Cultural imperialism/Talk

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Just because we are good at it doesn't mean we are the only ones to have done it or to be doing it now. We need also to discuss British cultural imperialism in the 19th century especially. And what French, Russian, and Chinese, especially but not exclusively within their countries? ---rmhermen

Opposition to cultural imperialism of America in the Middle East region is called terrorism by the Americans themselves. -- This is clearly not trying to be impartial. I think the article needs a lot of work, quite possibly a full rewrite, if it is to be brought in line with the neutral point of view policy.

Agreed. --KQ

It's much more than merely unbiased, it's plainly false, and beneath the dignity of honest debate. I removed it without a second thought. --LDC


It is a bit silly. But definatley something worth an article. Should definately have stuff about imperialism from other past cultural empires, but it is a specificly American phenomenon. --Asa


Well, the term itself may be applied to America more frequently than to anyone else nowadays, but it was frankly coined to apply to European cultures. Kind of like the comment on 'class' under Roman Republic. Class means LOTS more than money. --MichaelTinkler


:notable France, try to oppose Americanism and Americanisation of Europe

I'd accept this phrase if the author then continued: "with a nationalist approach to language and culture that is at least as unattractive as the presence of McDonald's in historic city-centers." I'll even compromise my ugly-Americanism and leave off the conclusion: "...though less than successfully." --MichaelTinkler, victim of French Cultural Imperialism of the 1980s (i.e., graduate student during the invasion of th Deconstructionists).


Looks like the beginning of another dispute. Why not simply change the article? There is no author. There is only the article. I'd do it but I'm not currently in the mood. --LMS


OK, mine is pretty much a complete rewrite. What do you all think. It is a bit awkward and stilted, so contributions welcome. -- Asa

The Greek Empire built gyms, theatres and public baths in countries that it conquerered (such as ancient Israel) to try and emerse the populations in their culture. - I don't think this is true. As far as I know, the Hellenistic kingdoms (a unified empire didn't last especially long) mainly built such implements for the Greek immigrants who formed the most important part of their population. Alex intended a fusion of cultures but not many of his generals shared the idea, and most conquered peoples went fairly unhellenized, and I expect little was done to change that. Also, what's so special about the tiny province of Israel as compared to Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia?


Agreed! You obviously know more than me on this: feel free to make appropriate changes: this is a Wiki remember! --Asa


I can think of two reasons to mention Israel (and there was a 'such as' introducing it). Primary and secondary sources about Israel and resistance to Greek cultural imperialism are readily available in English, unlike the occasional scholarly study of the survival of the Syriac or the Coptic languages or cultures. That'd be a good enough reason. And then there's the opportunity to link to entries on the Maccabees. Hellenism may have been only skin deep, but it was certainly cultural imperialism. --MichaelTinkler

I'm not questioning how deep it was, but how much of a drive there was. Seleucus IV, who the Maccabees revolted against (which I guess does make them a good example after all), was pretty much exceptional in his attempts to enforce a common culture. Most of the Hellenistic kings were tolerant of the native peoples and pretty much left them alone, so that any hellenizing that took place was a matter of cultural diffusion rather than imperialism. I think. I'm not quite sure enough to change the article. --Josh Grosse

Well, if having a job with the government counts, then Greek was compulsory. I find the comparison and contrast between Anglophone Africa and India instructive for understanding parts of the Hellenistic world. India was more like the other language groups in the Hellenistic world - it is a high culture with a huge literature in well-analysed languages with their own scholarly traditions (compare Hebrew and Syriac). Coptic is much less clear - the continuity with the classical Egyptian literature was more broken. The Anatolian languages survived poorly (though they were around into the 5th century CE after all, at least colloquially). It was possible to have a 'traditional' education in Indian languages that was still literary. It was not possible to have a 'literary' education in most African languages (Swahili is an exception - it has a developed poetry, I'm told). It's an interesting and various world, the Hellensitic one. --MichaelTinkler


I am not American, but I think this article is unfair to the Americans. The author is not just biased, he is simply anti-American in my opinion. Forcing one's culture on others happened everywhere. There is no reason why this article have to emphasize this as an American behavior. All the cultural imperialism mentioned in the article are simply corporate business in action. Perhaps it is the American companies that have a wider international influence and hence got blamed for some irresponsible promotions that are considered cultural invasions here.

If you talked about pop music being cultural imperialism, then the British should be guilty. Everyone still remembers how the Beatles came to the US. It is a free market. If the countries do not import, Americans have no where to export. There are always two ends to a transaction. You cannot blame only one side. When the British sold opium to the Chinese, the Chinese fought the Opium War and lost. China had to pay the Britons for their war expenses. In addition, Britain took Hong Kong as part of the settlement at the end of the war. Anyone one can see that as a form of robbery. But when you were the loser, you couldn't have justice. Hong Kong since then became an extremely westernized city. The majority of the population in Hong Kong are Chinese. They were changed by the Western culture. By your standards, the British were cultural imperialist too.

There were many examples of real cultural imperialism where the victims had no choice. When the Manchu conquered China and established the Qing Dynasty, all men had to shave their forehead and wear a pig tail hair style. The alternative was to lose one's head. That was cultural imperialism.

When the missionery went to Hawaii, they imposed their own moral standards on the native people. They said the Hula dancers were obscene and lewd. They banned the natives from doing Hula dances for hundreds of years. They didn't consider that the Hula dances were the native's way of passing on their culture and heritage from generation to generation through the story telling using sign language in the Hula dances. The native Hawaii history was effectively wiped out because the Hula dances were banned. That was a real example of cultural imperialism. Those missionery were not American either. Technically speaking, all preachers of any religion are cultural imperialist in certain way.

I have never heard the American forced anyone to listen to their songs or watch their movies. Then who's at fault?


I agree with some of the above, but how, precisely, do you think the article should be changed? That's the question to be asked here on this page. Better yet, just make whatever changes you feel are necessary. It might require a rewrite. --Larry Sanger


I also agree with some of the above, but dissagree with the general attitude. The fact is that the most dominant contries have exerted various unweildly forms of influence over the centuries - why is America any different? The last paragraph about "forced acculturation" vs. voluntary acceptance of culture is especially relavant. The US falls into this latter form of "imperialism" - its huge amount of cultural export, combined with its often arogant attitude ("we're number one!" etc.) leads to resentment, resistance or just riducule from other countries. This ranges from the alarming (the way our government seems to blindly back the US up in any military conflict or dissagreement with the rest of Europe (e.g. Kyoto)), to the less important (the way British young people have started to refer to trousers as "pants", the rediculous rate at witch Starbucks' are poping up in London).

By your standards, the British were cultural imperialist too.
Absolutely they were, as some of the examples you quoted show. As were other countries that you mentioned. Why not add these to the article? (I found the stuff about the Opium Wars, Hong Kong and Hula particularly interesting.) The reasons the US deserses a special mention: a) it is a current issue (in the world outside the US) b) In the British Empire, Manchu China etc the primary form of imperialism was compulsion by force - cultural absorbsion was secondary, though important. In the US' form of imperialism, cultural absorbsion is first, military force a last resort (deserves a whole new article).

The material recently added by Sjc about other forms of this over the centuries is excellent BTW, some of it from Cornish language. Well done! -- Asa


I found that the side effect of Capitalism is mistaken as cultural imperialism here. Imagine if the Levi's jeans won't sell in Britain, would Levi's care if the Briton wear anything at all. I do agree that most Americans think they are in the center of the universe. Most high school graduates don't even know their 50 states, let alone Europe or Asia. If you understand this mentality, the American didn't know they are invading other's culture because they didn't know there are other cultures.


I agree 99%! *MOST* Americans do think they are the centre of the universe and are ignorant of the rest of the world. Wikipedian Americans are obviously more enlightened thou ;) -- Asa


I think you are engaging in unnecessary and ignorant anti-Americanism. It seems Europeans online all think they're experts about America and have some moral high ground to judge it, which they constantly do. This has no place on Wikipedia. Anyway, I have lived abroad in Germany and Russia and have done some travel elsewhere, and I think I understand what you're saying; but you're misinterpreting the attitude. The attitude isn't that Americans think they're the center of the universe. It's that they don't care about the rest of the world the way Europeans do--Europeans care simply because they are so interdependent upon each other, and because it is so easy to visit each others' countries. That's not the case in the U.S. Not caring about the rest of the world is not the same as thinking you're the center of the universe.

Can we get back to writing articles now? Wikipedia is not a discussion forum. --LMS


If anyone can write a couple of paragraphs on the history of the term cultural imperialism it would give the article a lot more depth. thigs like when it was forst used, when/where it became poupular first, etc. --Iwnbap