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Creative Destruction

Creative Destruction: How Globalization Is Changing the World's Cultures

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Creative Destruction
    Book Description:

    A Frenchman rents a Hollywood movie. A Thai schoolgirl mimics Madonna. Saddam Hussein chooses Frank Sinatra's "My Way" as the theme song for his fifty-fourth birthday. It is a commonplace that globalization is subverting local culture. But is it helping as much as it hurts? In this strikingly original treatment of a fiercely debated issue, Tyler Cowen makes a bold new case for a more sympathetic understanding of cross-cultural trade.Creative Destructionbrings not stale suppositions but an economist's eye to bear on an age-old question: Are market exchange and aesthetic quality friends or foes? On the whole, argues Cowen in clear and vigorous prose, they are friends. Cultural "destruction" breeds not artistic demise but diversity.

    Through an array of colorful examples from the areas where globalization's critics have been most vocal, Cowen asks what happens when cultures collide through trade, whether technology destroys native arts, why (and whether) Hollywood movies rule the world, whether "globalized" culture is dumbing down societies everywhere, and if national cultures matter at all. Scrutinizing such manifestations of "indigenous" culture as the steel band ensembles of Trinidad, Indian handweaving, and music from Zaire, Cowen finds that they are more vibrant than ever--thanks largely to cross-cultural trade.

    For all the pressures that market forces exert on individual cultures, diversity typically increases within society, even when cultures become more like each other. Trade enhances the range of individual choice, yielding forms of expression within cultures that flower as never before. While some see cultural decline as a half-empty glass, Cowen sees it as a glass half-full with the stirrings of cultural brilliance. Not all readers will agree, but all will want a say in the debate this exceptional book will stir.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2518-9
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Trade between Cultures
    (pp. 1-18)

    Haitian music has a strong presence in French Guiana, Dominica, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and St. Lucia—the smaller Caribbean markets. Many Antillean musicians have resented the Haitian success, even though they derived many musical ideas from the Haitian style of compas (pronounced “comb-pa”). The founder of Kassav, the leading Antillean group in the funky style of zouk, stated: “It’s this Haitian imperialism [i.e., the popularity of the groups] that we were rising against when we began Kassav.” Governments responded with protective measures to limit the number of Haitian bands in the country. Ironically, Antillean zouk now has penetrated Haiti. Haitian musicians resent...

  5. 2 Global Culture Ascendant: The Roles of Wealth and Technology
    (pp. 19-46)

    The economic case for trade provides a natural base for a cosmopolitan perspective on culture. Both art consumers and art producers need “otherness” to fulfill their creative wishes. Gains from trade arise when demanders and suppliers come together in markets, each bringing something different, to find a common interest in exchange. The very notion of exchange suggests a difference in initial endowments or desires, which of course may include cultural differences.

    Technology and wealth, two prominent features of today’s global markets, help drive these multicultural trade relationships. On the supply side, technology gives artists new ways of turning creative visions into...

  6. 3 Ethos and the Tragedy of Cultural Loss
    (pp. 47-72)

    The power of wealth and technology has helped common commercial influences spread to unprecedented degree. At last count, the games of the National Basketball Association can be seen in over 100 countries, Toyotas can be bought in 151 countries, and Coca-Cola can be purchased in 185 countries. Each year McDonald’s opens twice as many restaurants abroad as in the United States. The automobile, the suburban development, and the shopping mall attract new customers around the globe.¹

    The practical benefits of these developments are obvious, and they have been accompanied by explosions of cultural creativity, as discussed in the last chapter....

  7. 4 Why Hollywood Rules the World, and Whether We Should Care
    (pp. 73-101)

    Cinema is one of the hard cases for globalization. When we look at world music, the visual arts, or literature, it is readily apparent how trade has brought a more diverse menu of choiceandhelped many regions develop cultural identities. In each of these cultural sectors, the market has room for many producers, in large part because the costs of production are relatively low.

    But what about film? In no other cultural area is America’s export prowess so strong. Movies are very expensive to make, and in a given year there are far fewer films released than books, CDs,...

  8. 5 Dumbing Down and the Least Common Denominator
    (pp. 102-127)

    Walt Whitman remarked, “To have great poets, there must be great audiences too.” It is not enough to recruit buyers, they must also be able to judge quality. High-quality audiences inspire performers, provide financial support, monitor the quality of culture, and enforce standards of competitive excellence. Their tastes embody wisdom about the quality of the product. Sir Joshua Reynolds, in hisDiscourses on Art, pronounced, “The highest ambition of every Artist is to be thought a man of Genius.” To achieve such a designation, the most accomplished artists need a properly appreciative audience.¹

    French cooking is so delicious, and so...

  9. 6 Should National Culture Matter?
    (pp. 128-152)

    Germany and France are more alike today than they were one hundred years ago. In part the nations have traded with each other, and in part they have shared common technological advances through other trading partners. Their convergence would accelerate if they shared political governance, as a stronger European Union would bring. In this regard, the homogenizing properties of cross-cultural exchange are evident.

    This reality, however, does not demonstrate that trade fails culture. These same developments have brought more human freedom and more diversitywithineach society. Theindividualsin either French or German society have more opportunities than before...

  10. References
    (pp. 153-172)
  11. Index
    (pp. 173-179)