Comparative Studies in Society and History

Research Article

Globalization, Universalism, and Cultural Form

Laura L. Adamsa1

a1 Harvard University

When we think of the globalization of culture, we tend to think of the consumption of cultural goods produced in the West and the effects of these goods on the values and practices of non-Western consumers. The literature on the globalization of culture also tends to focus on how Western markets for non-Western cultural goods affect patterns of cultural production in the non-Western world.1 Naturally, this focus on markets tends to draw our theoretical interest toward questions of capitalism. However, when we look at societies without a history of capitalism, new questions come to light. That men wear Western-style suits in both Uzbekistan and Italy, that orchestras use polyphony in both Kazakhstan and Austria, and that King Lear is popular in both Turkmenistan and England cannot be explained by the dynamics of capitalism.


Acknowledgments: Research for this paper was conducted with the assistance of grants given by the Berkeley Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies, the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the U.S. Department of State (Title VIII), and the U.S. Information Agency. I would like to thank Rod Benson, Doug Blum, John Boli, Paul DiMaggio, Todd Horowitz, Michael Kennedy, and Charlie Kurzman for their helpful comments along the way, and I am grateful to Ann Swidler and several anonymous CSSH reviewers for their in-depth critiques. Thanks also to Gaye Tuchman for a push in the right direction.