The Increasing Implausibility of Cultural Imperialism


George Mason University economist, NY Times columnist, and occasional Reason contributor Tyler Cowen draws a bead on the common argument that American cultural products crush, kill, destroy local efforts around the globe:

The complaint of "cultural imperialism" is looking increasingly implausible….the funk of James Brown helped shape the music of West Africa; Indian authors draw upon Charles Dickens; and Arabic pop is centered in France and Belgium. Western cultural exports are as likely to refresh foreign art forms as to destroy them. Western technologies—from the metal carving knife to acrylic paint to digital filmmaking—have spurred creativity worldwide.

Culture is not a zero-sum game, so the greater reach of one culture does not necessarily mean diminished stature for others. In the broad sweep of history, many different traditions have grown together and flourished. American popular culture will continue to make money, but the 21st century will bring a broad mélange of influences, with no clear world cultural leader.

Read more here.

Hat tip: Cafe Hayek.

I interviewed Cowen in 2003, when his excellent book-length treatment of globalization's impact on culture, Creative Destruction, came out. Check it out here.