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?” The homogenization of cultures and the absorption of cultures into a universal western, marketoriented, rational culture is becoming an issue of focus for many social and cultural critics. For many, underlying this process is a veiled kind of imperialism which because of the opposition it faced in its geo-political form conveniently morphed into a more readily acceptable and less military form. For others it is mainly a natural outcome of economic evolution and globalization the negative effects of which can be dealt with as the need arises. For persons holding this view the benefits associated by globalization (and its resultant homogenization) by far outweigh the negatives. I will explore this tendency towards homogenization using a few standpoints in social philosophy and sociology. Kant's synthesizing nature of the understanding For Kant the world of phenomena, that is the world of everything that is capable of affecting the senses, exists as a collection of meaningless, directionless objects in a chaotic mix. It is the lawmaking and meaning-giving function of the understanding that gives meaning and direction to this chaotic mix. “The understanding, by means of its capacity to synthesize, orders appearances under its own forms or categories such as reality, existence, substance, causality, as a result of which the appearances become phenomena. (Harrison-Barbet)” This process of synthetic unity is not complete, however, until reason imposes its principles upon the rules of the understanding. According to Kant, without the use of reason, we would have “…no coherent use of the understanding and lacking that, no sufficient mark of empirical truth…” The Kantian epistemology outlined here in a brief form to demonstrate the centrality of reason in modern culture. In modern culture, thinking (rationality, reason) is inevitably wrapped up with being (reality). This is nowhere better expressed than in the Cartesian phrase “cogito ergo sum”. According to this enlightenment worldview, rational thinking or arriving at synthetic unity of the myriad sensible objects that confront us daily is a natural part of life of an enlightened being. In order to gain knowledge, we are inevitably bound to the process of categorization, classification and simplification of the world of sensible objects (Kant 1970). If one follows the logic of this enlightenment thinking, then homogenization becomes the inevitable end result of modern civilization. Rationalization as a cause of Homogenization Marx and Weber in their critique of capitalism provide some real world examples of this homogenizing tendency in modern culture. For Weber, capitalism emerged directly from the Protestant ethic which in turn is a product of a rational ‘way of life’ which according to Lowith (1960) was the ‘dominant totality’ of modern existence. This dominant totality creates in us a pathological need to simplify, categorize, predict, control, unify, expedite and manage ‘efficiently’, everything, to the extent that this pathology became for man an ‘iron cage’. The manifestation of this ‘iron cage’ tendency is made clear by Weber’s writings on capitalism and bureaucracy. Weber agrees with Marx that the centering of the rational in the behavior of man leads to unexpected irrational outcomes. For example, although in the process of rationalization and simplification money as a facilitator of exchange emerged within the market system, it is this same money which in turn becomes the main hindrance in the exchange process. This inversion is revealed by the simple Marxian formula C-M-C and M-C-M whereby money, the ‘means’ by which we facilitate exchange becomes an end in itself. In the same
calculability. credit services in the form of multinational banks. For example. “The Enlightenment dream of a universal rational society has to a remarkable degree been realized – but in a form that is commercialized. But in full agreement with Barber. class-interest. one code of laws. McDonaldization as a form of Homogenization Developing from Weber’s theory of rationality which lies at the very root of homogenization. For both Marx and Weber. and of property. 453). and has concentrated property in a few hands. In Tucker 1978) For both Marx and Weber. the bureaucracy was the ideal model of a rational organization. Homogenization as Ontic Closure There is no doubt that the interconnection of the world is creating in its realization a more homogenized culture. of smaller food outlets and therefore a homogenization of the fast food experience. And it is based on his theories that we get the ‘convergence thesis’ which posits that both capitalist and communist systems will inevitably submit to the logic of rationality and organizationally merged into an international bureaucracy. a tendency referred to by Barber as “The lebanonisation of the world”. It has agglomerated population. centralized means of production. For Marx. I recommend Benjamin Barber’s Jihad vs. But while for Marx. “the bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population of the means of production. The necessary consequence of this was political centralization.way the bureaucracy. I would . politics in the form of globalization. For a somewhat extreme treatment of this phenomenon. While for Weber. predictability and control through nonhuman rather human technology. Independent. homogenized. or but loosely connected provinces. with separate interests. governments and systems of taxations .became lumped together into one nation with one government. which is a rational administrative structure established as a means to efficient administration. one national. becomes in the process a hindrance to efficient and effective administration by becoming too unwieldy and by engendering bureau-pathological tendencies in the bureaucrats. homogenization is an inevitable consequence of capitalism and the rational ethos. laws. in Readings for Sociology pg. The successes attained by these fast food outlets propel the adoption of the methods they use by other sectors of society. Those principles are efficiency.” (Marx qtd. the alienating aspect of this homogenization can be overcome by communism (homogenization without the alienation). the carrier of this culture of rationality is the bourgeoisie. which in turn resulted in the neutralization. Incorporating these principles leads to the productive efficiency and therefore the competitiveness of the food chain. Such fast food services as McDonald’s and KFC (all with similar mode of operation but different names and symbols) have become international fast food outlets. According to Barber. The McDonald’s food system has incorporated the principles of bureaucratic rationality in the production and sale of food. thereby associating the tendency in politics towards homogenization with the McDonald paradigm. McWorld. Interestingly the homogenizing tendency of the international politics is referred to in sociology as McWorld. the Sociologist George Ritzer brings a contemporary dimension to the manifestations and consequences of rational systems. I accept the view that along with this homogenizing tendency that results from western formal rationality there is also the tendency at fragmentation. depoliticized. for Ritzer the McDonald’s fast food chain represents for us in the 21st century the ideal rational organization. through lack of competitiveness. bureaucratized…” (qtd. Weber sees no way out of the iron cage of rationality. one frontier and one customs tarrif. retail services in the form of the shopping malls.
pre-rational.endeavor to elucidate this tendency using what I referred to as Harrisian ontology. . The logic of these spheres. and now I limit myself to the social. transcendental void which operates with a different ‘logic’ for from those of the three quantum spheres of existence listed above. this homogenization cannot become too absolute because there is always a tendency towards differentiation and fragmentation. totalisation and homogenization while the logic of the transcendental void is a logic of negation and fragmentation. psychological and social held together by a common primordial. Therefore. According to this ontology. namely the natural. is a victim of ontic tautology and lack access to the sociological imagination so passionately encouraged by Mills. is that of affirmation. projection. being can be divided into three separate spheres of existence. to the same extent that there is a tendency towards homogenization. with all his fascinating insight. Harris would have said that Weber.
By Narman Kemp. London: Macmillan and Co. Edwards.Works Cited Barber. George (2004).philosophos. Immanuel (1970). Karl (1982).W. Wilson Harris and Human Alienation. (1978). London: Allen and Unwin. Lowith. New York: W. Norton and Company. . Duane (2012). Sociological Theory. Boston: McGraw Hill. Jihad vs. Ritzer. www. Caribbean Quilt. Tucker. The Marx-Engels Reader. McWorld. Anthony. Readings in Sociology ed. Robert C.html Kant. Ontario: CARSSU. Harrison-Barbet. Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason trans. Max Weber and Karl Marx. Benjamin (2006). By Garth Massey.com/philosophical_connections/profile_073. New York: Norton.
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