Monday, 21 February 2011


Has the westernization of popular culture resulted in the decline of creativity? Are the masses distracted from systemic social problems owing to the homogenized western model of popular culture? Culture is largely a byproduct and a function of the political economy, thus it is inevitable that if the political economy of capitalism is global what follows is global (universal) culture that mirrors the values of the dominant class that shapes the political economy.

The traditional protestant ethic behind American capitalism has been replaced by predatory commercial conquest of markets on a global scale and aggressive marketing to impose consumption values on people based not on need but greed. The more closely integrated world economy necessarily entails contradictions emerging from the values of consumption as catalyst to happiness, on the one hand, and the system that creates uneven income distribution, inequitable geographic and social conditions, and alienating individuals who become detached from community and humanitarian values.

While the underlying assumption of criticizing popular culture of any society at any time in history may on the surface appear elitist, the sweeping Americanization of popular commercial culture in the world is an undeniable reality that encourages creativity within commercial culture's rewarding confines but limits it otherwise. Creativity in philosophy, poetry, and art for its aesthetic value and/or as social criticism lacks cash-value, thus it is marginalized. Creativity in the absence of commercial application in any endeavor is non-creative because it clashes with the cash-value culture.

Not only does homogenized Americanized commercial culture marginalizes creativity with aesthetic and/or social conscience intent, but it also supersedes and replaces local cultures. The only way that local or indigenous cultures can survive is in some distorted commodity-packaged version that fit into the political economy's universal cash-value system. Consumer products and services, motion pictures, TV, radio, magazines, popular books, and newspapers, even religion, emulate the American homogeneous model, to the exclusion of local or indigenous cultures.

Cash-value culture rooted in Western consumerism promotes fulfillment through commercial ideals that reinforce egocentricity, while discouraging personal creativity and collective or community ideals. Not just commercial advertising, but everything from the educational system to mass media reinforce cash-value ephemeral sense of fulfillment to the detriment of humanitarianism by reducing cultural values to commodities. Given that the worth of a human being is invariably linked to nothing  more than material criteria reinforced by values of greed, individual identity is an extension of products and services, at least of the ability to afford and own them. Moreover, human relationships, from casual friendships to marriages, are extensions of the dominant cash-value culture that largely determines them.

Rather than fighting for issues of vital importance to improve humanity collectively, people under the hypnotic hedonistic impact of popular culture value superficial issues unrelated to their own lives at best, and are generally immune to global catastrophes from wars to famine. As capitalism constantly reconfigures popular culture for maximum exploitation, it promotes adolescent atomism along with alienation and collective indifference reflected in and reinforced by the 'cash-based' popular culture.

What of the future of children growing up in the world of video games representing westernized popular culture, what of the future of societies accepting westernized popular culture as the last and most realistic monotheistic religion? Is it any wonder that in the last half century there has been a sharp increase in psychological and psycho-somatic illnesses accompanied by a sharp rise in medications to cure such problems that the inhuman cash-value culture creates?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. This is a poignant essay. I've read just a few of Professor Kofas' essays, and I must say that I appreciate the frank and clear articulation of current events. I hope that you continue to write and many people read your work.