the different member countries, with particular reference to the EU’s encouragement of regulatory convergence for postal, broadcasting and telecommunications services, as has now been achieved in Britain.
Gershon’s chapter deals with what he describes as the “deregulation paradox”, whereby measures that are designed to promote competition often seem to reduce it. The formation of the Clear Channel conglomerate following the 1996 Telecommunications Act is an often quoted example of this phenomenon in the case of US radio. Mergers and acquisitions that are intended to ready domestic corporations for the global market may have the effect of reducing competition on the domestic market. Gershon finds that in all areas of media and telecommunications there has been a clear trend towards economic concentration: markets in given geographical locations have relatively fewer players, entry costs to new players are prohibitive, and players who are strong in some areas of the media market are strong in others. Gershon further notes that deregulated markets have not been good at policing themselves. This is particularly problematic in the case of media because media help fashion and circulate the ideas and viewpoints on which citizenship and democratic process depend. Problems are exacerbated at international level, he notes, because the framework for regulation is even less well formulated at that level for the protection, for example, of cultural sovereignty.
The final three chapters also address aspects of media globalization that are not necessarily apparent in mainstream media product but are fundamental to media economics and to the relationship between media and the broader corporate and political interests that they are increasingly designed to serve. One consequence of deregulation and privatization – both core components of neo-liberalism – is the increasing commercialization of media, as a result of increased competition and, in the case of many media, ever more intense dependence on revenue from advertising. Transnational and other big corporations are the sources of a great deal of the advertising that supports media, further enhancing corporate leverage on media economics and policy; furthermore, the agencies that mediate the relationship between advertisers and media are themselves becoming ever more corporate, transnational and concentrated. In Chapter Twelve , Kwangmi Kim examines the transnational advertising agencies (TNAAs) that dominate Asian advertising markets, and asks whether their influence intensifies the dependence of peripheral economies and their media on the western-dominated global market and on western-based advertisers, their agencies and their advertising strategies, She finds that half or more of the top 15 agencies in each Asian country she surveyed were US-based TNAAs. Top Asian agencies are generally top world agencies. By 2001, for example, all top 15 agencies in China were TNAAs. TNAA motivations to expand are to: better serve existing clients, pursue new markets, and compete with other advertising giants. Their method is generally to collaborate with a local advertising agency, through affiliation or minority purchase, in the market for which they seek entry. Typically, initial minority status is later extended to majority ownership, at which point the TNAA is freer to introduce practices and procedures closer to those they exercise in their domestic market. TNAA domination of Asian markets has become particularly intense within the past decade, even taking advantage of opportunities presented by the Asian financial crisis of 1997–98 to increase market share and purchase shares of local agencies at good prices. In time, local advertisers grow to trust the TNAAs. The major agencies further enhance their market advantages by forming networks among themselves for the mutual development of special research services. One implication of such globalization is increasingly limited access for small and medium local agencies to the international advertising industry, and the reduced ability of local concerns to weather the storms of business cycles.
Izabella Zandberg, in Chapter Thirteen , extends the analysis of advertising agencies to the context of Central and Eastern Europe. She considers the role of multinational advertising as a form of socialization for participation in the consumer society, thus implicitly inviting the question as to whether agencies have successfully performed and completed that function in societies that did not experience communism. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the new market of 400 million potential consumers invited hyperactive engagement by western multinationals in the CEEC economies, starting with high end consumer goods. The process was accompanied by marketization of state media, the proliferation of new media (mainly supported by western finance), and western acquisitions of local media. Multinational advertising agencies easily dominated local advertising, as local competition was slight and inexperienced. All top 10 agencies in Poland were branches of multinationals by the mid 1990s. Most products advertised locally were products produced or imported by multinationals. There was great demand for such products, not simply for what these products were or did, but because they symbolized western modernity. Local citizens, who had no experience of western branded products and were less well equipped than their western counterparts in decoding the messages and techniques of western advertising, experienced disorientation and confusion. In response, advertising campaigns had to become more informative, in an effort to compensate for the absence of a market discourse, and of a pool of brand associations in the collective psychology. Advertisers became conscious of their role as agents of socialization into new life styles and meaning systems. In the absence of satisfactory regulatory regimes, they also often used techniques that would not have been allowed or considered legitimate in the west. Over time, however, citizens have gradually become more critical and sophisticated in their approach to advertising, and show stronger preferences and respect for local icons and goods than before. Confirming the successful role of advertising as socialization agent, citizens also spend more time selecting products to be purchased, and brands have become important means whereby they symbolically acquire socio-economic status in societies that have grown more unequal and stratified. Citizens are now knowledgeable not just about the uses of products but about their “meanings”.
Anon. (2006). The Great Silk Road. (retrieved 5 April 2006).
Rantanen, T. (2005). Giddens and the “G” word: An interview with Anthony Giddens. Global Media and Communication 1:1, 5–63–78.
Chapter Two
Cosmopolitans and Conquistadors : Empires, Nations and Networks
Graham Murdock
S urveying the thickening network of sea routes and maritime traffic in 1795, the German Philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that binding “distant parts of the world” ever more tightly together through trade and exchange laid the basis for a new world order founded on mutual respect and hospitality to strangers. He imagined people everywhere ceasing to be subjects, governed by powers over which they had no control, and becoming citizens with the right to participate fully in social and political life and help shape its future forms. At the same time, he was acutely aware that this possibility was being comprehensively undermined by “the actions of the civilised and especially the commercial states of our part of the world” who “under the pretence of establishing economic undertakings … suppress the natives” and impose “injustice … carried to terrifying lengths” (Kant on the Web, 2005).
This central opposition between cosmopolitans and conquistadors, between a world system based on open flows, equality of respect and creative collisions and one organised around asymmetric power and domination, continues to structure contemporary debate. On the one side stand those who present contemporary globalisation primarily as a system of cultural exchange. They see new spaces for popular action, novel hybrid forms of expression, and emerging cosmopolitan tastes and styles. Facing them stand those who see a new economic “empire of capital” emerging (Wood, 2003), dedicated to securing key resources, dominating major world markets and colonising imaginative horizons. Advocates of the first position point to the accelerating global flows of people, ideas, and cultural products and the increasingly heterodox cultural landscapes of the world’s major cities. Proponents of the second view emphasise the strategies of domination pursued by the new transnational capitalist class who command the leading global multinational companies, administer the global trading regime, and support pre-emptive strikes against “unfriendly” and “rogue” regimes (Sklair, 2001).
The basic tension between globalisation and empire dates back to the beginnings of capitalist modernity but I want to argue that the world wide romance with marketisation, which in two decades has installed market dynamics as the major motor of change across the globe, is reshaping the relations between cosmopolitanism and domination in significant ways. The familiar opposition between western media conglomerates and national media strategies, annexation and autonomy, which has dominated debate on international media up until now is being replaced by a new dialectic between global ambitions and local conditions. To establish themselves in newly opened markets Western conglomerates have been obliged to customise and indigenise. Once inside they find themselves competing for audiences and revenues against newly commercialised local enterprises aiming to globalise their own operations.
These altered relations between local and global interests are underpinned in turn by the meta-ideology of mobile consumerism, which simultaneously repositions national traits as unique selling points in the global marketplace and promotes a marketised vision of modernity which identifies “progress” with widening consumer choice. The contents may be indigenous but the master template is made elsewhere. The Indian adaptation of the massively successful British television quiz show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire offers an instructive instance of this process in action.
The format agreement signed with the British rights holder, Celador Productions, allowed for the content and presentation to be indigenised but insisted that the producers retain the show’s basic format. The programme debuted on the commercial satellite channel, Star TV, in the summer of 2000. Its “Indianess” was signified by the translated title, Kaun Banega Crorepati , the concentration on questions about Hindu mythology and Hindi film and popular music, and the replacement of individual competitors by pairs of contestants, often family members. Whilst this localisation offered domestic audiences ready points of identification it also operated to valorise both state-of-the art technologies and personal ambition and pleasure in consumption after the self denial and emphasis on saving that had marked the years of nation building following Independence. As a consequence, its promotion as “international” was seen “as a mark of progress and not domination” a signal that India had rejoined the global mainstream of “free” markets and was moving towards a consumerist vision of modernity (Ganguly & Kraidy, 2004, p. 24). As Leslie Sklair has argued,
Global capitalism thrives by persuading us that the meaning and value of our lives are to be found principally in what we possess, that we can never be totally satisfied with our possessions (the imperative of ever-changing fashion and style), and that the goods and services we consume are best provided by the free market (Sklair, 2002, 6).
Empires and emporia
It is only in the last twenty years, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the shift from state economic management to market oriented policies in India and China, that this vision has been implemented across all the world’s major economic zones. But as Marx and Engels argued in 1848, in a remarkably prescient passage in the Communist Manifesto , the impetus towards universality was written into the logic of capitalism from the outset. They were well placed to observe at first hand the increasing scope and speed of international trade that had taken place in the fifty years since Kant’s essay. Engels, based in Manchester, a major industrial hub, was well aware that the raw materials and finished products his family’s firm dealt in travelled around global circuits. Marx, exiled in London, could walk from his rented apartment down to the Thames waterside and watch commodities from around the world pass into and out of the greatest port of the age. Industrial capitalism was still in its launch phase but they were immediately struck by its globalising logic. Driven by the constant need to expand markets they argued, it must chase “over the whole surface of the globe” and “nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere” breaking down the barriers thrown up by “local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency” wherever they were encountered (Marx & Engels, 1968, pp. 38–39). In common with Kant, they saw two possible cultural consequences of this process. Their optimistic reading saw increasing contact and “intercourse in every direction” generating a new “universal inter-dependence” and converting “the intellectual creations of individual nations” into “common property”. But, like Kant, they saw the possibilities for creative exchange being subordinated to the logic of domination though which capitalism “compels all nations, on pain of extinction … to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst” and to refashion themselves “after its own image” (op cit: 39).
For Marx, capitalist civilisation centred around the avalanche of goods manufactured for sale in the marketplace. These commodities, he argued, concealed the ugly truths about their production beneath innocent or seductive surfaces. Because consumers encountered them as finished objects, displayed for sale, they “put out of sight … the character of the various kinds of labour embodied in them” (Marx, 1946, p. 5). Marketing techniques silence questions about the social costs to workers and to the environment involved in producing them by projecting attention forwards to the moment of purchase and the pleasures of possession. As a consequence, Marx agued, commodities take on the qualities of a religious fetish: they appear to arrive already fully formed and promise to change lives through a simple act of purchase.
It was some time however, before enough households in the advanced capitalist economies had sufficient disposable income to participate fully in the emerging consumer system. For most people daily life continued to revolve around the constant struggle to make ends meet. They were preoccupied with maintaining basic living standards not constructing life styles. It was precisely this gap between the immense productivity of the industrial system and the limits on domestic consumption that preoccupied the American financial journalist and presidential advisor, Charles Conant, when he took stock of the United States’ economy in 1898. He conceded that the some surplus production might be absorbed by creating “new demands at home” but he was convinced that this would not be enough to solve the problem in the immediate term (Conant, 1898, p. 337). The solution was to break with the policy of isolationism, reach “out for command of new markets” in Asia and Africa and compete with the European powers to “raise the underdeveloped portions [of the world] as far as may be to the level of comfort ... and civilization of the more advanced portions” (Conant, 1899, p. 608). Whether this project of “economic imperialism”, as he called it, required the United States to “actually acquire territorial possessions” or “set up garrisons” or whether the “right to free markets” could be secured by “diplomatic representations” backed by forces held in reserve he saw as matters “of detail” which he was content to leave to politicians (Conant, 1898, p. 339).
He was writing in a context where the core institutions of commodity culture – branded goods, department stores, mail order catalogues, and enticing shop window displays – were just beginning to assume their contemporary forms. The task of promoting this new landscape of desire fell to the emerging industries of product promotion. Advertisers took full advantage of the expanded opportunities offered innovations in display. The proliferating general interest magazines and cheap daily newspapers were based on advertising money and advertising techniques constructing their appeal around bold headlines and dramatic images. New printing and chemical technologies produced packaging and outdoor posters drenched in vibrant colour. The arrival of electric lighting turned window shopping at night into a potent new recreational pleasure. At the centre of this landscape of consumption stood the emerging medium of cinema launched in Paris in 1895 by the Lumière Brothers. It was not a major advertising medium in the obvious sense. It was an emporium without walls, an imagined space packed with commodities of all kinds –fashionable clothes, interior décor, domestic conveniences, telephones, cars.
By the early 1920s, with European cinema production seriously damaged and disrupted by World War I, the United States had emerged as the dominant player in the world cinema system. For the New York journalist, Charles Merz, this mobile shop window was a far more effective weapon in the global contest for competitive advantage than territorial annexation. As he agued in 1926:
Trade no longer follows the flag. It follows the film … The moving picture has achieved, unwittingly, what different Powers in different times have built navies, levied taxes, intrigued, coerced, and slaughtered in order to achieve. … Automobiles manufactured here are ordered abroad after screen shadows have been observed to ride in them; China wants sewing machines; rich Peruvians buy piano-players; orders come from Japanese who have admired mission armchairs in the films (Merz, 1926, pp. 159–165).
Hollywood was not simply selling commodities it was promoting a vision of modernity in which the market was insistently celebrated as the key arena of personal action. Commodities promised secular salvation. Doubts about personal worth and problems with social relations could be banished by the healing touch of branded goods. Consumers who immersed themselves in the market could be born again and become the person they had always wanted to be. Barriers of rank and status were irrelevant. As a 1926 advertisement for Chase and Sanborn Coffee told prospective purchasers, although “compared with the riches of the more fortunate, your way of life may seem modest indeed” no “king, prince, statesman, or capitalist” could enjoy a better cup of coffee (Buck-Morss, 2000, p. 203). In this new stock exchange of consumer choices the emerging stars of cinema played a central role as investment advisors. Their life styles, both on and off the screen, offered experiments in taste that in suitably scaled down versions were available to all. As the artist Andy Warhol, a master of self publicity in his own right, noted some years later, “What’s great about this country is that … you can know that Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too” (Foster, 2002, p. 166).
This consumerist vision of modernity did not go unchallenged. With the unification of Germany and the consolidation of the United States after the Civil War the nation-state emerged as the modal unit of administration and mobilisation across the advanced capitalist world. But, as David Harvey has argued, the territorial politics of state and empire do not always coincide neatly with capital’s project of globalising markets (Harvey, 2003).
Colonies and nations
Conant drafted his manifesto for an American empire of capital just as colonialism was significantly extending its reach. The European powers were locked in a “scramble” to commandeer resources and markets in Africa. Japan was extending its sphere of influence to Taiwan and Korea. The United States was moving to protect its commercial interests in key regions by wresting the Philippines from Spain and establishing a naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
States are administrative complexes with jurisdiction over a designated territory, secured in the last resort by their monopoly control of force and violence. Empires extend this logic beyond the boundaries of the original “homeland” or “mother country” using a mixture of direct and indirect rule, occupation and delegation. Nations on the other hand are imagined communities defined by collective understandings of: unique national characteristics (who “we” are); shared histories of adversity and overcoming (where “we” have come from) and common destinies (where “we” are going). The hypen in nation-state is an insistent reminder that the linkages between imagination and administration are permanently provisional and precarious. Decolonisation movements set out to reconstruct these relations by representing themselves as champions of the authentic, indigenous, nation concealed behind the façade of the colonial state. They demanded the autonomous control of collective fate conferred by independent statehood.
Having secured political independence they embarked on a sustained process of nation-building aimed at mapping the imagined communities of collective life onto the boundaries of the newly constituted states. This was no easy task given the fractures and divisions created by the colonial legacy of partitions, segmentations, and arbitrary inclusions that cut across pre-existing ethnic and regional solidarities. The result was periodic internal insurgencies, secessionist campaigns, ethic cleansing, and civil wars. Building national solidarity was further complicated by the geopolitics of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union in which both sides struggled to enlist the support of newly independent countries through varying combinations of economic and military aid or employed armed intervention to prevent their defection to the “other” side. But the largest emerging nations, India and China, occupied an ambiguous position in this new global arena. India adopted the western model of elective democracy but insisted on pursuing a Ghandi inspired policy of self sufficiency in the economic sphere, limiting inward investment and imports. China, after the split with the Soviet Union, implemented a distinctive policy of state managed industrialisation and technological modernisation behind borders almost completely sealed against outside influence.
For most of the post-war period then, the world’s two most populous countries pursued models of modernisation that owned little or nothing to the market vision of modernity that had gained wide currency during the colonial era. Instead, officially sanctioned “access to modernity” emphasised the individual’s duty to participate fully “in the collective project of nation building” (Cullity, 2002, p. 423). Developing shared infrastructure and communal resources took priority over personal desire. The ethos was one of austerity, self-denial, and the postponement of personal choice in consumption. This ethos was reinforced on a daily basis by monopoly state run public broadcasting services that enlisted viewers behind the banners unfurled by essentialist constructions of national traditions and culture and celebrations of workers and citizens who had exceeded the call of collective duty.
It is this “nation building” model of modernity that has been systematically dismantled and displaced by the accelerating onwards march of marketisation over the last fifteen years.
Marketising modernity
Marketisation is the process of extending the scale and scope of markets in the institutional domain and embedding marketing as the central cultural dynamic. Institutional shifts are secured by an array of policy interventions employed in varying combinations. The most important of these are: transferring public owned assets and resources to private investors (privatisation); allowing new entrants, including overseas inventors, into markets that were previously either monopolies or where competition was strictly controlled (liberalisation); shifting the core rationale of regulatory regimes away from the defence of the public interest (however defined) to giving corporations enhanced room for manoeuvre (re-regulation); and forcing public institutions to behave in a more market oriented way by maximising their commercial income and entering into arrangements with private sector partners (corporatisation) (see Murdock & Golding, 2001).
Over the last two decades governments around the world have implemented these policies in different combinations and with varying degrees of comprehensiveness. Sometimes this push has been driven by the ideological conviction that markets and competition are demonstrably superior as the basis of effective economic management and personal freedom. Sometimes, it has been a pragmatic choice designed to boost investment and accelerate economic growth. Often it has been imposed by major banks, international financial agencies and western governments who have insisted on comprehensive structural readjustment programmes as a precondition for receiving loans or aid or qualifying for membership of the World Trade Organisation. But everywhere its appeal has been strengthened by the crisis of state management signalled by: the collapse of the Soviet Union, the increasing disillusion with the performance of developmental states in emerging economies, and the retreat from public enterprise and comprehensive welfare provision in the advanced capitalist countries.
The decisive shift from nation building to consumerist models of modernity occurred in the early 1990s. The collapse of the Soviet Union had critically weakened the appeal of state directed modernisation. At the same time, the simultaneous introduction of marketising policies in India and China, the world’s two most populous countries that for most of post war period had remained outside or tangential to the global capitalist system, offered a powerful alternative route to modernisation for the 21st Century. China embarked on a comprehensive reform process, installing market models of enterprise, requiring state owned enterprises to become more commercially minded, and encouraging controlled flows of inward investment and foreign goods. India, after 1991, progressively abandoned self sufficiency in favour of a liberal market regime. These shifts had a profound impact on local media systems, and particularly on broadcasting. In India, as elsewhere, the arrival of commercial satellite and cable services broke the state’s monopoly over television and forced the public system to become more innovative and populist in its programming in an effort to hold on to audiences. The domestic Chinese television system remained state owned but advertising revenues rapidly overtook government subsidies as the main source of operating income (Zhang & Harwood, 2004).
As we argued earlier, in the pre War period cinema developed in tandem with department and chain stores to construct a new consumer landscape, albeit one severely restricted in scope both geographically and socially. In the post-War period, starting in the United States, the launch of commercial television, the growth of shopping malls and extension of car ownership integrated this landscape into domestic routine. The most popular programming genres, soap operas, situation comedies, quiz shows with prizes, showed ordinary people surrounded by consumer goods that had previously been luxuries. Cars, washing machines, refrigerators and television sets presented themselves as necessities that every home should have. This new accessibility was reproduced in the new retail malls. Whereas the old department stores maintained monopoly control over the choice of goods on display malls housed a range of retail outlets and encouraged shoppers to wander at will. They were the perfect expression of the emerging market system of extended but orchestrated choice built around the competition between key brands.
Outside the United States, including in most of Europe, the progress of this consumerist vision of modernity was slowed by the absence of commercial television and the austerity imposed by the massive tasks of reconstruction and modernisation. The world wide pursuit of marketisation in the last two decades has now universalised it. The rapid growth of shopping malls, the introduction of credit cards, and the launch of commercial television services has integrated looking, choosing and buying into a continuous circuit and the promise of self-realisation and pleasure through consumption has increasingly displaced the clarion call to construct the nation through communal effort.
Global ambitions, local strategies
Many western commentators, witnessing the global momentum of marketisation, saw capitalism finally set free to settle everywhere and reconstruct the world after its own image as Marx and Engels had predicted. Theodore Levitt, writing from the Harvard Business School in 1983, saw the growing homogenisation of the “world’s needs and desires” paving the way for “the emergence of global markets for standardised consumer products on a previously unimagined scale of magnitude” (Levitt, 1983, pp. 92–93). Since the United States dominated the list of the world’s top brands its leading multinationals appeared particularly well placed to take full advantage. Levitt entitled his article, The Globalization of Markets . It caught the mood of commercial triumphalism perfectly. The political philosopher Bernard Barber, saw the “market’s universal church” (1996, p. 7) gathering growing congregations together around shared “logos, advertising slogans, stars, songs, brand names, jingles and trademarks” (op cit: 17).
Within a very short time however, this vision of a single homogeneous global marketplace was in rapid retreat, pushed back by the unexpected resilience of local reaction. As one Indian columnist noted in 1999, with evident satisfaction: “In the 8 years that India’s markets have been thrown open to the global corporate superpowers, successive waves of transnationals have been unable to colonise the country’s customers” (quoted in Mazzarella, 2003, p. 264).
The missionaries of marketisation had underestimated the continuing importance of already established regional centres of film and television production: Mexico and Brazil in the Spanish and Portuguese speaking areas, Egypt in the Arab world; and India and Japan in Asia. The major players in these zones, who had remained on the periphery of western corporate strategies, now emerged as competitors to reckon with (see Sinclair et al., 1996). Nor had the western multinationals taken the continuing power of state logics fully into account. When Mircosoft launched their web log service in China they were obliged to install software that automatically deletes politically sensitive words such as Tibet, Falung Gong, freedom and democracy as the price of market entry (Watts, 2005a, p. 11). Similarly, “rather than bringing a totalitarian regime to its knees” as he had first predicted, Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV satellite system had to make substantial concessions to Chinese government requirements in an attempt to gain carriage on government cable systems (Curtin, 2005, p. 171). He also found himself faced with much stiffer competition than expected from leading, and newly commercialised, television operators within China: CCTV based in Beijing and SMG based in Shanghai. As a consequence, rather than becoming the national Mandarin-language service originally envisaged, Star’s Phoenix subsidiary has shifted to targeting “upscale, influential audiences in the eastern part of China” (op cit: 172).
Television audiences around the world persist in preferring programmes that are either locally produced or imported from countries and regions with shared historical experiences and common aesthetic and generic codes. Brazilians feel a stronger affinity with a Mexican telenovela than an American soap (see Pastina & Staubhaar, 2005). Young viewers in Taiwan are drawn to the operational realism provided by Japanese popular television dramas seeing American dreams of personal freedom and consumer life style “concretised into something ready to use” (Iwabuchi, 2005).
Western multinationals have responded to these barriers by pursuing strategies of institutional and cultural localisation. MTV: Music Television, the world’s most widely distributed television service, operating in 140 countries, illustrates this process well. A subsidiary of the multi media conglomerate, Viacom, whose corporate slogan is “think globally, act locally”, MTV has expanded by foregrounding local talent and presenters and by entering into partnerships with local interests. In China for example, it sponsors major competitions in cooperation with the two leading domestic television networks: the Music Award in association with CCTV and the Style Award in collaboration with the Shanghai Media Group (SMG). The Music Award is modelled on the American Grammys but the programme content is decided on jointly with CCTV. The result is a celebration of marketised modernity with Chinese characteristics. The winners of the few awards reserved for ethnic music and traditional styles of performance wear western-designed fashions, made in China (Fung, 2004).
National symbols retain their prominence but they are packaged for resale overseas. The logic governing the selection and reinvention of tradition migrates from the state to the marketplace. In India, far from being a simple agent of cultural annexation, “consumerist globalisation” has been refigured by its national champions “as the opportunity for a comprehensive revitalisation of Indianness, a chance to redress the humiliations of colonialism by competing on the world stage on a basis of equality” (Mazzarella, 2003, p. 263). “Globalization” is seen less as “an influx of Western culture into India” and more as “an outward spread ... of India and Indians into the global sphere” coupled with the hope that “in a fair and competitive marketplace an Indian may come out the winner” (Juluri, 2005, pp. 175–176). This promotion of new ways of knowing and presenting oneself as Indian involves a valorisation of local elements carefully selected to command international currency. Hence the contestants in the Miss India pageant are obliged to parade in Saris, though most have seldom worn one and usually dress in western style clothes, because this is what organisers know will satisfy global expectations when the national winner progresses to the Miss Universe contest (Runkle, 2004).
This “new form of cultural nationalism based on the active and self-conscious indigenisation of global media” (Cullity, 2002, p. 408) is the outcome of the new reciprocal relationships now being forged between global and local interests. Western multinationals adapt to local political and cultural conditions in order to gain a secure foothold in new markets. The major domestic producers in those markets welcome institutional alliances with leading global media conglomerates as a way of strengthening their own ability to compete effectively in both the global marketplace. They seize the chance to enhance their skills in using high end technologies, experiment with new programme formats, and streamline their management, production and marketing operations. As the Deputy Director of CCTV has noted, China’s national television network now works with a clear “vision of globalization” and sees its major challenge as managing the localization of global media to secure maximum advantage (Fung, 2004, p. 10). This ambition has the full backing of the party apparatus, which has shifted from a protectionist to a proactive stance towards global markets following China’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (Chin, 2005). Re-gearing CCTV to compete in global markets also strengthens its position in the domestic market where the national broadcaster faces increasingly tough competition in regional markets from local operators, like SMG in Shanhai, who are also extending their range of partnerships with overseas companies.
As a consequence, globalising strategies and local ambitions are now locked together like sumo wrestlers. Competition requires that all parties abide by the same basic rules of the game. Local commercial programming may promote its distinctiveness by emphasising Chinese or Indian characteristics but like commercial production anywhere it presents the marketplace as both the central arena of choice and the principle motor of a new modernity. Consumption is central to the constant search for and construction of the “new” (Stivens, 1998, p. 5). It binds personal aspiration to national destiny. As promotional culture has become increasingly mobile, both aesthetically and socially, so this connection has tightened.
Mobile consumerism
The growth of advertising supported terrestrial television and the introduction of commercial satellite and cable service in societies previously dominated by state directed broadcasting dedicated to nation building has massively expanded the space available to promotional culture. However, there are problems with employing traditional spot advertising as the principal agent of mobile consumerism. A 15 or 30 second slot offers only limited scope for cementing associations between product styles and life styles. Consumers, particularly youthful consumers, increasing flick across channels during ad breaks or see ads as a self contained cultural form rather than a prompt to purchase. The solution is to release commercial promotion into the environment integrating it into a range of cultural forms and employing interactivity to increase consumer engagement. The intersection between commercial television and the mobile phone offers a particularly productive space in which to experiment with these new promotional possibilities.
China has now overtaken the USA in the sales of both television sets and mobile phones (Watts, 2005b, p. 3). Programme makers have been quick to spot the possibilities. MTV recently introduced a college singing contest in China in cooperation with Samsung who were in the process of launching their Anycall mobile service and created a new programme, Yue Ding Yue Zheng , inviting viewers to choose the songs to be included by using their mobiles. As Fung has argued, this fusion of state-of-theart on-screen presentation and active audience involvement projected a powerful image of China’s future as a high tech, “progressive”, and youth-oriented society (Fung, 2004, p. 5). In Hong Kong, the local programme maker, United Media, produced one of its most successful shows, Love Talks , in collaboration with the multinational advertising agency, McCann Erickson, with financial backing from the leading mobile phone manufacturer Motorola and the global household products manufacturer Unilever. The story recounts a young, relatively unsophisticated, woman’s attempts to break into the advertising industry and her romantic entanglement with a successful advertising executive. The visual landscape of the production is dominated by the contrast between her “frenetic and rather vulgar daily existence” and the “technology-driven consumerism, internationalism, and wealth” that defines his life style. This vision of a “practical modernity that shows the Chinese nation, with its history intact, joining the community of nations, fits perfectly with the particular products Motorola and Unilever have to sell to the avid Chinese consumer” (Sinclair & Harrison, 2004, pp. 51–52).
For this new, more mobile, consumerism to take root however it needs to nurture new social constituencies open to its appeals. Two developments have been crucial here.
Firstly, the rapid expansion of private or commercially driven enterprises produced by marketising policies has created an expanding “new middle class”. The composition and boundaries of this formation remain disputed with some definitions focusing on the emerging entrepreneurial and managerial strata and others including routine workers in the burgeoning service industries. But there is general agreement that a shift in ethos has taken place. The “old” middle class of bureaucrats and traditional professionals (such as doctors and teachers) worked primarily for public and state organisations, trading modest incomes against the financial security of the “iron rice bowl” and high levels of public esteem. They subscribed to an ethos of public service. In contrast, emerging groups see the market as their primary sphere of operations and personal spending and consumption as the main arena in which to demonstrate their material success and “modern” cultural tastes.
They constitute both the primary market for the new consumer systems and the vanguard of consumerist modernity. At the same time the process of marketisation has produced a widening gap in income between those in the major cities and new enterprise zones and those in agricultural areas. The squeeze on public services, the decline in the value of state pensions, and the accelerating migration of young people into the cities, has meant that consumption remains for many dominated by necessity rather than choice.
The second dynamic is generational. In marked contrast to the established capitalist countries of the Northern Hemisphere, where populations are ageing and in some cases declining, many emerging economies have predominantly youthful populations often with a majority under the age of thirty. Those now entering their teenage years or their early twenties are too young to have experienced the austerity of the years of post-war reconstruction and national building. The new consumer landscape is all they have ever known. Consequently, it appears as an entirely naturalised space of action.
At first sight it seems paradoxical that the two decades that have seen the global spread of marketisation and mobile consumerism progressively rub away geographical and imaginative borders have also witnessed an unprecedented resurgence of fundamentalist movements dedicated to defending the purity of national and religious formations and drawing ever sharper distinctions between insiders and outsiders, friends and enemies.
Following the 9/11 attacks conservative western commentators have tended to cast Islamic movements as the major carriers of fundamentalism. This is too simplistic. Even the militant form of Islamic fundamentalism represented by Al-Quaeda cannot be seen simply as a wholesale rejection of western modernity. It may mobilise pre-modern solidarities based on the notion that a devout muslim’s first duty is to the universal brotherhood of faith, but it has taken full advantage of the globalising possibilities presented by advanced technologies and more open markets. It has deployed emerging satellite services to build a global audience for video recordings of Bin Laden’s speeches and established a major presence on the Internet. Other contemporary Islamic fundamentalisms draw on a range of identities – religious, ethnic, and national – and have been shaped by a variety of forces. As The Economist notes, “lumping a range of movements that happen to have a Muslim colouring – some of them at root ethnic, some national, under a single rubric of terrorism tramples on the real grievances behind many of the cases” ( The Economist , 2004, p. 70). Nor is religious fundamentalism confined to the Islamic world. Recent years have also seen a resurgence of fundamentalism within Hinduism with the rise of the BJP Party in India. Nor is the struggle simply between religious and secular views of the world. Some of the most intense arguments are taking place within religious communities, between fundamentalists and cosmopolitans. In an effort to combat the “conservative Islam” of the main opposition party, the Islamic Pas, for example, the Malaysian Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawai recently launched a 60-page document promoting his concept of “Islam Hadhari” arguing for a more tolerant, inclusive and outward-looking version of the faith (Sardar, 2004, p. 26).
Other fundamentalist movements, though often mapped on to religious communities, as in Chechnya, are seen by their supporters as settling accounts with colonialism. They are primarily concerned with contesting existing national borders and asserting the rights of marginalized groups to their own homeland. They draw on imagined communities with long histories, rooted in ethnic or tribal identities, and are prepared to wage terrorist campaigns to press their claims. These initiatives may be met in turn by state campaigns to reassert the unity and superiority of existing national communities and attempts to suppress or purge foreign elements. These reactions foster a fortress mentality in which every stranger appears as a potential terrorist and there is “a desire to build ever higher borders and barriers to defend the ‘homeland’” (Peel, 2004, p. 13). Replacing a climate of trust by a sense of pervasive fear and apprehension comprehensively undermines the values of openness and hospitality to strangers required for cosmopolitanism to flourish. Even so, far from slipping off the political agenda cosmopolitanism has gathered momentum in recent years.
Surveying the contemporary world many commentators have seen the binary opposition between Capitalism and Communism familiar from the Cold War era being replaced by the opposition between mobile consumerism and fundamentalism, McWorld and Jihad, immersion in commercial globality pitted against the insistence on historically rooted separation and uniqueness. This ignores a third major movement: critical cosmopolitanism.
Critical cosmopolitanism
The transformation in ordinary people’s status from subjects to citizens lies at the heart of modern conceptions of social life. To be a citizen is to be a member of a moral community in which decisions over the allocation of shared resources and disputes between contending positions are resolved through deliberation rather than force and where difference and dissent are regarded not as marks of the other , the stranger, or the outsider , someone who does not belong, but as pieces of a puzzle which when assembled makes a rich and complex whole. This is an intrinsically cosmopolitan conception.
As Kant argued, since the ideal of citizenship is inclusive and presupposes equal entitlement there is no reason why it should short stop at national borders. But because, historically, nation states have acted as the principal institutional guarantors of citizenship rights their viability and vitality has continued to depend mainly on the willingness of particular states to endorse them. Although Kant’s dream of a federation of nations dedicated to universalising citizenship has been partially realised in the United Nations its powers of enforcement have proved limited. At the same time, the emergence of the Internet has provided a new cultural space in which a revivified ideal of cosmopolitan citizenship can be explained, elaborated, and acted on. As both multi-media and interactive, web sites open up new possibilities for promoting ideas, mobilising support and encouraging participation. Publicity initiatives can draw on the full range of expressive forms – text, still and moving images, speech and recorded sound – and combine them in any configuration. Lists of hyperlinks direct users to approved sources of further information. They can support the causes financially by buying books, badges, posters, and T-Shirts. They can take part in on-line discussions and contribute their own material. These multiple forms of participation and engagement coupled with the Internet’s global, though still highly uneven, geographical reach, make it a uniquely productive space in which to forge solidarities across borders. Paradoxically it is the critical interrogation of consumption that has mobilised contemporary conceptions of critical cosmopolitanism most effectively.
Many of the new social movements that have gown exponentially in the last two decades have asked insistent questions about where the commodities celebrated by mobile consumerism come from and at what social costs. But their answers have moved beyond the traditional focus on the exploitation of workers to embrace damage to the environment, the exploitation of children, the dispossession of indigenous peoples, the subjugation of women, and the structured regional inequalities imposed by the asymmetric organisation of world trade and the forced application of marketising policies. These issues are being investigated and grappled with across a range of internet interventions. Radical journalists and commentators are by-passing the barriers thrown up by lack of access to major publishers and bookshop chains and launching online publications. Radical film makers are using the Net to distribute their work. Critical intellectuals are pooling their expertise to create open information and knowledge stores of unprecedented scope. The online source Wikipedia, which has been compiled entirely through voluntary contributions, is already the largest encyclopaedia in world history. The BBC, and other public broadcasters, are using the Net to make their accumulated programming and expertise more widely available and to open up multiple spaces for public discussion on key issues.
For the moment these initiatives remain the exception rather than the rule, but by offering open access and potentially global reach, they furnish an ideational basis for cosmopolitan citizenship in three main ways. Firstly, they provide the cultural resources that encourage people to recognise that their well being is inextricably tied to the welfare of distant others and the extension of the rights and opportunities they claim for themselves to every one else. Secondly, they provide the information and explanations needed for people to decide on the best course of action to achieve this aim. Thirdly, by providing points of contact and spaces of debate that bring geographically dispersed actions into direct relation with each other they people the abstract notion of a world community with named individuals and anchor the links between personal biographies and structural changes in lived experience.
Access to these core resources for cosmopolitanism however, is currently distributed in radically unequal ways both within countries and across continents (see Norris, 2001). To counter this a number of initiatives aimed at equalising access are currently in train. These range from developing communal computer facilities to developing new relations between the public internet and mobile phones. As we noted earlier however, these same innovations also extend the potential reach of both mobile consumerism and mobilisation around fundamentalist platforms. Corporate capture and existentialist enclosure remain ever-present possibilities.
The telegraph was the first communications technology to separate cultural interchange from physical transportation. Early enthusiasts imagined that once established a global grid of interconnecting wires and cables would allow “the different nations and races of men [to] stand, as it were, in the presence of one another … they may be moved by common sympathies and swayed by common interests” (Standage, 1998, p. 98), but it soon became clear that this new network would be constructed and operated in the service of business and military logics.
We are currently in the thick of an intensifying battle. But it is not Samuel Huntingdon’s Clash of Civilisations . It is a struggle between resurgent fundamentalisms that insist on maintaining the imagined purity of nations, ethnic groups, and religious teachings, and two opposed versions of the global future, mobile consumerism and cosmopolitan citizenship. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of social life, and possibly human survival, will depend on which of these visions prevails. It is also clear that in the struggle between these re-imagined conceptions of empire and cosmopolitanism, the future organisation of global communications systems will play a pivotal role. For those of us who have chosen to specialise in communications, as either analysts or practitioners, this presents a formidable challenge but also an unprecedented opportunity.
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