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Globalizing Americana: Part 17 – On the Dangers of American Normativity

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On the Dangers of American Normativity

As mentioned in Part 1 of this investigation, norms govern actions and allow those who subscribe to such norms the means of justifying particular actions. Actions that conform to the given norm are deemed moral or permissible, actions that do not conform to the given norm are deemed immoral or impermissible.

Cultural norms are firmly embedded within the fabric of every culture and vary from one culture to the next. Thus, acceptable actions in one culture may not be accepted in another culture. But as we continue with our investigation into globalization and Americana, I would like to warn of the dangers of a concept I’ve been gradually formalizing, namely, “American normativity”.

I will define American normativity as the governing norms of American culture that must be referenced by those seeking to access the acceptable practices and behaviors for all citizens and legal residents of the United States of America. Furthermore, the assessment of these actions, practices, and behaviors – when discussing globalization – should not be used to access the actions, practices and behaviors of non Americans, which should be forbidden.

To begin, then, in my previous analysis of cultural sensitivity I discussed the notion of freedom, specifically the expression of freedom in the choice of one’s clothing, and compared American women with some Muslim women, specifically Muslim women that have chosen to wear a burkah or hijab. I then demonstrated that the concept of freedom must include the possibility that both American and Muslim women are expressing their freedom despite the variations in how that freedom is expressed. Thus, any attempt by Americans to suggest that Muslim women are not free – and this point I will argue in greater detail ­– is argued from a stance of American normativity.

For an American to suggest that American women are free because they have the option to dress as they see fit, while also arguing that Muslim women are not, because they are forced to cover their bodies, is a blatant misrepresentation of the truth, but it also justifies this claim on the basis of an appeal to the norms that govern Americana. Hence, this appeal is made from a stance of American normativity.

American normativity, then, presents a particular problem in an era of globalization for four reasons. First, it may be argued that English is a global language, which is not to suggest its exclusivity. Second, as an economic superpower, though there are certainly foreign multinational corporations (FMNCs), the expansion of United States based multinational corporations (U.S. MNCs) has increased dramatically since the mid 1980s.  Third, since the advent of the internet and the exponential growth of the blogosphere, American ideals are easily accessible to a global audience, which suggests that non Americans are also vested in Americana. And finally, American normativity presents the most drastic problems for non Americans and non American cultures. Thus, in the following sections I will analyze these four problems and discuss how they may be rectified.

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About Jason J. Campbell