What was for LÃ©vi-Strauss a symbol of cultural homogenisation has paradoxically been elevated to the status of an Australian icon: the beetroot has come to be recognised as the distinguishing ingredient of the classic Australian milkbar hamburger. At the same time, this unassuming vegetable has been implicated in recent debates about globalisation and culture following the launch of the McOz by global fast-food chain McDonaldâ€™s in 1998 (Dale, 1999:19). For many, the golden arches of McDonaldâ€™s are the quintessential symbol of all that is bad about globalisation â€“ mass-produced culture and economic domination by multinational corporations. However, the case of the beetroot in the McOz ...view middle of the document...
But now that McDonaldâ€™s in New Zealand has released its own Kiwi Burger, are we led to conclude that this apparent diversity is nevertheless just bland global uniformity concealed in a different wrapper?
The beetroot illustrates some of the complex ways in which global and national forces interact, intertwining the economic and the cultural, and showing the potentially fine line between the promotion and exploitation of local industry and culture by global markets. Popular debates about globalisation and culture have tended to neglect some of these complexities in favour of caricatured ideological positions, generating the need for an approach that broadens the discussion and questions some of its conventional assumptions. Despite the conjurations of globalisation as a by-word for US-driven capitalist domination, or Australian culture as archetypically white, middle-class and ocker, I will argue that globalisation and culture are multi-centred2 and heterogeneous in nature. Accordingly, it cannot be assumed either that globalisation is necessarily wholly bad and in need of opposition, nor that Australian culture is necessarily good and thus worth preserving at all costs.
Beginning with an attempt to place globalisation and culture in theoretical and historical perspective, I will then consider how globalisation has interacted with two significant aspects of Australian cultural life: popular culture â€“ including entertainment, sport and other practices of everyday life â€“ and political culture â€“ the values and identities informed by, and informing, our systems of governance. The two of course cannot be kept entirely separate: both play an important role in constituting Australiansâ€™ collective identities. Nevertheless, there
2 To continue the vegetable analogy, they are more like rhizomes than trees (Delanty, 2000:84; cf Deleuze and Guattari, 1983).
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