Jihad vs.

McWorld
Pols 331
by Charlotte Gogstad for Dr. Peter Grosvenor PLU, December 1998 According to Benjamin Barber, the future of International Relations is dominated by a conflict between McWorld and Jihad. The world is being simultaneously pulled together by McWorld and apart by Jihad. McWorld is working towards globalization and commodification by using the forces of capitalism to create human needs. Jihad, on the other side, is a sort of retribalization, where humanity is being divided and subdivided into exclusive units. Through retribalizing, Jihad tries to create a tribal identity to which we bond and identify. This tribalism is breaking out as a reaction to McWorld. McWorld and Jihad derive their strength by reinforcing each other, and neither can survive without the other. In The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington claims that the world is becoming smaller. “The interactions between peoples of different civilizations are increasing. These interactions intensify civilizations consciousness.i” Huntington believes that the growth of civilization consciousness is enhanced by the fact that the West is at the peak of its power, and a return to the root phenomenon is occurring among non-Western civilizations. Thus, while the interactions between civilizations are increasing globally, those interactions intensify the consciousness of one’s own civilization locally. In other words, the spread of McWorld intensifies Jihad. This paper will discuss Benjamin Barber’s perspectives on McWorld and Jihad, and how those two forces explain international relations. It will focus on issues like commodification, the infotainment telesector, globalization, localism, democracy, and capitalism. “McWorld is a product of popular culture driven by expansionist commerce. Its template is American, its form style. Its goods are as much images as materiel, an aesthetic as well as a product line. It is about culture as commodity, apparel as ideology.ii” In Jihad vs. McWorld, Barber provides a thorough analysis of the influences McWorld has on international relations. McWorld is the final achievement of commodification, where capitalism turns anything into a tradable commodity. American products spread around the world and they enjoy the competitive advantage of being created in Englishiii. Certain products have become universal and are available to consumers in almost any place and at any time. For instance, Coca-Cola, Barbie, Nike shoes and Levi’s jeans are examples of products that unite the consumers of this world. In Norway, the most popular drink is Coca-Cola and the most popular pair of jeans by far is Levi’s. According to Barber, McWorld is a product above all of popular culture driven by expansionist commerce. That culture is primarily American, or to be more precise “Hollywoodian." In a sense, Hollywood has successfully invaded most countries without a shot being fired. According to the article Culture Wars, America is not just interested in exporting its films, it is interested in exporting its way of lifeiv. For every $100 spent at the movies in Australia, $ 94 goes back to the United Statesv. It has been claimed that in the 1950’s in Australia, the only time one could hear an Australian accent on the radio was when

They would become a group by 1 . one could only get one TV-channel unless one had cable. It is important to recognize the power inherent in the infotainment telesector. but how united is another question. According to Barber. “Hollywoodism” has major impact on other cultures. In 1992 in Norway. celebrities can do no wrong. Subnational groups are becoming more and more popular. and dream the same dreamsvii. It has been calculated that there can be as many as 1000 nations by the end of the century as the old monodists disintegrate and fall apart and as people seek local identitiesx. Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia have already come apart. of whatever provenance. Americans are very proud of their ancestors. TV and movie stars are getting involved in politics. Polk. In “Hankering for a Hero”. and often claim they are Irish.ix” For every action there is equal reaction. they would find themselves more alien to Norwegians than they could ever imagine. Until recently. but will inevitably have it. Television is becoming a permanent ticket to film-watching anytime. to sing the same songs. Phillip Adams claims that we will live in a world of paradox. Ricky Lake and Baywatch. In Neighbors and Strangers. Thus. William R. The Australian language has later also been influenced by TV-shows like Sesame Street.000 words have recently been introduced from the United Statesvi. if a number of Norwegian-Americans were transported back to Norway. Peter Grosvenor a rugby player was being interviewed. where we will live in the global web of cyberspace while connecting to our roots locally. while transmuted into a kind of videology that works through sound bites and film clips.International Relations Paper III by Charlotte Gogstad for Dr. In a state of McWorld we live in a world where soft power changes the way people live and behave. eat the same food. of which the three new added channels devote primetime television to Oprah. and thus our private window on McWorldviii. Ideology is being replaced by videology. However. There are now some 185 member states of the United Nations. federal Canada faces a Quebec province whose separatist leanings have actually been magnified by its recent economic successes. Links between people are strongest when they are between people of same identity and where bonds are strong. Politicians can do no right. The split between eastern and western Germany has proved harder to bridge then was expected. According to William R. of which 10. Human beings depend on community and brotherhood. and connect to people of same bearing. Hard power yields to soft. It seems like we are living in a world where the fantasies created in Hollywood become people’s view on reality. causing all of us. Now four channels are available. Norwegian or Italian. The globalism of McWorld spurs a reaction of localism in Jihad. German. and we tend to relate to people of our own background. wear the same clothes. and the infotainment telesector is the medium through which it is spread. “The infotainment telesector may neither actively seek nor even passively wish to exercise power.xii Even in the United States. Polk discusses the awakening of ethnicity and how people relate to subnational groups: “Northern Italians are beginning to talk about separation from the impoverished and Mafiaridden south. and television are potent blenders. Maureen Dowd sarcastically portrays how easy it would be for a movie star like Tom Hanks to run for president due to the forces inherent in McWorld. movies. New states are added rapidly. There are 100. there is still a strong sense of separate identity.xi” Much the same ambivalence can be found across the Atlantic among the Quebecois separatists. most European countries only had state-run TV monopolies. radio. McWorld is a product of commodification.000 words in the Macquire Australian Dictionary. and they are easily marketable. Jihad is the force pulling the world apart and into a parochial state of existence.

and McWorld takes use of Jihad to enhance its commodification of the world. the real problems of a post-cold-war will be the new challenges of transnational interdependence where soft power will be the major force controlling the way people think. The show used English. Nye. I think Americans tend to have strong values and are definitely more family oriented and religious than people of most European states. However. but in making them dependent reduces their powerxix. For instance. it is important for foreigners to realize how that culture differs from that of Americans in general. Jihad recreates ancient subnational and ethnic borders from within. He claims that we will see a greater role for the informational and institutional powers pulling this world together. democracy suffers either way. McWorld has no choice but to service. Those values and traditions become barriers trying to lock McWorld out. The revolutions in Eastern European countries in the early 1990’s were 2 . Jihad also connects to McWorld through commodifying itself. and was extremely successful in Denmark. Further. neither willing to coexist with the other. Peter Grosvenor themselves. and in the long run. even to package and market Jihad. Jihad needs McWorld to promote itself. McWorld uses our need to connect religiously and takes advantage of that need when broadcasting televangalism. According to J. it is its child. it played on both McWorld and Jihad. it not only looks upon it as an enemy. Barber argues that “both McWorld and Jihad weaken nations. McWorld see the people of Jihad as potential consumers. “The Russian Orthodox Church has entered a joint venture with California businessmen to bottle and sell natural waters under the rubric Saint Springs Water Company”. Thus. while McWorld makes national borders porous from withoutxiv. but sees Jihad as an obstacle of consumer choice. In other words. With its back to the roots phenomenon.” It is therefore important that democrats make sure the technology available gets used in a proper manner and does not fall in the hands of uncontrolled capitalism.” Thus. Capitalism does not need nor entail democracyxxi.xviii Thus. The two are locked together in a kind of Freudian moment of the ongoing cultural struggle. McWorld also takes use of Jihad to produce products that reflects the needs of both McWorld and Jihad. which is being communicated to the entire world through the infotainment telesector. Thus. For instance. “democrats should not be the Luddites Jihad’s anxious tribal warriors have become. a television show called “The Julekalender” became one of the most popular shows in Norway. Every second word said on the show was in English while the remaining half of the words where in a very profound Norwegian dialect. the language of McWorld. it may attenuate the force of Jihad’s recidivist tribalismxv.xiii” A tension between globalism and localism. McWorld draws nations out of their isolation and autarky.International Relations Paper III by Charlotte Gogstad for Dr. S. Jihad emphasizes values and tradition. I mentioned earlier how Hollywood has created its own culture. and played it up against a Norwegian dialect. Jihad itself can be commodifiedxvii. A Danish version of the show was also produced. Economic well being is key in order to keep a population content. “Jihad is not only McWorld’s adversary. When McWorld looks at Jihad. Still. but also as an opportunity. McWorld’s videology remains Jihad’s most formidable rival. McWorld needs Jihad to feed its endless appetitexvi. they cannot afford to make technology and modernity enemies of self-determination and libertyxx. Jihad splinters them but increase their dependence on McWorld. McWorld wish to create taste. According to Barber. and can easily take control without “preaching” democracy. and we will have to be aware of the nationalistically awakened populations in weak states that are pulling this world apart. reflects the relationship between McWorld and Jihad. neither complete without the other. Four years ago.

today McWorld’s global capitalism may signal its demise.222.97 v Adams. McWorld” p. Barber claims that nation-state capitalism once contributed to the founding of democracy. New York 1996 xxiv Polk.International Relations Paper III by Charlotte Gogstad for Dr. Benjamin R. McWorld” p. New York 1996 xx Barber. “Jihad vs. 6 Ballantine Books. Benjamin R. New York 1996 iii Fahri.Special World Summit Issue xi Polk. McWorld” p.82 Ballantine Books. “Jihad vs. subunits will continue to react to globalism and thereby create its own distinct groups. i Huntington. 77 Ballantine Books.5 Ballantine Books. Benjamin R. McWorld” p. McWorld” p. McWorld” p. New York 1996 x Adams. Still.177 Ballantine Books. New York 1996 xv Barber.xxii It is important to realize the negative effects McWorld might have on democracy. McWorld” p. McWorld” p. New York 1996 xviii Barber. New York 1996 xiv Barber. However. 5 . Benjamin R. experiences suggest that even though this world is becoming globally connected. democracy is not keeping up with the spread of capitalism. “Jihad vs. Metro Education No. New York 1996 xxiii Barber. “Jihad vs. Peter Grosvenor more about the right to shop than the right to vote. McWorld” p. Vol.15 Ballantine Books. Phillip. 5 . that is very unlikely due to the power of individual states. Barber believes that McWorld will eventually defeat Jihad. The University of Chicago Press 1997 viii Barber. Benjamin R. “Neighbors and Strangers” p.Special World Summit Issue vii Polk.48 Ballantine Books. Samuel. Metro Education No. “Jihad vs. 348 Issue 8085. Benjamin R. 09/12/98. The University of Chicago Press 1997 xii Barber. 17 Ballantine Books. Benjamin R. Benjamin R. “Jihad vs. New York 1996 xxii Barber. “Jihad vs. New York 1996 ix Barber. p. William R. Metro Education No. “Jihad vs. Benjamin R.155 Ballantine Books. Benjamin R. McGraw-Hill 1997 Barber.100 Ballantine Books. The Washington Post. New York 1996 xix Barber.319. Paul and Megan Rosenfeld “Exporting America”. 83 Ballantine Books. Benjamin R. “Jihad vs. “Jihad vs. “Jihad vs. Benjamin R. “Telstra Lunchtime Address”. “Jihad vs. “Telstra Lunchtime Address”. “Jihad vs. Although the future is unclear. McWorld” p. In other words. Benjamin R.Special World Summit Issue vi Adams. McWorld” p.157 Ballantine Books. November 30th 1998 iv The Economist. “Jihad vs. McWorld” p. We live and will continue to live in a world with many neighbors and few strangersxxiv. “Telstra Lunchtime Address”. McWorld” p.273 Ballantine Books. However. The University of Chicago Press 1997 ii 3 . Phillip. We still live in a world of international anarchy where states are the major players.319.318. William R. Phillip. I think both McWorld and Jihad will have major impact on this world in the years to come. Barber states that the best alternative to control this integration of markets and disintegration of people would be a centralized governing international sovereign. New York 1996 xiii Barber. “Culture Wars” Economist. “The Coming Clash of Civilizations”. 5 . Due to the long-term capacity of global information and global culture to overpower parochialism and to integrate or obliterate partial identitiesxxiii. New York 1996 xvi Barber. The Global Agenda p. 82 Ballantine Books. New York 1996 xxi Barber. McWorld” p. Benjamin R. New York 1996 xvii Barber. McWorld” p. These states have their own sovereign governments. William R. “Jihad vs. and those governments have the power to regulate the local influences of McWorld if that is what they wish. “Neighbors and Strangers” p. 17 Ballantine Books. “Neighbors and Strangers” p. Benjamin R.

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