What is cultural imperialism, and does it matter?

3 posts / 0 new
Last post
gav's picture
Joined: 22-09-03
Aug 6 2004 14:08
What is cultural imperialism, and does it matter?

Is it wrong to 'impose' your values on others? and how far can you take this, can you never condemn somebodies behaviour?

although there is little we can do about, say female circumcision, in other countries, what if it was happening next door to you, etc...

what are people thoughts on this?

JoeMaguire's picture
Joined: 26-09-03
Aug 9 2004 12:22

Cultural imperialism implies that its the culture of the conquering or domiant power, so Im not sure female circumscion is relevant.

My appropriate examples would be brand names, like last night when I arrived in from work there was a Bollywood-esque film on channel four and one of the kids amoungst all the indian garments, robes and clothes was wearing a gap jumper (mf!) and mocking one of his countrymen for only knowing Hindi and not any English.

While we have to take into account people will exchange ideas, customs and practices, the worry comes from the mass consumption outwards from the super powers but also on the otherhand the xenophobic opposition.

Its not easy to locate these things for example where do we place the preservation of the French Language from the corruption of those dastardly anglo-saxons?

Joined: 29-08-04
Sep 7 2004 12:24

This is a relativism / universalism debate and framed as such is a huge topic!

people who bomb another country then tell them democracy and capitalism is the only way, they would most likely be universalists, this is like what tony and george want for iraq. They might say that female circumcision is universally wrong. Also the statement that 'murder is wrong' would be a universalist statement. a universalist would generally be accused of cultural imperialism and ethnocentrism (belief that ones own cultural practices are correct and others are wrong and often the duty to impose your moral views). Universalism does allow cross-cultural criticism which is useful to condemn ethnic cleansing and female circumcision. There is a more moderated version of Universalism called universal prescriptivism. In this ethical model, a universal statement like 'killing is universally wrong' can be moderated using 'unless...' etc. for example, 'killing is universally wrong unless you are being murdered'.

Others may say that something is morally correct if a culture or group decide it is morally correct (relativism). for example if culture A agrees with female circumcision then it is morally correct. that would be an example of 'hard' relativism. hence 'morality is relative'. but hard relativism does not alow for cultural criticism, while it does defend from cultural imperialism. so a hard relativist could not condemn another cultures moral practices. soft relativists do allow some criticism of other cultures, but generally not much. Relativism often leads to subjectivism, 'what gives an individual the right to criticise another individual?' and even skepticism 'how can we know what is morally correct?'. So it is a flawed ethical model as well.

so, a lot to think about really. smile

star green black