Globalization and Anti-Americanism

Anti-American sentiments are rising around the world. American Democrats say that President Bush's policies have squandered America's attractiveness. Republicans reply that America is bound to be resented because of its size and its association with globalization. Anti-Americanism, they say, will persist because some people see America as a cultural threat. I believe that such views lack historical perspective.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, globalization is not homogenizing and Americanizing the cultures of the world. Although the United States is at the forefront of the current information revolution, which is creating many similarities in social and cultural habits (such as television viewing or Internet use) that are attributed to Americanization, correlation is not causation.

To see why, imagine a country that introduced computers and communications at a rapid rate in a world in which America did not exist. You would still expect major social and cultural changes from such modernization. Of course, because the US exists and is at the forefront of the information revolution, there is a degree of Americanization, but that is likely to diminish over the course of the twenty-first century as technology spreads and local cultures modernize in their own ways.

Historical proof that globalization does not necessarily mean homogenization can be seen in Japan, a country that deliberately isolated itself from earlier waves of globalization. In the middle of the nineteenth century, Japan became the first Asian country to embrace globalization, and to borrow successfully from the world without losing its uniqueness.