ahorbinski: A snakes & ladders board.  (struggle & stagger)
This one's kind of long, but bear with me.

One of the problems with the term ["Westernization"] is that it skirts the heart of the issue: the globalizing reaches of capitalism, a set of processes dominated (though never entirely controlled) by multinational corporations [sic], many of which are not based in the United States. Upon closer inspection, the problem is not merely cultural, as Westernization suggests, but political and economic. Many go so far as to speak of "cultural imperialism." The idea of cultural imperialism is that U.S. domination of globalizing processes leads native peoples to abandon their traditional cultural practices to consume Hollywood movies and McDonald's fries. In this understanding, globalization engulfs the local. It is important, however, to remember that globalization does not only happen to people; it happens by people. Global capital requires national governments to pave its way--through state repression of labor organizing activities, for example, as was the case in Taiwan. Taiwan's export-substitution strategy of economic national development made the "Made in Taiwan" label ubiquitous in North America. Global capitalism did not simply arrive on Taiwan's shores and engulf the island; Taiwan actively courted and absorbed global capitalism into its fold. Its clamoring for admission to the World Trade Organization is a case in point. Nor did multinational capitalists simply swallow Taiwan once on shore. Corporations were forced to localize their practices in order to wrest labor away from Taiwanese family farms and enterprises. Taiwan having transformed itself from a poor agrarian country to a wealthy industrialized one, the next wave of multinational corporations sought the island out not for its labor but for its consumers. Corporations like McDonald's and Coca-Cola had to localize, tailoring their business practices, goods, services, and marketing strategies for the Taiwan market.

--Bonnie Adrian, Framing the Bride: Globalizing Beauty and Romance in Taiwan's Bridal Industry, 11 (citations omitted; emphases original)

This paragraph is about Taiwan, but it could be about anywhere. Should we question globalization and its associated processes? Emphatically, yes, but we shouldn't erase the agencies of groups around the world while we do it, and we shouldn't forget the complex negotiations--usually unequal, but negotiations nonetheless--between corporations and groups that the term 'globalization' flattens.

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Andrea J. Horbinski

May 2016

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