Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Westernisation is a process whereby traditional, long-established societies come under the influence of Western (European or American) culture in such matters as industry, technology, economics, lifestyle, food and moral and cultural values.
It has been a pervasive and accelerating influence across the world in the last few centuries. Imperialism and colonialism over the centuries culminated in the two World Wars of the 20th century, after which many smaller states, created by former colonial powers (mainly European), gained independence and adopted some aspects of Western culture. After the break up of the USSR towards the end of the last century, many of its component states underwent Westernisation, including privatisation of hitherto state-controlled industry.
Some people view westernisation as progress, others would qualify this judgement. For example:
- "...long-term health benefits to Chinese and other Asian people who have traditionally existed on a primarily plant-based diet might be lost as more people in Asia switch to a Western-style diet that is rich in animal-based foods." (Cornell Times, 2001)
Some people feel that traditional, effective medicine is undermined by Westernisation:
- "Africans are being lured away from their own traditional medicine to Western systems and practices with their promise of high tech solutions, which they can neither use nor afford. Rather than seeking to replace the practices of generations that are intrinsic to the culture and give people their sense of self worth, scientific methods could be used to validate or improve African traditional medicine in a two way exchange of knowledge and understanding." (British Journal of Medicine, June 26, 2004)
A reaction to Westernisation can include fundamentalism and protectionism. However, this has not often stopped the tide of development. Such countries as Japan and China tried to adopt isolationism, but they have been unable to resist the adoption of many aspects of Western culture. Even cultures which have thus far been particularly resilient to Westernisation, such as Islam, are adapting to an increasing globalisation of culture.
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