The Marxist

Volume: 16, No. 02

April-June 2000


                                                               - SUKOMAL SEN

“But original sin is at work everywhere. As capitalist production, accumulation, and wealth, became developed, the capitalist ceases to be the mere incarnation of capital. He has a fellow-feeling for his own Adam, and his education gradually enables him to smile at the rage for asceticism, as a mere prejudice of the old fashioned miser! While the capitalist of the classical  type brands individual consumption as a sin against his function, and as “abstinence” from accumulation, the modernised capitalist is capable of looking upon  accumulation as “abstinence from pleasure”.

‘Two souls, .alas dwell within the breast.

The one is ever parting from the other..(Goethe’s Faust)”  

Marx here explains the capitalists’ ‘avarice’ for consumption as the accumulation, production and surplus value go on increasing. Marx says, ‘Luxury enters into capital’s expenses of representation’2 “Accumulate, accumulate! That is moses and the prophets!…. Therefore, save, save, i.e. reconvert the greatest possible portion of surplus value or surplus-product into capital!”3. Capitalists accumulate not for accumulation’s sake but to convert it into capital and to generate more surplus value. But what for this surplus value? Marx explains, “At the historical dawn of capitalist production - and every capitalist upstart has personally to go through this historical stage, avarice, and desire to get rich, are the ruling passions”4.

But where does this ‘ruling passion’ “to get rich” lead the capitalist system to? For constantly increasing production, the capitalists need expansion of their markets. So Marx already explained it in the Communist Manifesto,”The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexion everywhere”5.

Here is the key to the present phase of capitalist globalisation which has now assumed the fiercest form. Capitalist globalisation assumed a new dimension of transnationalisation of  production, capital flow and consumer tests engulfing the entire world.

Economic Globalisation Invades Cultural Patterns  

Worldwide proliferation of internationally traded consumer brands, the global ascendancy of popular cultural icons and artefacts, and the simultaneous communication of events by satellite broadcasts to hundreds of  millions of people at a time on all continents are visible marks of economic globalisation invading the cultural arena. Some feel that the most public symbols of globalisation consist of Coca-cola, Madonna  and the news on CNN. Whatever the casual and practical significance of this phenomena, there can be little doubt that one of the most directly perceived and experienced forms of globalisation is the cultural form. Despite the complexity of cultural interactions between societies over the last three thousand years, the intensifying movement  of images and symbols and the extraordinary stretch of modes of thought and modes of communication are unique and unparalleled features of the late twentieth century and the new millennium. There is no historical equivalent of the global reach and volume of cultural traffic through contemporary telecommunication, broadcasting, satellite TV screens and transport infrastructure. Thus globalisation leads to widening, deepening and speeding up of world wide inter-connectedness in all aspects of contemporary  social life, from the cultural to the criminal, the financial to the spiritual. Few areas of social life escape the reach of the processes of globalisation . These processes are reflected in all social domains from the cultural through the economic, the legal, the military and the environmental.

Since the concept of culture is so ‘encompassing’ that it can easily be taken as ultimate level analysis - isn’t everything in the end ‘cultural’? The dimension of culture, has to be made more specific, and yet this has proved difficult to achieve, since culture is in anyway such a complex and elusive idea. 

Does Culture Matter for Globalisation?  

Culture matters for globalisation in the obvious sense that it is an intrinsic aspect of the whole process of  complex connectivity. However, it does not mean that culture is intrinsically more globalising on account of the ease of the ‘stretching’ of the relations involved and the inherent mobility of the cultural forms and products.

Looking at the present phase of capitalist/imperialist globalisation all sorts of its dimensions are noticed. The impact of multinational corporations, the international division of labour, the increasing phenomenon of labour migration, financial and commodity trading, the significance of trading regulatory agreements, financial prescriptions at global level, and bodies  such as the World Trade Organisation, World Bank and IMF – all  testify to the globalisation of ‘material exchanges’ involved in economic relations. Obviously, there are lots of instances in which production, exchange and consumption of commodities do remain relatively local activities, but a trip around the neighbourhood will quickly reveal how  much it is not a local produce. Software productions in India will cater to the markets in USA, UK and Australia, intensive banana production in Latin American continues to satisfy the needs of European and American markets and make year - round availability-show and these local based productions act as constitutive of the global process. Equally, in the cultural arena symbolic exchanges float free of material constraints - as books, CDs, celluloid, electronic flows on to TV  screens and Videos and so forth constitute the cultural aspect of these globalising process.

It does  not mean that culture predominates in the globalisation process. One way is to think about the consequentiality of culture for globalisation, then is to grasp how culturally informed ‘local’ actions can have globalising consequences.

A world of complex connectivity (a global market place, international fashion code, an international  division of labour, a shared eco-system) links the myriad small everyday actions of millions with the fates of distant unknown others and even with possible fate of the planet. “ All these individual actions are undertaken within the culturally meaningful context of local mundane life worlds in which dress codes and the subtle differentiations of fashion establish personal and cultural identity. The way in which this ‘cultural actions’ become globally consequential is the prime sense in which culture matters for globalisation. To be sure, the complexity of the chain of consequences simultaneously entails the political, economic and technological dimensions of globalisation. But the point is that the ‘moment of culture’ is indispensable in interpreting complex connecticvity”6 . This is how a Western intellectual explains global consequentiality of ‘cultural actions’.

Globalisation in its cultural dimension also discloses its essentially dialectical character in a particularly vivid way. There exists a cultural politics of the global arena which one can grasp by referring to the example of ecological consequences of local actions. The Green movement slogan ‘Think globally, act locally’ suggests a political strategy motivated by a clear collective cultural narrative of what the ‘good life’ entails. This strategy involves the mobilisation of agents – increasingly  via sophisticated media campaigns – to  achieve institutional changes at a global level. And if such a strategy is sometimes successful, it is because it draws on and appeals to very general cultural dispositions more than engagement with scientific-technical arguments over environmental problems. So culture also  matters for globalisation in the sense that it makes out a symbolic terrain of meaning – construction  as the arena for global political intervention.

Cultural Imperialism? The Organisational Dimension    of    Cultural    Globalisation 

Cultural globalisation as a dimension of this ongoing capitalist globalisation, or Fiedel Castro’s terminology  - imperialist globalisation has the obvious object of dominating the national culture as also transform or pollute it to suit the imperialist design of exploitation and  rendering the people frustrated and demoralised. Commercialisation of media and the cultural symbols and artefacts and the global tide driving for profit using ‘culture’ as a commodity, constitute the modus operandi of ‘cultural imperialism’.

It is, however, unhelpful to focus exclusively on the conscious active agency  of individuals and the local direct impact of artefacts and objects in describing the glolbalisation of culture. Of course, cultural practices can be and are actively imposed in places distant from their original site of production. ‘Empires, in particular, stand as an important example of the extensive reach of new cultural ideas that are backed in their impact by the possibility of coercive force and the reality of political subordination.’7 The process of the globalisation of culture is, however, more complex and varied in their forms and in the relationship between producers and receivers. Thus an important fact of this process is  captured by reference to the notion of modes of interaction  that is, the dominant ways in which cultural globalisation operates from imposition, through emulation to diffusion.

The idea of ‘Cultural Imperialism’ is connected with a further element of the globalisation of culture - the establishment of the infrastructures of cultural production, transmission and reception, and the extent to which cultural flows and processes are institutionalised , that is regularised and embedded across time and space. As with any form of power, cultural power cannot be mobilised and displayed in the absence of organisations that create, transmit, reproduce and receive cultural messages or practices. These imply more than technologies, central as they are. For technologies must be displayed and operated by social organisations.  Globalisation of culture, therefore, implies emergence of infrastructures and institutions of cultural transmission, reproduction and reception on a global transregional or transnational scale. 

For example, in terms of television, this might include the development of an international market in television programming, the creation of transnational television production and distribution companies, the global diffusion of television sets, the establishment of trnsnational system of satellite broadcastings and the emergence of relevant regulatory regimes.

Transnational  Secular  Ideologies Vs. Contemporary Cultural Globalisation 

Contemporary cultural globalisation is a dimension of imperialist globalisation which is motivated by the avarice of the capitalists for garnering more surplus value by concentrating on entertainment industry.

But the spread of thought over vast distances with considerable social consequences is no monopoly of the modern era. However. what does distinguish European modernity, especially from the late eighteenth century, is the emergence of ideologies and modes of thought that are unflinchingly secular in  their orientation and simultaneously claims a universal applicability. The ambiguous fruits of the European Enlightenment include the emergence of modern science and modern political philosophies and programmes.

Socialism, and particularly its Marxist variant has its roots in the experience of European nineteenth century capitalist industrialisation and urbanisation - forged from both philosophical reflection and practical struggle. Yet the ideas and languages of socialism swiftly spread to more backward regions of the world economy and ultimately to societies almost untouched by those changes. That is not to suggest that those ideas did not undergo a profound transformation in their passage east and south. Nevertheless, it is incontrovertible that ideas and arguments initially forged in the cauldron of early European industrialisation simply found their way to Russia, China, India, Japan, South and East Asian countries, the Carribean and Latin America and lately in Africa. It is equally incontrovertible that in their many local variations socialism and Marxism have proved a central factor in the organisation and outcome of political struggle and political rule. 

The international travels of socialism and Marxism have received a great deal of attention - not surprisingly, given the conscious use of these ideas by vanguard parties domestically and  internationally. But less attention has perhaps been paid to the parallel diffusion of scientific and liberal discourse from the West to the rest of the world over the last two centuries. As a result, the spread of a Western scientific world view, though global in  its extent, has been slow to percolate beyond the elite stratum of scientists, technologists and educationists intimately involved in  its disciplines.

The global spread of Western liberalism falls between the proselytizing of international socialism and the structural diffusion  of Western science. On the one hand, Western liberalism has spread a distinctive set of ideological positions and political values  -- Civil    and political rights, limited government, self-determination, etc. The adaptation of liberal doctrines by Indian elites during the second half of the nineteenth century is perhaps the best known example of this. The increased participation by Indians in top administrative posts and their increased contact with liberal political notions – through  elite Indian higher education, involvement with British officials and government offices – contributed  to the development of Indian nationalism. These are all examples of global flow of secular ideologies from the West to the East in the last century and the first half of the twentieth century.

But this was not cultural globalisation in the contemporary sense of the term, where cultural globalisation forms a dimension of capitalist imperialist globalisation with the express motive of imperialist exploitation of  the working people of the third world countries as also the advance capitalist countries and capturing the resources of the developing countries for aggrandizement of the super-profit of the capitalists.

Under the Globalisation dispensation  world is reduced to the status of economic territories to be exploited by transnational capital without any accountability or obligation to the Nation States. This process has changed significantly the balance of power between TNCs and Government. TNCs today influence the major economic decisions of the world, such as what to produce, how much to produce, where to produce  and when to shift from one region or country to another in search of higher profit margin etc. These decisions significantly determine the current and future control of world’s resources. Thus culture is an aspect of globalisation where the TNCs operating in cultural production sphere dominate the world market and seek to generate and perpetuate a value system among a considerable section of local populace designed to serve the imperialist interest of loot and political hegemony.

Global Infrastructures-Needed For    Cultural     Globalisation  


Technological revolution constitutes a basic pillar for capitalist globalisation. Revolution in telecommunication technology is one such important device which speeded up the globalisation process.

The first experimental communication satellite was launched by the USA in 1962. This was followed by the inauguration of  INTELSAT (International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation)  which expanded access to satellite communications and made a share in the existing telephone and television channels available to most nations.

In terms of numbers of channels and their geographical reach, there has undoubtedly been a globalisation of the telecommunication infrastructure in the post war era. The vast majority of international cables, both old and new, lie across North Atlantic, North Pacific and the Mediteranean. Nonetheless in the post war era, more states have at least been able to  look into those networks  and have established small national telecommunication systems. With international links - all of which has ensured that for anyone linked into the system the concept of time-space compression is a lived reality.

However,  none of this telecommunication infrastructures could really facilitate regularised global communication if it were not accompanied by a further form of collective infrastructure - shared languages and linguistic competences., It is English that stands at the very centre of the global language system. It has become the central language of international communication in business, politics, administration, science and academia as well as being the dominant language of globalised advertising and popular culture. The  main language for computing is English - providing the written language for Windows and internet protocol. Estimates suggest that 80% of all the electronic coded information stored in the world is in English.8

But the most important and relevant point is that English has been the native language of the two modern hegemonic powers, British and the USA. Moreover, in the present era of  capitalist/imperialist globalisation, those powers exercise their authority in all domains of human life – the  economic, political and military and of course, in the cultural domain as well. So, the influence of American and British cultural development or decadence is clearly visible on the national cultures of the recipient countries . And in India , the influence of the Western decadent culture – sex,  crime, violence, imperialistic hegemonyism and money-fetishism – are  all an everyday experience.  

Cultural TNCs

The telecommunication and cultural industries have from their inception had an international dimension. From the late nineteenth century, early telecommunication corporations benefited from the international and imperial possessions, while international news agencies spread their bureaus around the world and publishing houses dispersed their catalogue widely. Nonetheless, in the post war era every sector of the communications and cultural industries has seen the rise of larger and larger corporations, which have become increasingly multinational in terms of their sales, products and organisations.

Until the 1970s, large telecommunication corporations and media entertainment conglomerates could not be found in many countries, but they were for the most part national corporations, serving domestic markets and they were engaged in quite separate sectors.  Telecom companies and television broadcasts in most countries had been owned or partly owned by the state, and private sector firms had to operate in a highly regulated  sector. But since 1970s, the national and global regulation of telecommunication and media industries has been transformed, some domestic markets have become ultra competitive and / or saturated, and the distinct technologies on which different media sectors used to depend have become increasingly freed together. This resulted in five main trends in Corporate organisation and activity; the increasing concentration of ownership; a shift from public to private ownership; the increasingly transnational  structure of the corporation that survives through the establishment of subsidiaries or, more likely, the purchase of local firms, titles etc.; general corporate diversification across different types of  media products; and an increasing number of mergers of cultural producers, telecommunication corporations and computer hardware and software firms.

But in the wake of ongoing globalisation, deregulation and liberalisation of the business environment have had a major impact on the communication sector. Telecommunication corporations have been privatised all over the world, foreign competitors have entered previously closed markets and there has been a wave of multinational alliances. At the same time, barriers to cross-media ownership have come down and foreign firms have been allowed to purchase domestic corporations.

Then drive for liberalisation culminated in the ‘land mark’1997 World Trade Organisation telecommunication agreement which was signed by 68 countries including India. These countries represent 90 per cent of the $600 billion per annum telecommunication services market,9 and the agreement requires them to open their markets to foreign competition and to allow foreign companies to buy stocks in domestic operators. “A crucial factor in getting the deal completed was having the largest telecom firms involved ‘more directly in trade policy making’. AT&T  hailed WTO pact as  ‘an important step toward fully competitive markets’. The US trade representative and the EU trade commissioner both noted that the measures will spur development of the global information highway that ‘increasingly provides the infrastructure for doing international business."10  The Government of India’s decision to privatise the telecom industry in India has to be viewed in this background of globalisation and the WTO agreement - thereby surrendering to dictates of media imperialism.

The simultaneous deregulation  of telecommunication and media industries has been accompanied by an increasingly complex web of interlocking alliances and co-funded projects. The digitisation of information, including music, visual imagery and text, has seen extensive potential synergies emerge between telecommunication companies, computer hardware and software firms, media corporations and broad larger and multinational corporations. There can be little doubt that above the plethora of local and national cultural industries, a group of around 20-30 very large MNCs dominate global markets for entertainment, news, television, etc. and they have acquired very significant cultural presence on nearly every continent. And there is also no doubt that this cultural presence is directed towards dissemination of the decadent capitalist values, much against the toiling people and a healthy and sublime national culture.

It has to be noted that all these corporations have their home base in OECD countries and the majority of them in the USA. Taking a wide swathe of Corporations, UNESCO reported in 1989 that of the 81 largest communication corporations (by turnover), 39 were from the USA, 28 from Western Europe, 8 from Japan, 5 from Canada and 1 from Australia.11 . The following table will show how gigantic are the Major Media Corporations, which are almost based in OECD countries and dominate the world music market.

Major media Corporations, key joint ventures, mid-1990s

First-tier media firm partners

Second-tier media firm


Telecommunications and

information firm partners











Viacom, TCI, Sony, NBC, Bertelsmann, News Corpn.



Bertelsmann, NBC, TCI




Time-Warner, Sony, Universal, Polygram, News Corporation

Kirch, EMI,Kinnevik, Cox,Hachette,United news and Media, PBI Comcast



works,Canal Plus,.TFI,Cox



Kirch, Canal Plus, United News and Media, Havas, CLT,EMI, Pearson,BBC.

US West, Bell South, Ameritech, Oracle



Ameritech,SBC,GTE, Bell

South, America Online,US



America Online







News Corpn.










Polygram, News Corpn. Sony


Time-Warner, Viacom, TCI,

Polygram, Sony, Bertlesmann



NBC, Bertlelsmann Viacom



Time Warner, Disney



All major media corpns.


Kirch, Pearson, Cris-Craft


EMI,Canal Plus,Softbank

Granada,Globo Trelevisia,



Kirch, CLT



Canal Plus



Kirch, Canal Plus, United

News and Media, Havas, CLT, EMI,Pearson,BBC




Nynex, Sprint







Microsoft, National



America Online



     Sources: Information from Herman and McChesney, 1997; Internet infoseek, the Business Channel

* of late, merger has taken place between American On Line (AOL) and Time Warner.

Radio and the Music Industry

Of all the electronic media of modern mass communication, radio has been the most easily globalised. Radio experienced teransnationalisation of its broadcasting scope and global diffusion in its use and ownership long before other electronic media. Alongside its other trnsnational functions like Government and Military, the medium has been a significant agent of cultural diffusion. In some  way the musical form is one that lends itself to globalisation more effectively than any other. The relative ease of cultural diffusion in this sphere has been reflected in the spread of many genres and major artists all over the world. There can be few more global products, images and messages than those associated with Madonna, Michael Jackson and the Spice Girls. The decadent value of these products is too well known.

The globalisation of the music industry has taken a number of forms. First, it has involved the creation of  transnational corporations producing and marketing records. Second, it has involved the import and export of musical products and penetration of national markets by foreign artists and music. Third, it has in part been based on a broader transfer of style and images that are largely rooted in American Youth Culture and black culture that have provided the ultimate source of the industry’s cultural output. 

Outside the West there is an enormous range of local musical traditions and styles. But the global music industry seeks to a great extent undermine the local musical traditions and to influence the new generation by the latest Western styles – Pop Music, Rock’N Roll and Michael Jackson.


The actual number of films produced and the total hours of screen time created by the global film industry are relatively small by comparison to the global volume of  television produced or the number of hours of radio broadcast, or indeed the sheer volume of books published and news print created. Yet, the Cinema industry occupied a special place, aesthetically, culturally and politically, in the contemporary world. Film and Cinema  make up both the oldest of the cultural industries qua culture industry and the industry which was globalised earliest in terms of organisation and genre.

Meaning globalisation of Cinema as diffusion of film making capacities and organisations around the world, then it is fair to say that there has been a straight forward globalisation of the film industry. According to statistical surveys undertaken by UNESCO, a significant number of nations both inside and outside the West have the capacity to produce feature films. In 1980s, for example, only the USA, Japan, South Korea, Hongkong and India were producing more than 150 feature films a year and only another twenty or so nations, mainly western were producing more than fifty films a year.

One of the main manifestations of globalisation in the film industry has been co-production, where the developoment of a film is funded by money from organisations in more than one nation. The forms this deal takes are many and varied including 50 - 50 deals between two equal partrners, variants of majority and minority share holding, multiple stake-holders etc. The US Film industry has not relied on co-production as a source of finance or potential distribution networks given the internal strength of the indigenous film industry, the large size of its domestic market and its well-organised international distribution net works. The same can be said for the Indian and Hongkong industries, which have been relatively self-sufficient. However, in Europe co-productions have certain times been an important source of finance

In the 1980s the major film exporters in the world were the USA, India, France, Italy and the USSR (though the current state of the Russian film industry is distinctly less promising since it is no longer heavily subsidized), the UK, Germany, Japan and Hongkong. But it is unquestionably the USA which dominates world trade in films. 

Actually America exerts a hegemonistic hold in the sphere of cultural penetration through cinema. Imperialist nations have evolved their own value system, which is ego-centric and money-based. Globalisation of culture and its American domination thus exerts a very powerful influence for debasement of the value system of the working people of different nations.


While the global presence of the film industry is long established, the globalisation  of the television industry has been a more recent phenomenon.

Television requires a higher level of individual capital investment from households than cinema. It is a technology of relative affluence. It is only in the 1980s and 1990s, that sufficient domestic markets have emerged outside the West for a genuinely global television market to develop.

In the last 20 years, a series of technological and political changes have transformed the televisual landscape and have contributed to the globalisation of television as a medium and as an industry. First and foremost, the number of countries with broadcasting systems and number of televisions available on which to watch their output have steadily risen. Technology has further accelerated the process.  The most important technological shifts have been the advent of satellite and cable television. When cable and satellite are included, the number of channels in Europe, fore example, increased in the five years from 1988 to 1993 from 104 to 165 and within the EU from 77 to 129, the total  number of channels broadcasting in Europe has risen to  over 250.12  In India presently, about 50 to 60 channels are operative.

Technological and economic changes have been accompanied by waves of political and legal deregulation in almost every Western and many developing states. In the process of globalisation, it has taken the form of commercialisation or privatisation of existing territorial channels, the establishment of loose regulatory frame-works for the provision of satellite and cable services; the abandonment of regulations which restricted television company ownership to home nationals . The combination of technological  change and deregulation has fuelled the global market for programming and made possible the cross-border ownership of television stations and the global dissemination of some television channels. It has  also stimulated cross-border production and co-financing alongside national production of programmes for global markets.

This deregulated television regime has enabled the Western Tv channels to penetrate the markets of the developing countries and as a consequence the Western capitalist values and its degenerated version are also powerfully affecting the value system and morale of these developing countries. India is a glaring example in this case.

The Internet

Much of the impact of the interactive television was weakened with the emergence of the Internet as the global computer net-work  by the mid 1990s.

Two factors contributed to the burst in Internet activity. First the establishment of the World Wide Web (www) as the easier-to-use multimedia portion of the Internet along with browser software by the mid-1990s were decisive in bringing the Internet closer to the mainstream. The www offered access to seemingly limitless information and data and unprecedented possibility for interaction.

Although the Internet is inherently a global medium, its course is being determined primarily in the United States and a few other Western nations. Commonly said, the Internet has become the information highway. Here also the American monopoly giant  Microsoft rules the roost. The Internet empire is a subject for itself so far as the globalisation of the media and its Western, particularly American monopolization is concerned. Millions of dollars are involved in these global business transactions.

Now the media and the software industries are organizing nationally and globally to have digital copyright standards enacted to protect their control over digital content. This is a complicated area, however, taking the law into uncharted territories. Many librarians, educators and others oppose media efforts, contending that the media giants want to extend copyright well beyond the traditional fair use-standards.

The  media giants’ proposed copyright standards; one US public interest group states, ‘will make the World Wide Web look a lot less like library and lot more like a book store’.13 In December 1996 the media giants won a major victory when 160 nations - urged on by the Unites States - agreed to extend copy right into cyber space with the desire of encouraging the development of the Internet as a commercial medium. This World Intellectual Property Organisation agreement will  require ratification by thirty nations to become a formal treaty and the trade associations of the media industry have announced their plans to lobby aggressively in the United States and globally on  behalf of the agreement.14  

Globalisation of Culture and its Political Impact

The emergence of the global media system and the audio and visual amusement industry - the Internet, Telecommunication, Cinema and Tv have a very serious significance and far-reaching consequences for the entire world.

In the present stage of capitalist development - the capitalist / imperialist globalisation, these systems are used extensively for business and commercial communications as well as for the production, transmission and reception of popular culture. Elite cultures, academic and scientific cultures while obviously making use of these technologies, and occasionally featuring as content within them, are drowned in high seas of business information as needed for global economic  transactions and commercialised popular and cheap, sometimes debased  and vulgar culture. No historic parallel exists for such extensive and intensive forms of cultural flow that are primarily forms of commercial enrichment to satisfy the avarice of the business magnets, the media TNCs for more and more profit. For the present day players of capitalist globalisation, culture is nothing more than a commodity and so make it popular, if necessary obscene, and sell it at the highest rate of profit.

Another aspect need not go unnoticed. Since capitalist globalisation runs after more and more  profit, so also it runs after production of more and more luxury consumer goods which fetch them a higher rate of profit.  So an important aspect of globalisation is to whet up the appetite of consumerism  of the people who can afford to buy more and more luxury consumer goods and thus it generates a consumerist life-style among a big section of the people.  This consumerist culture and life-style almost acts like opium which keeps a large section of the people away from any struggle against the capitalist exploitation and imperialist hegemonism as their political consciousness gets blunted by `consumer revolution'. 

Moreover, the incipient liberalisation beginning with 1980s gradually generated a `foreign taste, foreign technology,  fetishism' – an obsession with the stereo-typed symbols of modernity – Japanese perfection, American ingenuity, German efficiency, French sophistication, Italian taste, as these qualities were believed to be embedded in commodities. Commercial advertising  underlined the nationality  of the foreign technology behind particular products. It showed rather  interestingly that `commodity fetishism' in the age of globalisation is linked not only to certain global style of consumption but also to the imagined location of one's culture and  nation in a global hierarchy.

In India, the symptoms are very much in evidence.  Within a decade, the impact of this global cultural changes has transformed the  face of the Indian cities. Temping advertisement using semi-nude women models  advertising, fancy shops, new foreign-brand cars, televised soap operas, luxury goods, foreign fast-food restaurants and still more  visible youth culture with crude foreign imitation  proliferated.

Presently, the Government of India is also thinking in terms of allowing foreign  participation in print media as they have allowed foreign participation in all other industries. The result is going to be disastrous, when the Fourth Estate - the fourth pillar of the state on par with Legislative, Judiciary and Executive - is being handed over to the foreign multinationals.

The globalisation of culture, using culture as a commodity, , as it commodifies every sphere of life, by the monopolists and the MNCs have grave implications for the society and the nation as a whole. The anti-labour, anti-people, demoralising, frustrating and cynical character of the cultural globalisation in the hands of the imperialists and profit- greedy monopolists is destined to act against democracy, freedom and a decent life. It will only promote sex, violence, hatred, ethnic and communal strife and demoralise the oppressed people from the path of resistance and fighting for a radical, social and political alternative. Moreover, in the third world countries this imperialist- led cultural globalisation blunts the edge of anti-imperialist consciousness of the people.

Marx’s Vision of Globalisation of Culture 

In contrast to this predatory globalisation of culture, one has to go back to Marx, who standing in a tradition of socialist internationalism stretching back to Saint -Simon, presents a particularly bold picture of a global culture, though very sketchy,  in the depiction of a future communist society. This is a world in which the divisions of nations have disappeared, along with all other particular ‘local’ attachments, including religious beliefs, a world of  universal language, a world literature and cosmopolitan cultural tastes. Marx visioned in the Communist Manifesto as back as in 1848 a cosmopolitan character of production and consumption in every country:

“In place of the old wants satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In the place of the old local and national seclusion and self sufficiency we have intercourse in every direction; universal interdependence of nations. And as in material so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible and from the numerous national and local literatures there arise a world literature”.15

Marx thus depicts a genuine humanistic ideal that informs his universalizing vision and the sense of the possibility of the harmonious global order out of a revolutionary change for which he gave his ringing call ‘Proletarians of the World, Unite!

Marx’s vision is thoroughly opposed firstly, to the contemporary idea of a global culture dominated by the comodifying practices of global corporate capitalism - the cultural  ‘heavy artillery’, that Marx so penetratingly describes and secondly, to the threat of the global domination by Western culture, its ego-centric values, ethos and life-style, particularly American.


1.     Karl Marx, Capital Vol.I, Moscow, 1954,. Page-593

2.     Ibid - Page 594

3.     Ibid - page-595

4.     Ibid - Page 593

5.     Marx, Communist Manifesto ,Selected Works, Moscow 1977, Page 112

6.     John Tomilinson,. Globalisation and Culture, Polity Press, Page-26

7.     David Herd & Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt & Jonathan Penaton, Global Transformations, Polity Press, Page-330.

8.     ‘The Coming Global Tongue’. The Economist,  21 December 1996.

9.     Edward S.Herman & Robert W.McChesney, The Global Media, Madhyam Books, Page-112

10. Ibid

11. UNESCO(1989), World Communication Report, Paris

12. Global Transformations, Opp.cit, Page-358

13. The Global Media , Opp.cit.

14. Ibid

15. Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto,Selected Works, Moscow, 1977, Page-112.