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date: 22 May 2018

Globalizing and Changing Culture

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article.

The conceptualization of “culture” as a concept, as well as the degree to which “culture” is said to determine, or at least influence, our behavior, has been discussed and contested like perhaps no other concept in language and communication research since the late 20th century. Since Hofstede’s ground-breaking research on work-related values in the 1980s, scholars from a variety of disciplines have discussed how to conceptualize “culture,” how to best research it, and how to provide evidence for or against the idea of national cultures. Hofstede’s research argues that members of the same national groups have the same cultural characteristics, which makes it possible to talk about national cultures. However, more recent research argues that culture is a process that is constantly changing, and being changed, in the ongoing co-production of meaning by participants in intergroup encounters.

How and the extent to which globalization changes culture have also been discussed in recent years. Some scholars argue that globalization leads to sameness and uniformity and ultimately to the end of the nation state as we know it today. Others disagree and argue that globalization leads to a strengthening of the nation state and of the cultural values we tend to associate with it.

The importance of “culture” as an analytical concept in (intercultural) communication research is yet another pertinent topic in the literature. Some scholars have argued that the culture concept has lost its potency as a meaningful analytical concept and therefore should no longer take center stage in communication research. Others have argued that from a minority-group perspective, culture will always be salient and a determining factor for behavior.