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Creative Destruction: How Globalization Is Changing the World's Cultures Paperback – 21 Mar 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; New Ed edition (21 Mar. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691117837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691117836
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.6 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,142,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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"Mr. Cowen's point, argued neatly in Creative Destruction, is that the invasion works both ways. Indeed, it has for such a long time that it is hard to say exactly where one culture begins and another ends. Wherever people are, almost all the cultural products that they think of as indigenous owe their existence to the cultural exchange brought about by trade."--David R. Henderson, Wall Street Journal

"A short but rich study. . . . The book's basic point is that cultural globalization can increase the diversity of choices for the individual while reducing the diversity between societies across the globe. . . . Mr. Cowen underscores that cultural globalization is and always has been a dynamic process. . . . It can be an unsettling, disruptive process, but Mr. Cowen's book argues persuasively that it is a more creative way to go than the misguided cultural nostalgia peddled by the anti-globalization crowd."--David R. Sands, The Washington Times

"Cowen has created a text at once impressively academic and thoroughly accessible."--Library Journal

"Cowen's thesis is that diversity within society is heightened by globalization, at the same time that diversity across societies, as he puts it, is diminished. . . . His book is an attempt to take a realistic look at the changes wrought by today's market-driven, free trade-oriented world."--Philip Marchand, The Toronto Star

"Cowen argues that global trade and communication are enriching all the world's cultures and that there's no such thing as cultural authenticity. . . . In fact, Cowen believes that commerce and art are allies. And he contends that because commerce is driving technology, ideas, goods, services and people across borders more freely than ever before, we are in the midst of an unprecedented boom in creativity all over the world. The quality, quantity and variety of cultural output is greater than ever; if there is more dreck, there is also more genius. And more people have more access to it than ever, at lower prices, regardless of where they live."--Daniel Akst, Los Angeles Times

From the Inside Flap

"Creative Destruction is a brilliant book--by far the most original and sophisticated analysis of the place of art in the global market economy that I have seen. It is also extraordinarily readable. In clear and energetic prose, Tyler Cowen provides an economic analysis of a breathtaking variety of artistic cultures--from the restaurants of Paris to the soapstone carvings of the Inuit, from Nbebele bead art of South Africa to Tuvan throat singers in Mongolia." (John Tomasi, Brown University, author of Liberalism Beyond Justice)

"Reading this book was a joy. The number of new books on globalization is large. But Creative Destruction adds a unique perspective. It constructs a largely economic case for optimism, the idea that globalization is not necessarily in conflict with cultural diversity but that it might promote, revive, and broaden traditional cultures. Many readers will find this argument both original and provocative. And the examples make for very entertaining reading." (Timur Kuran, University of Southern California, author of Private Truths, Public Lies)

"Tyler Cowen is an economist who knows which rap artists are the best, what kind of Persian rug from which period is the best, which period of French cinema is the best, and what kind of Afropop is best. But he also has explanations for why they are the best, explanations that draw upon concepts from economics and other social sciences. Cowen, perhaps more thoroughly than anyone before, celebrates and details the changes in world culture which result from world trade and contact, in a word, "globalization." He is well aware of globalization's homogenizing dangers but convincingly argues that its unexpected benefits, in increasing "hybridity" as well as "authenticity," are not fully appreciated." (Michael Suk-Young Chwe, University of California, Los Angeles, author of Rational Ritual, Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By EuropeanDiversity on 21 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
Globalisation is probably one of the most important drivers of Diversity from a corporate (business) perspective. At the same time, it is a concept that is understood differently by different people, and provokes a variety of feelings accordingly. While managers see no alternative to reshaping organisations for global scope, critics are worried about the elimination of cultural specifics. Cowen's book deals with many aspects in between those extreme poles. He manages to acknowledge some of the criticism, but he adds a number of positive aspects from cultural, societal, and personal areas that have been all too often neglected in heated debates. The book is spot on relevant for Diversity practitioners, although not for practical purposes but as quintessential background information.
Cowen describes how `cross-cultural exchange' has always changed local cultures (and economies), and that these changes usually took away something and added something else. He shows that this process often leads to more similarity on a macro level (e.g. countries becoming more alike if certain fast-food chains are available everywhere), but that the variety of choice, and often the welfare, increases locally. Several chapters provide detailed information on valuable, relevant examples of historic transformation processes in societies and cultures around the world.
It is noteworthy that the author is an economist himself and that the book is a prime example for out-of-the-box thinking (or writing). Therefore, do not expect neither scientific discussions or references (although there is a couple of great sources mentioned!) nor expert tracts about culture. Cowen presents both an inside and outside perspective, (still) fresh ideas and numerous examples from around the globe that Diversity experts can't afford not to know.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Better than Hoan Chau's review 3 Feb. 2005
By Sic Semper Tyrannis - Published on
Format: Hardcover
If you're at all interested in this book, ignore Hoan Chau's review. How does Cowen know Mexicans enjoy the choices available at Wal-Mart? Simple, they shop there and keep it in business. You don't have to like Wal-Mart (I sure don't) to recognize that it doesn't coerce anyone into its store. In an impoverished country like Mexico, it brings in more goods at lower prices than were previously available, thus improving people's standard of living.

On creativity: Cowen isn't writing a philosophical treatise on creativity, so if he ignores the "external influences" on it, that's not a just criticism. But it's surprising that someone could read this book and miss the point: Cowen is arguing that the creativity of others is an external influence on an individual's creativity, so the value of global exchange is that our creativity is stimulated by contact with other country's cultural goods.

Consider the U.S. without Chinese or Mexican food (or, in my case, the nightmare of not having Thai food). Consider the U.S. without the influence of African music. No spirituals, no jazz or blues, no "Graceland" by Paul Simon. Consider how popular Jackie Chan is, not to mention the more respectable Chinese films such as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." If you're more highbrow, consider the absence of Mozart or Paganini. Imagine no access to Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" or the Tao Te Ching, or the Boddhisatva.

In short, Cowen's point is that the global exchange of cultural goods enriches our lives. Efforts to restrict globalization will restrict the flow of these goods, impoverishing us all in ways that are hard to measure in dollar terms, but are easily understood in terms of cultural vivacity and creativity.

And, importantly, contrary to popular wisdom, America isn't exerting cultural hegemony--the Disneyfication of the world is overstated (easy to do when we have such jarring sights as a McDonalds jammed next to Beijing's Forbidden City. But other countries, including developing countries, export their cultural goods to the U.S. This increases the value of their cultural traditions, making it beneficial for people to hang onto them.

Remember, it's individual people (you and me) making these choices. We don't choose them unless we believe we're benefitting. And while we will make mistakes, it's a bit hard to believe that almost all our decisions almost all the time are actually harmful to us. It's even harder to believe that a small group of elites--whether in government or the self-appointed protectors of culture--will be able to make better choices for us. In short, this book is also an argument for preserving individual liberty.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Interesting Book 6 Feb. 2007
By Philip Gaudet - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is about how globalization is *changing* world cultures, for better or for worse. One of Cowen's central arguments is that globalization creates less diversity between cultures but more between individuals. So should we be pro individualism or pro collectivism?

His last three chapters on Hollywood, Dumbing Down, and National Culture are the most memorable, and persuasive. I especially enjoyed the chapter on Hollywood. His explanation of how modern cinema is what it is was enlightening.

Overall Cowen does what he set out to do; explained how globalization has changed world cultures. More often than not Cowen thinks this has had a net positive effect, but he does argue the other side of the coin. In my opinion Cowen contributes to the globalization vs. anti-globalization debate arguing that it's really one of collectivist culture vs. individual culture.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Change is Constant 21 July 2006
By Christina Penn - Published on
Format: Paperback
Tyler Cowen very adeptly reminds the reader that the world's regional cultures have never been static. What we think of as "native" art is really a product of global influence on a local population. So of course it seems silly to decry globalization as homogenizing cultures, when we understand that cultures have always interacted with each other. Indeed, what we are seeing with globalization is the increasing heterogenizing of cultures. Sure you see McDonalds almost everywhere, but you also see indigenous art from Central America, music from the Congo, movies from France, and food from India.

Tyler Cowen does not dismiss the degredation of certain cultural aspects, but he matter-of-factly points out that the alternative, protectionism, is more destructive in the long run, since creativity is stifled.
19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
the economics of culture 29 April 2003
By "luiedu" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Cowen's book is one of the few books to
discuss free trade in the context of
cultural goods. easy and fun to read.
No economics background needed.
You will learn a lot about
the history of different cultural goods, including
persian rugs and the successful
movie industry in India (Bollywood).
simply great!
13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
An Analysis of Tyler Cowen's Creative Destruction 4 May 2004
By Carl B Hakenjos Jr - Published on
Format: Paperback
Book Review For: Dr. Nicholas Capaldi
Loyola University New Orleans, Louisiana
BA705 Business Ethics-Spring 2004
In Tyler Cowen's Creative Destruction, he addresses the viability of diverse culture in a rapidly expanding global market economy. Most specifically, he focuses on "the particular aspects of culture consisting products which stimulate and entertain us." Cowan defines the following: "music, literature, cinema, cuisine, and visual arts, as the relevant manifestations of culture." The book attempts to answer, by his own account, the age-old question "dating back at least far as Greek civilization: Are market exchange and aesthetic quality allies or enemies?" He proposes that market economies and cross cultural trade have catapulted societies throughout history by facilitating the spread of scientific ideas, creative arts, and enabling isolated cultures to experience a "richer menu of choice" The author offers extensive detail concerning alternative arguments throughout the book as well as the fact that, as in all things, there are opportunity costs associated with each view and some resulting in tragic outcomes.
Cowen qualifies himself on this subject by defining his approach according to his "background as an economist" and his relevant studies of the "scholarly literature and diverse experiences as a cultural consumer", rather than an analysis based on a "single path of specialized study." He outlines his argument that the global economy fosters positive influences on the world's culture by subsequently analyzing the following three "primary lessons":
1. The concept of cultural diversity has multiple and divergent meanings.
2. Cultural homogenization and heterogenization are not alternatives or substitutes; rather, they come together.
3. Cross cultural exchange, while it will alter and disrupt each society it touches, will support innovation and creative human energies.
Cowan begins with the concept definition of cultural diversity as it can be understood in multiple contexts. He explains that diversity is not a single concept. First, "diversity within a society refers to the richness of the menu of choice in that society." The most fragile cultures, with respect to technology, also tend to respond in an explosive fashion to the introduction of new ideas and technologies. They have proven to adapt these technologies and innovations in ways their trading partners never anticipated.
Secondly, Cowan states, "Many critics of globalization focus on diversity across societies comparing whether each society offers the same "menu of choice" and whether societies are becoming more similar," through the process of globalization. He notes that generally, "diversity across societies is a collectivist concept because it does not consider the choices faced by an individual." A libertarian would allow "individuals to create their own meaning." For the purpose of Cowan's argument, libertarians foster individual creativity which is agreed by most to be the backbone of culturally diverse arts.
Limitations placed by government, or activists for that matter, on the market of exchange can significantly alter the outcomes, possibly even the survival of, poorer cultures. Cowan believes that poorer cultures especially, should be allowed to participate in cross cultural trade, even at a social cost, in order to experience the "gains from trade" with outside cultures. As Adam Smith argues in his, Wealth of Nations.., "the best vehicle for innovation is a free market system." Cowan's argument borrows from Smith's ideas and appropriately applies this concept to his claim that cultural diversity requires innovation for the survival of those poorer cultures which would otherwise cease to exist in the long run. As the adaptation process of the new technologies an innovations occur within a poorer culture; it becomes interwoven with aspects borrowed from foreign cultures. Cowan defines this concept later as "synthetic culture."
Synthetic culture refers to the fact that pure societies are mostly obsolete. For example, "The original ideas and inspirations of tribal groups of Zaire have been commodified, and shaped into new synthetic forms, for the purpose of courting outside markets Cowan retorts that the same "defenders of diversity decry the passing of previous cultures and implicitly oppose diversity-over-time," without regard to the necessity of innovations for survival. Cowan's argument has remarkable semblance to that of Cass Sunstein's "Paradoxes of the Regulatory State" where Sunstein argues that "redistributive regulation harms those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder." Here, Sunstein points out that often times regulations have "perverse effects" which serve opposite to the activist intended agendas. Likewise, Cowan argues that those who defend cultural diversity for the sake of "creative purity" will, if successful, risk eliminating the cultures they claim to be defending.
Cowan's final "primary lesson" states that "Cross-cultural exchange brings about value clashes that cannot be solved scientifically, in the short term. In the long run however, any "disruptions and alterations will inevitably support innovation and creative human energies." The whole world has a broader menu of choice (from participating in cross-cultural exchange) but older synthetic cultures must give way to newer synthetic cultures." Cowan states, "As we might expect from cross cultural contact, it supports greater diversity of identity, or ethos, within each society while limiting diversity across societies. As identities move closer together, they cease to make artistic production distinct in varying locales." Cowan claims however, that these ethoses are replaced inevitably by a greater number of partial "niches."
Cowan concludes that "Modernity allows us to enjoy the diversity of the world to a very high degree, relative to the previous ages, even when it undercuts that diversity in some regards. The mere fact exists that change will produce serious disappointment for individuals who seek to preserve particular markers of cultural identity." Cowan states "that it is not obvious (nor reasonable) why markers from the past should have more normative force than other possible markers." So, "Are market exchange and aesthetic quality allies or enemies?" Cowan believes that not only are market exchange and aesthetic quality allies, but they are also interdependent and make the whole world better off. Cross cultural exchange broadens cultural diversity across cultures and its influences within some cultures may even save them from extinction.
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