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«INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SOCIAL SCIENCES SRI LANKA – 2013 (ICSS) “Culture, Globalization and the Developing World” 22nd – 23rd November ...»

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The problem of the lack of a “customer focus” and its solution may not lie in the realms of mindset, education and attitude. The problem may be structural. The very location of Marketing within the modern firm means that, it exists to pursue each individual firm’s aims: basically to sell more, more profitably. Marketers within each firm may embrace the primacy of the “customer focus” as a venerable dictum, but only to the extent that it helps to achieve their ends. In this context, “customer focus” becomes just another way of looking in the mirror: how to sell what we make (Liyanage U., 2009 emphasis mine).

Liyanage underscores the fact that „listening to the Sri Lankan customer today is a task that is by no means easy‟ for the modern and traditional fuse in paradoxical fashion. Recognition of this fusion of the modern and traditional for the marketing and management sector is a useful entry point to cater to the customer. My contention is that too often academic research takes this empirically visible fusion as a finding, the end point of investigation rather than seek to locate it in the history and structure of society. I further argue that the empirical obviousness and scale of new consumption practices correctly draws academic attention to it but unfortunately does not seek to place it in the context of an economy and culture informed of neo-liberal ideas.

The story does not seem too different in Bangladesh as the quote below would show. This is a study conducted by students and uploaded on the internet would suggest.

For our research, we choose „The Impact of Western culture In Our Society‟ as our topic for its importance on the effect of cultural globalization (which means the commercialization of culture). Now a day‟s the production and consumption of cultural For instance, Aviva Insurance (2010), unpublished study of youth aspirations; Consumer Finances and Socio-Economic Survey, 2003/04, Central Bank of Sri Lanka; Ernst & Young (2003), Human Resources Advisory Service. Gross D., (1997), More on Traditions, Telos Press, 1997.

xli goods and services has become commodities, along with the essentials of social life (marriage and family life, religion work and leisure). What once was an element of the way of life becomes a product, rather than something unique men had made to suit their own needs and circumstances. In urban Bangladesh, technology of multi- channels TV began in 1991 and hence satellite broadcasting has been delivering 'lots of channels to viewers'. Cultural domination by electronic media within the society thus has eventually become a major concern of sociological inquiry. The present study is one of such effort to look at how the urban people, mostly youth has accepted and responded to their access to Western culture (http://www.assignmentpoint.com/arts/moderncivilization/assignment-on-globalization-and-bangladesh.htmlemphasis mine).

This focus on consumption and consumables, whether objects or services have led to the belief, that „production‟ no longer defines a society, consumption does.

Baudrillard however corrects this impression arguing that contemporary society remains „objectively and decisively a society of production, an order of production‟, but it is now closely articulated with an „order of consumption‟ (Baudrillard 1998: 33). While production remains decisive, what changes is that „heroes of production‟ are displaced by those of consumption, as „movie stars, sporting or gambling heroes…[and] a handful of gilded princes(ses) or globe-trotting barons‟ (1998: 46)have become our cultural icons.

Notwithstanding the emphasis placed on market forces and enterprise culture and the prestige acquired by a new generation of entrepreneurs, contemporary society continues to be fixated with the lives of consumer culture „heroes‟. Media representation of the lifestyles and forms of conspicuous consumption of celebrity figures continue to serve the function of providing „economic stimulus for…consumption (Baudrillard 1998: 46).

The culture of early capitalism promoted ascetic conduct and demanded that you „work hard in your calling‟. Pleasure constituted a potential problem, a distraction from the requirement to work hard. In contrast, contemporary capitalism quite deliberately promotes the idea of pleasure and encourages its pursuit through consumption, for it needs an endless supply of consumers continually pursuing satisfaction promised in the marketing and advertizing of an expanding range of products and services. As I have indicated, an appropriate supply of happy-to-spend consumers, eager to exercise their consumer freedoms and express their consumer choices does not emerge spontaneously but through a complex process of cultural constitution. Yet “culture is so often seen as what Eagleton would call the unconscious verso … the taken-for granted beliefs and predilections… It is what comes naturally, bred in the bone rather than conceived by the brain” (Eagleton 2000:28).

Reflecting on the changing culture and economy of the Fordist-Keynesian industrial capitalist configuration that was made necessary with „the application of xlii increasingly intricate and sophisticated technology to the production of things,‟ Galbraith (1969:13) drew particular attention to the importance of consumer demand management.

I still recall a time in the early 1990s when India had just initiated its new economic policy; the idea of credit cards was alien. My study of advertisements during that period showed a concerted effort to popularize credit cards. It is the contribution of credit to the emergence of a culture of systematic and organized consumption to which we need to direct our attention. My studies showed how gender was a critical element in constructing a new milieu. If thrift marked virtue of a traditional Indian housewife, a huge network of communication sought to redefine virtue as profligacy. The thrift housewife had to therefore turn profligate (Chaudhuri 1997). A new culture of consumption was critical for the new order of production. It is empirically obvious that capitalist consumer culture employs all the means at its disposal to conjure up appealing images and persuasive signs, to „summon up dreams, desires and fantasies‟ of the potential for fulfillment through a process of „narcisstically pleasing oneself‟ in and through the consumption of symbolic goods and services (Featherstone 1991: 27).





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Culture and identity in developing societies: that matter of history We have seen the unprecedented rise of consumer culture and the emergence of new identities defined by consumption and life style globally. While there have always been various forms of resistance to it, what is specific to our context is that we have a historically shaped ambiguity to western culture that needs to be taken cognizance of.

We are all aware that the long years of colonial rule led to a denigration of non-western cultures and ways of life. We are all familiar with the binaries of the west and non-west which saw us as barbaric as against the civilized west. We also know that we had our cultures rendered exotic, strange and maybe even bizarre. This was most apparent in anthropological works of western scholars. The oriental scholars, exposed to the rich traditional knowledge of these deemed „barbaric societies‟ on the other hand, were responsible for bringing to the notice of global scholarship the richness and magnificence of Asian material and non-material culture. This eulogy in turn affected our own way of looking at our own culture. It became our weapon to assert ourselves and claim to be counted as one and equal among nations. Cultural assertion is a key element in our nationalisms. Further this culture is often seen as deeply rooted in spiritual traditions.

xliii I quote here from two sources to capture both these aspects: as a weapon against western cultural humiliation; and as distinctive in its „spiritual‟ composition. The following quote is a response to the Age of Consent debates in Indian in the 1890s when the British state was seeking to bring in legal reforms to raise the age of marriage for girls. It is important to make the point here that many Indian social reformers and nationalists like Tilak supported the basic principle but was against colonial state

initiated reforms. A Bengali newspaper wrote:

Yes, we are a nation of savages and the government is making laws to educate us. Yes, we are strangers to domestic virtues; we gave up only the other day our dwelling in the woods. Yes, we are a savage people and do not know how a husband should behave to his wife and wife to her husband. Yes, we tattooed our bodies till yesterday, and we had not the marriage tie among us till recently (Bangabasi1891 cited in Sarkar 1983 111-21).

I quote from Aurobindo and Vivekananda regarding what was seen as specific to Indian culture.

Vivekananda wrote:

… each nation, like each individual, has one theme in this life which is its centre…In one nation political power is its vitality as in England. Aesthetic life is another, and so on. In India, religious life forms the centre the key note of the whole music of national life…so in India, social reform has to be preached by showing how much more spiritual a life the new system will bring, and politics has to be preached by showing how much it will improve the one thing that the nations wants- its spirituality (Poddar 1977: 114).

Aurobindo echoes a similar point:

In Indian civilization, philosophy and religion, philosophy made dynamic by religion, religion enlightened by philosophy have led, the rest follow as best they can (Aurobindo 1975: 52).

If that was the refrain more than one hundred and twenty five years ago, we witness resonance of it in contemporary popular and academic discourse. I quote below from a recent study done in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In the quote below you will notice the omnipresence of consumer culture in everyday life, (what we just discussed) and the concern about its impact on „our culture‟.

It has out-rooted the traditional Bengali culture and the rate at which westernization is happening to Bangladesh is surprising. Regional languages are on the process of redefined. In many ways instating of regional language people have been used to English especially in urban areas youngsters. It had started get fixing with western clothing, western languages, western mannerisms and everything else westernized. …Beside, the festival of Pohela Baishak, people is now celebrating like other western cultural festivals especially in young group such as- Valentine‟s Day, Friendship Day, Mother‟s day, Father‟s day.

With Globalization and westernization of our culture, Bangladesh now has access to things like adult movies, pornographic material, sex toys and other sexual content from all around the world especially in young group of people. Bangladeshi‟s population has been corrupted thanks by easy access which has been brought about by westernization.

xliv In fact, this has gone to such limits that now pornographic material is even made in Bangladesh also. These perverted habits have raised a population who sometimes are so full of hunger for that they choice to rape. It is a fact that rape cases have risen since the spread of globalization.

So that, western dress is another factor that creates an imbalance in our society especially for woman group (whenever girls wear a shirt, t-shirt, and pant in our society, due to feel or sensation of comfortable) which does not permit within our culture as majority of Muslim nationality. For wearing that kind of dresses men are mostly thinking in negative sense (http://www.assignmentpoint.com/arts/modern-civilization/assignmenton-globalization-and-bangladesh.htmlemphasis mine).

Important to note is how often the question of culture is linked to questions of appropriate gender behavior and identity. This is a point that I cannot dwell here but needs to be emphasized.

Likewise we can see oft repeated expressions of the decline of Sri Lankan culture and the ascendency of western culture, particularly with the onset of globalization. An article on the web sums up scholar Amarasekera‟s message that captures the point that I am seeking to argue.

Sri Lanka has been subject to the forceful power of globalisation and free market economy system in the last three and a half decades or so. This force has destroyed the country‟s rich cultural heritage of which the core has been founded on Sinhalese Buddhism. This has in fact generated disastrous results for the future of the country. The path which the country would have taken to avert this disaster would have been the revival of the nationalistic movement which the late Anagarika Dharmapala had started in 1930s when the country was still under the British rule. But this was not done…The „sense‟ that is required is nothing but redesigning Sri Lanka‟s value system and goals based on in Amarasekera‟s words “the core of our civilisational heritage which has escaped our minds so far, with disastrous results”.

… The country has been reduced to an economically dependent neo-colonial satellite.

People have been glued, day in and day out, to an Idiot‟s Box called television that has exerted immense influence on their thinking, living and behaving. Young generations have been addicted to both cricket and drugs creating an immeasurable social menace. Art, literature and drama have deteriorated to their lowest depths with pornography and low-taste art work replacing them. Sinhala language has been relegated to an unimportant position while English has been crowned once again. Men and women have changed their attire in favour of modern Western fashions so that the long hair and saris worn by women and national dress by men as advocated by AnagarikaDharmapala have begun to disappear. … In essence, the free market economy and globalisation have destroyed the country‟s rich cultural heritage and made it „more dependent and helpless‟ just like it had been under the colonial rulers (Wijewardena http://www.montpelerin.org/nyc2k9.cfm 2012 emphasis mine).

There are other scholars such as Sasanka Perera who has a different response to this question.

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