The globalization of culture has a long history. The formation and expansion of the great world religions are profound examples of the capacity of ideas and beliefs to cross great distances with decisive social impacts.
Though the vast majority of these cultural products come from the USA, this does not amount to a simple case of “cultural imperialism.” One of the surprising features of our global age is how robust national and local cultures have proved to be. National institutions remain central to public life while national audiences constantly reinterpret foreign products in novel ways. The central question is the future impact of communication and cultural flows on local and national cultures, and on our sense of personal identity, national identity and politics. It is to the debate about this that the next section turns.