Saturday, February 18, 2012

Globalization of Valentine's Day: A triumph of capitalism

Penetration of the celebration of Valentine's Day across many cultures in the world is something that capitalism can cherish. With the global expansion of capitalism in the fastest ever speed, especially after the fall of USSR and liberalization in China, globalization of Euro-America centric culture is happening in further greater pace. I would like to analyze how Valentine's Day has turned to be a mere event to secure larger consumption for the bigger corporations and how local and indigenous cultures are threatened.
Our way of celebrating love:
The mass media, especially Television and internet-based New Media and Social Media have helped this phenomenon of Valentine's Day penetrate across many cultures. I am sure each culture has a respect for love and tradition of celebrating love in their own ways. For example, Nepalis have a festival called Basanta Panchami which falls at the start of the Spring season. This day is supposed to welcome the lovely Spring season and therefore should ignite romance and love among the people. However, hardly anybody knows about this tradition. 

Similarly, I have seen Bangali people also welcome the Spring season by celebrating Pohila Falgun on mid-February. But all of them are overwhelmingly overtaken by the imported Valentine's Day. This can also be termed as homogenization of cultures.

Commodification of Love:
The other feature of celebrating such a day is utter commodification. Through different means including media, this cruel system is penetrating all the walks of life with the evil consumerist culture. As in many of our festivals, the market has tapped in and now everything is market - rose, chocolates, gifts and down to condoms. 

The market has immensely benefited and the social values are ever challenged - the family disintegrating, social relationships threatened, pure love commercialized, an informed individual changed into a passive consumer and so many evil things happening with this day. Even the market wants couples to separate so that each Valentine's day, the individuals could be with new Valentines and the market could maximize the profit.

Depoliticization of masses:
The remarkable consequence of Valentine's Day is the depoliticization of the masses. In these days of busy life, people get very less time to look at their life and surroundings critically. Besides, the capitalist system wants that we, consumers, should not be involved in thinking; we should just be buying things and consuming them. This has happened with Valentine's Day too. Nobody is questioning if giving a rose on that day is the best way to propose a girl/boy or to express love to the partners. Nobody questions if imported rose can be replaced with other flowers easily available in the local market. People just do as the media tell them.

The way we lived our life has immensely changed even as compared to a decade ago. Yes, it has. Some of my friends think to be privileged by the availability of choices in the market. But has it really changed our lives? Are we happy with the choices? No. Certainly not. Somebody at the helm of a multinational company or firm is happy, exploiting all people and concentrating all resources of the world in single hands. To be bale to utilize these 'many' choices, we want more and indulge ourselves in the vicious cycle of work-consume-work-consume. The capitalist system wants that we work all our life and continue consuming; thinking is strictly prohibited.

Therefore, there are many more consequences of such seemingly minor cultural event. Homogenization of cultures, commodification and depoliticization of masses are some of the starkest results. To stop the current moving so fast, it is high time critical academia taught the new generation about this evil system. We cannot let all evil things happen in whatever pretexts.


  1. Some how I am near to Indra dai in this discourse. globalization is the protect of homogenization of cultures and the elimination of local markets. therefore it is the project of Capitalism to expand its market. for the market strategy, capitalism take the advantage of celebrations, festivals and cultures. One of my friend from USA dis the research on Local Fares in Kailai where he found that the business men were most interested in the fares though it is said to be the cultural one. same this is applying in the name of Valentine Day. If it was the day of real love, why the market interfere the love? in this regards I want to paste my facebook status that i updated in last years valentine day.
    एउटा गुलाब हातमा थमाई प्रेम गर्दिन म ,
    आवरणमा रमाई रमाई प्रेम गर्दिन म ..

    महसुस गर्न सके निसब्द नै प्रितसागर,
    सब्द जालको पुच्छर समाई प्रेम गर्दिन म ...

    आदि देखि अन्त्य सम्म अविरल छ यो,
    बर्षमा एक दिवस मनाई प्रेम गर्दिन म...

    कोहि पाउदा जित अनि गुमाउदा हार किन,
    प्राप्तिलाई लक्ष्य बनाई प्रेम गर्दिन म....

    बनाई दियो पुंजीबादले बस्तु पिरतिलाई ,
    बजार भाउ झैँ मूल्य सुनाइ प्रेम गर्दी न म ..

    I hope this gazal present my view on the matter

  2. Hi Indra,

    I love this post and this idea to link Valentine's day to Globalization as an obvious impact, nobody really accept as such. Instead we all blindly spend money to celebrate something which really is lacking meaning.
    I host a blog on the impact of globalization on our lives, would o¥you give me the honour to write your opinion on valentine's day and globalization in a guest post there ?
    I am also adding your blog to my blog roll

    thanks for your great posts

    find my at

    1. Thank you Sara for the encouraging words. It will be my pleasure to write in your blog which I find rich with important data and maps. I've also followed you in twitter so that conversation will be easier. Give me a few days to write in your blog and tell me how I can post it.

  3. Definitely, you are being critical enough to point out this nexus of Cultural Hegemony imposed by the capitalism, However it is critical for this "coco cola Culture" as it will soon come to an end as people around the world have now started to question, which has been justified by your thoughts here....

  4. Your points are very well made and I agree with most of them. The only thing I would add is that it is not just the responsibility of academics to teach new generations about the evils of capitalism - many academics (many economists, actually) are right-wing and would fully embrace neo-liberal capitalism. We cannot make general assumptions about the political leanings of academics. Also, if we remember Gramsci, the place from which the cultural hegemony of given groups might be challenged is civil society; it is here that new discourses are formulated - for instance, discourses that might highlight local traditions such as basanta panchami - by ordinary people. I have often wondered why in Nepal there does not seem to be a strong anti-imperialist, anti-globalisation movement (with the exception of a few individuals and efforts eg against Monsanto, recently). Perhaps it is time to consider such a movement? Silence is the same as complicity: if every and each one of us remains silent, we are complicit in the spread of neo-liberal values; we are complicit in the destruction of non-materialistic values and cultural traditions. I think we should be willing to accept that responsibility rather than continue to expect something from a 'higher power' (the party, the state, academics).

    1. Thanks Celayne for insightful comments. I also believe that Silence is the same as complicity and also wonder why there's no anti-globalization and anti-imperialist movement in Nepal. In fact, some academics and politicians often talk about these things. But they explain in such a way only to make issues more complex. And people are distracted from such views also because these activists/politicians link their argument with their partisan beliefs. Therefore, I think the academics should work further to explain the jargons in simple terms and rally people against globalization. In this case, academics and politicians can work together.
      Besides, the social movement in Nepal is largely led by the NGOs, euphemized as 'civil society'. As this community gets funds from the imperialist and powerful Western countries, they are not only reluctant but against such movements. Maybe there needs an alternative "civil society school" too.

  5. You make some interesting observations on the influential of global capitalism on people's way of life. Your notes are certainly convincing. I have some dissenting notes.

    1. There is a tendency among us to assume that commodification of culture and expansion of consumerism are the consequences of some kind of grand design of the capitalist system. This assumption does not take into account the active involvement of 'agents' (i.e. people) who make their choices about whether or not to consume what the capitalist system lures them to consume. I do not agree with the opinion that people are merely the objects of an economic and/or associated social system. The capitalist system is not the conspiracy of a few capitalists, it thrives on the active involvement of agents whom you label as mere consumers.

    2. You have reached the conclusion that people are not happy with the 'choices' given to them by the capitalist system. I disagree. The evidences worldwide suggest otherwise. There is powerful interest in the non-capitalist countries/societies to adopt capitalist system and I would not define it as mere ignorance.

    3. Finally, capitalism and socialism are not only economic or market systems. They also present different outlooks on life vis-a-vis the ways in which an individual contextualizes her/himself in the global order. From this perspective, your analysis of the changing nature of our customs and festivals presents some problems. I believe that people do not want to limit their choices or way of life for the sake of greater common good -whether you like it or not. People always want to do (consume?) what pleases them. The rest is the responsibility of the state.

    Despite my critical remarks on your views, I appreciate the ways in which you make some concrete points in your very short article. This quality is seriously lacking in our context. People make a two-hour-long speech and manage to say nothing concrete at all. :)

  6. First of all, thank you for your insightful comments. I would like to respond to your comments as following:

    1. I don't say that 'commodification of culture and expansion of consumerism are the consequences of some kind of grand design of the capitalist system'. They may be deliberate or spontaneous but they are impacting our lives. As a student of media and communication, I have learnt that best communication campaigns are designed to intimidate masses to turn into loyal consumers. Capitalist system thrives on that and tries its best to achieve that goal.

    2. You have the point. But modern mass media and communication technology has brought large populace from any country into its reach and the capitalism is always shown as superior to the other systems; always having more choices and providing individual freedom. That aspires them towards capitalistic choices.

    3. Making people individualistic and accustomed to ritualistic machinized life is the ultimate goal of capitalism so that it can thrive on more and more profit by intimidating them. Yes, people may not like to restrain their choice but that doesn't mean that all their choices are good.

    Thank you again for your comments. :)