UPFRONT The invasion of culture snatchers?

They may be drinking our beer over there – but we’re eating their hamburgers here, there and everywhere. Yep – it’s the invasion of the culture snatchers. Or is it?
The spectre of great golden-arched mantel of McWorld homogeneity descending to squash out cultural diversity is often raised as negative effect of more globalised markets. Whether it has much validity is subject being explored at this year’s Sir Ronald Trotter lecture by man who knows lot about culture and the economy.
Tyler Cowen is an American professor of economics whose background is in mathematics but whose expertise encompasses veritable smorgasbord of international cultures from Haitian voodoo flags to Iranian cinema and Mexican folk art. His latest book (Markets and Cultural Voices) explores the impact of globalisation on three indigenous artists in Mexican village who benefit economically by being able to sell their work to American collectors – such as Cowen. His website showcases “Amate” art along with an extraordinarily eclectic bunch of essays on topics ranging from lobsters to whether the “epistemic problem refutes consequentialism”.
Described as the leading proponent of free market position within the arts and culture, Cowen argues that the positive benefits of cross-cultural exchange outweigh the negative. Besides, culture is not something that can be freeze-framed but is constantly exposed to the forces of “creative destruction”.
He sees commerce and art as allies and says that as commerce increasingly drives technology, ideas, goods, services and people more freely across borders, we are now in the midst of “an unprecedented boom in artistic creativity all over the world”.
Cowen is in New Zealand as guest of the Business Roundtable and will be presenting lecture on “The Future of Culture in Globalised World” at Te Papa Museum in Wellington.

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