British Imperial Federation Map of the World

The Roots Of Cultural Imperalism And Its Mean In Modern Times

The events on the world stage not only alter boundiries and politics but also effect the daily life and cultures. Unless it is a coincience that a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa caused tornado in South America, it is also not a coincence that being so accustomed to wearing blue jean or eating fast food of people living in Asia, Africa or Middle East and this is related some chain of events.  The race of imperialism that made the world drift into big two wars after the invention of steam machine gave up its place to a notion that more insidious and hard to abrogate; Cultural imperialism. Even thougth this process is struggled  to present as a  natural result of globalization, capitalism and multiculturalism by hegemonic powers[1], it is obvious that this process is a product of conscious politics aimed  to settle and expand  hegemon cultures to create new markets that demand the common products. Besides when this effort empose the western culture as a normal and common on the other hand it makes the unique cultures “other” and “exotic”. Also hegemonic powers uses very alluring package like modern, technologic, comfortable and attractive presenting their products to markets created by themselves. In terms of understanding this notion ıt is reguired to know its key words, historical roots and traces. This article aimed to answer Why and When questions about cultural imperialism issue giving examples historical backgrounds and current politics.

The Roots Of Cultural Imperialism

Imperialism is using force over weaker states or culture to manupulate national and economic interest that governed by hegemonic powers. İmperialism refers over one meanig according to its historical background. Expansion of land, to lay a country under contribution, to benefit from natural resources or to use manpower of effected country also correspond to definition of imperialism.(Akdeniz,1988, pg.3) The different appearing of imperialism in sixteenth-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries display the diversity in the definition.  Cultural imperialism which raised modern imperialism demonstrates itself with the rising of Capitalism in politic philosophy and economy all around the world. But taking this name or entering literature in modern times doesn’t mean that it is new notion. Although the turning points like the discovery of America continental, the Renaissance and World War II made people think cultural imperialism just America and Europe oriented the traces and examples had seen throughout history authenticated this supposition also other examples from history indicate that it is common politics. Chinese princess used as a spy by Chinese government which was neighbor of Turks in medial Asia to eliminate Turkish culture and abolish its existence that could not be defeated in battlefield. This topic also has been subject in Orhun inscriptions the first written tablets of Turks as a politics to be avoided. Greeks also had same situations. All coast of Crimean and Gibraltar colonized had been met demigod heroes, Greek myths and stories. (Akdeniz, 1988, p.15)   Because when the pros and cons of war and assimilation other cultures are compared the reality turns up and signs that to capture one land or people without weapons is easier and cheaper. But it is not wrong to say Western cultures are more successful in that case. Even today the certain impact and hegemony of western languages in many part of world are the strong proofs of this allegation. But this situation that shape today’s world is the product of a systematic policy. The roots of dominant culture based on 16th century began to be created by white Christian Europe especially England and France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Russia, Portugal and Spain covering a large part of the supervision of the various countries of the earth. But all empires were not identical. According to one of the famous historians although France were not stay back of England about slavery and plantation the power was came from consideration. Coming of this respect from famous French characteristic as Vocation Supérieur[2] was emposed by Delavigne and Charles Andre Julien. (Said, 2004, p.261)

The similar cultural impact on exploitations was also valid for England. India was the most profitable and long lasting colony for England even for all Europe. From the first British expedition in 1608 to the return of the last governor to England in 1907, India was exposed the British politics, language, culture and ideology. The expressionism of cultural hegemony was not started with Hollywood movies as contrary of popular beliefs. There is no doubt Rudyard Kipling became the most popular name in this issue leaving behind some names like Jeremy Bentham James, John Stuart Mill. Two points must be approched commenting Kipling. The first author adressred the land and culture from hegemon white man perspective and secondly the order of mass colonial was accepted by his words. Actually the order of colonial empire was valid in litarature even it have not been discussed. (Said,2004, p.210)

Althougth historical traces and examples are abundant the appearing of systematic cultural imperialism made realized after finishing World War II and Cold War . Technological development was almost completed, the lands was shared theoretically, barriers of producting good stuffs was lifted, the effects of communism was almost eliminated.(Chambers, 2006, p.243) The most important thing was the making capitalism turn to a machine functioning perfectly. The purpose of America and Europe mostly solved resource shortage was to find markets which demand their products and make western culture dominant all around the world. To illustrate this conscious process created by France to make Algeria people European in the very beginning of 1830s. Local natural resources and forests were captured and natives were abolished from their home. New French settlements replaced them. (Said, 2004, p. 263).

The Way Of New Imperialism: Effecting Culturally

After the finishing of the major battles and Cold war something was begun to understood by hegemonic powers. Closed economic and technological development was creating more threat components and blocking the new world system putting the integration process back. To race to have more colonies were pointless because land of world was limited. For this the new world system was required. Liberal economic conditions will be effective in this new order, North-South Gap will be struggled to abrogate, old fashion slavery system based on buying and selling manpower will not be permitted. But in a way the welfare of North had been continued. (Bales, 2004, p.12)

When the colonial process begun in South the collaboration was made with co-workers to provide raw materials. By the 19th century increasing individual enterprises began to operate their own institutions.  But with the securing independence of the last colonies in Africa in 1970’s, the classic colonial system was replaced with New Colonialism.  The word of colony was not fit for new system.  For these reasons, with the developing of history, social sciences and psychology a series of politic and cultural studies was tried to apply in the following years of 1880. When International Congress of Social Colony (1890), Ethnographic Science Congress in Paris (1902) met to discuss the transforming World order, Madagascar and Kampuchea were approached by Revue Internationale de Social (1990) and De Caos (1908) with special issues (Goldstein, 2006, 177). These studies just demonstrate the cultural dimension of the new order wanted to be presented. The construction of United Nations that banned using of force in international relations was the first important politic step. Although UN aimed to ensure world peace, security and cultural co-operation, the structure or organs displayed the example of on-going system. United Nations Security Council decision making organ, was constructed with five permanent members are England, Chine, Russia, USA, France (Goldstein, 2006, 206). This made it easier to protect the status of the dominant hegemonic powers. But there had no longer weapons and different tools were needed to find.

Although most of former colonies gained independence, the borders drawn by western states. For years most of people from western countries who set up companies, settled in these lands, established their own schools and finally created satellites which speak their language at the other corner of World. Speaking of French in Algeria and Speaking English in India very well are the traces of this situation.

Western powers created a collective conscious that cannot be alienated to western culture and western products accruing their culture and constituting a people living like them. On the other hand the products of these lands were made mono typed and dependent states. In this case liberal economy seemed have by them but costs and products could not be controlled.  This politic makes society introversion, self-distrusted (Chryssochoou, 2004, p.7). To control identity of the nations which have lost its self-confidence seems torturing frozen body.  A society that accustomed to live like someone rarely notice that it has been disappearing.


It is hard to say that there is one reason to explain what the culture and imperialism are. But it’s obvious that if we accept that it’s a kind of political process it’s also mainly related with economy. Unfortunately, wars, crisis, conflicts, boundaries, peacemaking process are generally made for economic reasons. But not to take into consideration identity and historical process means to make a big mistake. When we compare the time that governed by different hegemonic states we cannot see the same process. Ottoman Empire experienced the multiculturalism and it could maintain this policy. Making imperialism culturally or effecting dependent states were not appropriate policies for Islam and Ottoman tradition. But same components are never valid for Christians especially WASP cultures. They start a war not only for Muslims or Africa also challenged each other for many years in Europe. International Ethics Rules determined by International Laws and International Laws determined by Supra-national Courts. Then who created Supra-National Courts and who will determine what the reality is. The answers are still waiting to be answer.

[1] Hegemony is the indirect form of imperial dominance with which the hegemonic (leader state) rules subordinate states, by the implied means of power, rather than direct military force.

[2] Vocation Supérieur: prowess

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