Globalisation and Inter-cultural aspects 

 A case of contemporary India

Globalisation is a buzzword in the contemporary world, but it is difficult to define and judge globalisation as it has many facets. One of the aspects related to effect of globalisation is the cultural mutation. It refers to how the local cultural fabric has changed and adapted itself in accordance with the changing environment due to globalisation. The focus of the essay is to study the change in the cultural fabric [in India] due to globalisation and investigating the cause/s of this change.

Globalisation has many explanations. A wide and diverse range of social theorists are arguing that today's world is organized by accelerating globalization, which is strengthening the dominance of a world capitalist economic system, supplanting the primacy of the nation-state by transnational corporations and organizations, and eroding local cultures and traditions through a global culture [1]. Marxists, world systems theorists, functionalists, Weberians, and other contemporary theorists are converging on the position that globalization is a distinguishing trend of the present moment. Moreover, advocates of a post-modern break in history argue that developments in transnational capitalism are producing a new global historical configuration of post-Fordism, or postmodernism as an emergent cultural logic of capitalism (Harvey 1989; Soja 1989; Jameson 1991; and Gottdiener 1995) [1]. Others define the emergent global economy and culture as a "network society" grounded in new communications and information technology (Castells 1996, 1997, and 1998). For others, globalization marks the triumph of capitalism and its market economy (see apologists such as Fukuyama 1992 and Friedman 1999 who perceive this process as positive, while others portray it as negative, such as Mander and Goldsmith 1996; Eisenstein 1998; and Robins and Webster 1999) [1]. Some theorists see the emergence of a new transnational ruling elite and the universalization of consumerism (Sklair 2001), while others stress global fragmentation of “the clash of civilizations” (Huntington 1996). Driving “post” discourses into novel realms of theory and politics, Hardt and Negri (2000) present the emergence of “Empire” as producing emergent forms of sovereignty, economy, culture, and political struggle that open the new millennium to an unforeseeable and unpredictable flow of novelties, surprises, and upheavals [1].

Globalisation as discussed above cannot be defined specifically but primarily it is an economically guided phenomenon, integrating the national economical systems. This phenomenon is based on the development of international trade and capital flow. In India globalisation in contemporary sense [economic development] began in early 1990’s, with an urge to develop economically and make a position in the competitive world. Privatisation and liberalisation policies were adopted to enter the global market. The inward looking view was changed to outward looking which lead to foreign investments and the entry of multinational companies to enter the Indian market. Under this outward view impact of globalisation in India can be prominently witnessed in urban areas and large cities as compared to the rural India, which still consists around 50-60% of India’s population. In India these liberalised economic polices has increased urbanisation and resulted in increasing consumerism. Many international brands like Nike, Reebok, Calvin Klein, Pizza Hut, Mc Donald, etc. have entered the Indian market as consumer market size is massive and become a status symbol and on the other side Coca-Cola has managed to reach the rural areas.

The sociologist, Anthony Giddens, defines globalisation as a “decoupling of space and time, emphasising that with instantaneous communications, knowledge and culture can be shared around the world simultaneously.” This is because of increasing cross border social and cultural interactions and exchanges as a part of the phenomenon of globalisation. This has become even more profound with coming of Internet. Internet has had a more intense impact on people as compared to satellite television and has taken the term globalisation to every nook and corner of the world. This is because while television was present in every house, it was not interactive and provided with limited information. Then came the Internet and everything changed, people were now in a better position to communicate and find out about other societies and cultures without moving from the comfort of their homes. It has manifolded the business and employment opportunities. This medium has helped globalisation spread even faster than it could ever have without the Internet. The information and knowledge gained by these interactions leads to the change in cultural fabric as one adapts itself to the change in surrounding environment driven by global forces.
Global forces have had a considerable impact on India at all levels of its life. They are penetrating its economy and reshaping its structure, culture and mode of operation. There has been increase in education level in last decade which has broadened the vision for seeking opportunity not only at national level but also at international level and making people more interested in global matters. This can be seen by increasing number of Indians who study and work abroad mostly in USA and Europe and also increasing number of immigrants. Software engineers bring Indians into the top echelons of the American corporate world, and graduates of the Indian Institutes of Technology were being courted world over. Also the development of communication technology and media has manifold the change in culture. For example there are about fifteen News channels including national and international which are broadcasted in India, while there was only two national news channel in early 1990. Hence the liberalization of international economic policies and coming of MNC’s, development of information and communication technology, media and print media and increase in basic level of education are the main basis of cultural mutations in contemporary India. The cultural mutations resulting from these developments can be seen in daily lifestyles and emergence of social structure.

India has a long cultural history. The Indian culture is rich and diverse, which makes it unique in its own way in terms of language, art, architecture, literature -scriptures, festivals, clothing, religion, food, music etc. since a very long time and also today is carrying forward the same image. All these aspects have lead to development of strong social structure and unique ways of interactions within family, friends, at work, etc. For example the respect for the elders, people live in joint families, guests are treated with highest level of hospitability, etc. The traditional social structure which prevailed till the end of 1970s since independence is explained in line with Hofstede’s Dimension

  • Collective in ones social and professional life, right from its birth to death, in each an every aspect of life.
  • There exists High Power distance inside the family like father is considered the head of the family and he should be consulted for every decision regarding ones life, it exists between the teacher and his student and also between the employee and employer.
  • They are very Masculine in achieving their ambition i.e. in their work, but at the same time they are Feminine in maintaining their social relationship with family and friends and are always ready to devote their lives to their families and friends.
  • The middle class and above are Long term oriented and think in different dimensions considering the present and future, social and professional life and at national and international level. But the lower class of people, who are poor, earn daily to satisfy their daily needs also exist. Such people have no way but to think Short term.
  • It is difficult to say about Uncertainty Avoidance in general because it exists as mentioned above, that people with long term orientation have high uncertainty avoidance and compared to the poor and low class people.

The change in cultural activities and manner in daily life is evident in language, art, architecture, festivals, clothing, religion, food, music, etc. Social analysts say the shifting notion of beauty is just one of several cultural traits evolving in India today, a response, in part, to the arrival of satellite television, foreign magazines and Western-style advertisements. The fashion world also has its effect and the ways of dressing have changed. To wear a suit or coat, tie and trouser is considered formal wear in the professional field. Jeans and T-shirt is a common wear for all class of people. Also due to the evolving trend of globalisation, English language has become common among people living in the cities. English is used for communication in the professional field and also among the friends. There are also many English medium schools in almost every part of India. Communication in English language is considered common in urban areas or cities. This has lead to the hybridisation of Hindi and English language, in daily conversations. Other result is also the diminishing of the old Sanskrit language. There would be few Indians who would know to read, write and understand Sanskrit. There have been lots of Chinese, Greek, Mexican, Thai, etc. restaurants in the cities. These have been again a status symbol in the society to go and eat there or have a party there. Also people are getting “Mc Donalised”. They eat burger for lunch or dinner, which was not that common in India. “Indians are embracing U.S brands such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola, Mr. Nandy a retired RAW[Research and Analysis wing] official says, because the brands have a mystique in India that does not exist in the United States. “The glamour of Coca-Cola is more alive in India than the U.S., he said”  The younger generation in India has adopted the pop culture. In every teenage or youngster party, there would be western music. There are few young people who would go and listen to Indian Classical Music. Also contemporary facet of art and architecture has changed as it was before. The coming up of mall culture is an example of contemporary change in architecture aiming towards consumer market."

Globalisation on other hand has also affected the social structure and the attitude of people. The Indian social structure can be divided in four classes - rich, upper middle class, middle class and poor. Globalisation and Urbanisation has lead to the rise in the middle class and upper middle class in last decade. Because of this perception has changed that no matter how hard you try you always wind up feeling poorer, fatter, drabber, less sexy, less happy, and less fully alive. This is because of the increasing consumerism and the advancement of the advertisements. People want to achieve more and more and are not contented with what they have.
Attitude changes are evident at work places. As compared to before the office environment are getting more open. The communication at every level has increased in the organization and the ideas generated at each level are noted to analyze. There is a friendly relation between the boss and his juniors and the problems are deal together, not as before like the boss giving orders to his juniors and he is supposed to do it even if he disagrees. In cities like Bombay and Delhi, attitudes toward marriage are slowly changing, analysts say. There are fewer stigmas attached to divorced women. And single parenthood, although rare, is more tolerated among the elite. But in rural areas, the family remains an integral part of social fabric and divorce is very rare.
Exploring these changes with Hofstede’s Dimension - There is increase in Individualism in the professional field, subordinates and juniors are free to take their own decisions. Also in the social life in the cities children are getting more and more individual in terms of deciding their carrier goals and in what they want to do. The parents have accepted the effect of globalisation and have openly adopted it, thinking about its positive effects. But there still exists collectivism at a basic level of the social structure in India in celebrating festivals or some occasions, with their families and friends. Also the literacy rate is increasing greatly decreasing the power distance between each individual in professional and social environment. But there still exists respect for parents, elderly people, teachers and friends.
Hence it is evident from above that globalisation has affected many aspects of daily lifestyles and social structure of India changing the traditional cultural fabric of India, especially in urban areas as in comparison to rural areas.

In other words the basic idea of cultural mutations which is the effect of globalisation can also be looked as westernisation. Westernisation is a process where by traditional, long established societies come under the influence of western culture on various fronts like economics, technology, law, politics, industry, lifestyle and diet, language and the alphabet, religion and values. Westernisation has been a pervasive and accelerating influence across the world in last few centuries. Westernisation can also be related to the process of acculturation, which refers to the change that occurs within a society or culture when two different groups come into direct continuous contact. After the contact, changes in cultural pattern within either or both cultures are evident [2].
The cultural mutations in contemporary India are based on two notions capitalism and consumerism. This is pretty evident due to increase in urbanisation. Rutgers political science professor Benjamin Barber says in "Jihad vs. McWorld" that today's corporate culture spins a shimmering scenario of "corporate forces that demand integration and uniformity and that mesmerize people everywhere with fast music, fast computers, and fast food -- with MTV, Macintosh, and McDonald's, pressing nations into one commercially homogenous theme park: a veritable McWorld
tied together by communications, information, entertainment and commerce."[3]

Hence it can be said that cultural mutations in India are guided more towards westernisation. There are both negative and positive impacts as perceived by each individual, but it has been accepted uncritically in India in some areas. This is because of success of the developed countries. There has be change in the cultural fabric but this has lead to the hybrid cultural form as people have accepted the global trends in most aspect of life with an aim to develop economically but at the same time protecting their basic values. Also realising the interest of the foreigners in Indian culture, the Indians have put their efforts to proliferate the Indian culture knowingly or unknowingly.

1.     Article on “Theorizing Globalisation” by Douglas Kellner – web source:
2.    Wikipeida The free Encyclopaedia- web source:
3.    Article on “Brave New MC World” by Carla Binion –            web source:
4.    The Director’s Lecture – Runaway World: The BBC Reith Lectures, Lecture 1: 10th November 1999.
5.    Doing Business in India : A cultural perspective –                                web source:
6.    Herald Tribune – the world’s daily newspaper – Globalisation brings new cultural traits to India, by Thomas Fuller -  web source:
7.    “Globalisation – India’s Experience for the African Continent” by Subhash Nirula. Development Policy Management Forum, Addis Ababa Occasional paper No. 7
8.    “Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind: Intercultural Cooperation and its Importance for Survival” by Geert Hofstede






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