Jean-Paul Baillargeon, editor - The Handing Down of Culture, Smaller Societies and Globalization


Cultural Globalization and Smaller
Eastern European Societies: Reflections Based on
Québec and Canadian Perspectives

Mircea Vultur*

The theme of this colloquium, “The Handing Down of Culture, Smaller Societies and Globalization,” reveals profound changes which have occurred throughout the world, and provides an occasion for reflecting on the unprecedented character of the new globalized regime and its relationship with smaller societies. The purpose of this paper is to present an Eastern European perspective on the theme of this colloquium. I have structured my presentation in two parts. The first will deal with conceptual definitions. The second is intended to grasp the cultural aspects of globalization, as seen from Eastern Europe. Drawing on thoughts expressed by researchers during the colloquium, I want to present some considerations that allow us to see how different or similar are the positions of smaller Eastern European societies and Canadian or Québec society.

1. definitions of operational concepts

On the subject of globalization, culture and smaller societies, one is tempted to paraphrase what Paul Valéry wrote about freedom: those words are more loaded with value than with meaning. But first, it seems appropriate to examine the operational concepts at the core of this colloquium.1

What I mean by globalization2 is the expansion of economic and cultural exchanges to take in the whole world, and at the same time, the development of systemic structures that negatively affect ways of living. Globalization in the first sense can be distinguished then from globalization in the second, which is the emergence of a world system, that is “greater than the sum of its parts” (Crochet, 1996: 34). Within this domain of overall definitions, cultural globalization is the process through which a local cultural system succeeds in extending its influence to other geographical areas and, in so doing, acquires the capacity of describing other cultural systems as local. In its concrete manifestations, cultural globalization takes two forms. The first one consists of a system of knowledge used to develop information and communication technologies. The second one, which is of more interest to us, especially in its sociological aspect, refers to a mass culture, as defined by Fernand Harvey, that is a culture which gave birth to the mass media, the publication of popular books, magazines and newspapers, cinema, the record industry, and radio and television. It offers cultural products (books, films, records, etc.), but also cultural values as beliefs and ideological norms, which shape conduct and individuals’ attitudes within the cultural sphere. This culture today is mainly American. It represents the greatest factor in the cultural unification of the present world. This cultural globalization can be called globalized localism, a concept put forward by Boaventura de Sousa Santos, meaning that the local American cultural phenomenon has succeeded in becoming globalized. For smaller societies, this aspect of cultural globalization shows up as localized globalism, that is “a process of arrangement or of appropriation, by local cultures, of objects, codes or signals disseminated throughout the world by modal centres producing material or virtual symbols” (Létourneau, 1998: 420).

That globalized localism can be seen more especially in newer cultural manifestations, the result of the impact of American transnational practices on smaller societies, which restructure and adapt themselves to those practices. In the international cultural sphere, larger societies create globalized cultural localisms, whereas smaller societies have to do with localized cultural globalisms. American society is the primary example of a hegemonic larger society, but every other type of society that has a strong cultural influence on others imposes itself by the very same mechanisms.

Chapter 18, continued >


grubstreet books FreeCounter