McDonalds & Gastrodiplomacy: Keeping Globalization Theory Relevant

1) What does globalization theory still provide that is useful for practitioners of international communication.

Although globalization isn’t still considered groundbreaking, I would argue that it is still a useful theory (or set of theories) in the field of international communication today. Globalization is helpful to us newer (or hopeful) practitioners in this field in part because it give us a starting point to understand the ways in which (and the degree to which) the world is already connected in this current historical moment. Understanding the novelty of globalization also helps us put the globalized world we inherited into its historical context, to understand how and why globalization occurred and how our globalized communications landscape differs from older situations. Understanding why the world is globalized as it is today, and how it ended up like this, may also help us understand where processes of globalization are taking us.

In Hanson’s “The Information Revolution, the Global Economy, and the Redistribution of Wealth,” she calls for us to think about the world as globalizing instead of globalized, as these processes are still ongoing (158). I think this is an especially relevant way to frame globalization that highlights why it is still useful: while thinking about the world as increasingly globalized is nothing new, the processes by which the world is growing ever-more connected continue to exist and change. This is especially relevant as we think about culture. In class, we discussed debates within globalization theory about whether globalization would create mass, homogenized cultures or if it would help to define and strengthen local cultures. As we’ve seen and discussed, globalization seems to have the effect of doing both. There may be McDonalds restaurants everywhere, but that doesn’t mean that local traditions of selling and consuming food have disappeared all over the world. In fact, we could maybe even connect the McDonalds-ization of the world to the recent pushes for “gastrodiplomacy” that we discussed in class last week. Are governments starting to focus on supporting their local food cultures (and the export of these culinary traditions) in part because of the influx of American fast-food restaurants? Could we view this as an example of globalization being a force that both pushes some parts of global hegemons’ cultures into other cultures, while simultaneously supporting the maintenance of local culture? Thus, globalization theory enables us to keep an eye on the changing ways in which the world is becoming more interconnected and interdependent, and reminds us that this process is far from simple – or over.