Not Yet the Post-Imperialist Era, Herbert Schiller

With the advent of new forms of transportation, technology and standards of trade, the world we live in has become more global than ever. Networks of international groups work on a faster timeline and influence cultures across the board. However, with this rapid growth in industrialized countries, primarily “Western” countries, there is also an undoubtedly widening gap between what are considered first world developed nations and third world developing nations. Herbert Schiller takes this idea further and examines just how Westernized developed nations have become the powerhouses they are to influence the world with a dominant cultural order. Primarily, the focus of his discussion is to show that the so-called end of imperialism is a falsified idea reinforced by the hegemony to disguise the ways that corporations and governments shape the cultural landscape.

In his essay “Not Yet the Post-Imperialist Era,” Schiller demonstrates that the effects of the imperialist era is not actually over through the way Western influence continues to permeate through other cultures. Even though direct forces associated with imperialism (primarily a military or foreign government power) aren’t as evident in these countries, the standards and practices of living often mimic the developed nations that once ruled them. Schiller specifically points to the way that political leaders of financially successful countries use corporate influence and trade policies to enact certain cultural norms to benefit their own interests.

There are also plenty of examples of corporations also being the ones to influence culture outside of their origins through global expansion. The Seattle Times recently wrote an article about the growing influence of Starbucks in foreign countries. The article focuses on numbers that show the corporation’s growth in the European, Middle Eastern and African regions, areas that are harder to tap into. The business move, as CEO Howard Schultz says, is “powerful evidence of the success of our continuing efforts to transform that important region.”  This news comes shortly after Starbucks also announced that it would be expanding its evening menu to provide late-night items and alcoholic drinks to customers, an idea that has been met with some eye-rolls about the endeavor to take over more markets. Although it might not have the pull to influence political moves and like Schiller says underlies the international trade environment, Starbucks continues to be a growing corporation that lends itself to shaping cultural landscapes in regions where it’s available, for better or for worse as this Onion post suggests.

Of course, Starbucks is only one of the increasing group of multinational corporations rising in cultural domination. Elif Izberk-Bilgin explores this in an essay “When Starbucks Meets Turkish Coffee: Cultural Imperialism and Islamism as ‘Other’ Discourses of Consumer Resistance.” The essay suggests that the imperialist nature of corporations influencing cultures in foreign nations, albeit pervasive, can also be rejected by those inhabiting the countries. The author notes that “global brands are perceived as symbols of cultural imperialism, threats to national sovereignty, and even enticements of infidel.” This consumer resistance serves as a first barrier of transmitting a dominant ideology, whether it’s a certain cultural value or through the work larger governmental bodies. However, Schiller would note that this type of resistance is becoming less overt as cultural powers begin to blend together. Those at the top doing the exploitation of people and resources will remain at the top, but more countries will join them. Although these influences are becoming more common to different countries of varying powers and globalizations strategies, the goal of these economic and political models will always act to keep a hegemony in place, whether domestic within the country or transnational with other like-minded countries.

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