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Open Journal of Philosophy
2012. Vol.2, No.2, 123-127
Published Online May 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/ojpp) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojpp.2012.22019
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 123
Cultural Dependency: A Philosophical Insight
Bonachrist us Umeogu1, Ojiakor Ifeoma2
1Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria
2Department of Mass Communication, Faculty of Social Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria
Email: ojiakor99@y ahoo.com
Received March 22nd, 2012; revised April 23rd, 2012; accepted April 30th, 2012
Every independent country always celebrates or marks the day they were free from colonial rule in the
form of “independence day celebrations”. The impression was that they were no longer slaves working
under a colonial master. A fleeting glance at cultural markets reveals that despite o ther competing countries
like India, China and Mexico, American culture dominates. This dependency on American products for
arts, entertainment, dressing, and lifestyle changes in general is the major thrust of this paper. When a
people’s way of life is dictated by the life of another, is it not a form of colonialism? The electronic colo-
nialism theory was used to explain that this dominance by one culture is the modern form of colonialism
and has far reaching catastrophic consequences for the dependents and needs to be checked to avoid disaster.
Keywords: Electronic Colonialism; Cultural Imperialism; Synchronization
As it has been said that no man is an island, so it is that no
country no matter how developed is an island. There was and
will always be some form of inter dependency among countries.
Cultural dependency has been labeled many names like cultural
hegemony; media imperialism; cultural synchronization; and
cultural imperialism. Whatever each writer chooses to call it
and despite slight differences in definition, it generally portrays
a scenario where one is consciously or unconsciously depend-
ent on another as its main source of cultural beliefs and prac-
tices. In fact, the term often conjures a recurrent image of a
master and a dependant resulting in a situation where the de-
pendant thrives on the hand-me-downs from the master.
The electronic colonialism theory acknowledges that foreign
produced communication materials negatively influence local
values and indigenous media. It also explains the fact that cul-
tural dependency or over dependency will invariably lead to a
situation where the dependents unconsciously becomes willing
slaves to their “masters”. This theory does not negate the fact
that positive trends could emerge from exchange between
countries: such positive trend including civilization as it is,
formal education and modernization. However, it is mainly
concerned with the issue of over dependency leading to abuse
and mental enslavement. Using this theory as the anchor point,
this paper tries to look at the overall implications of over de-
pendence on foreign media materials? What does the future
hold for upcoming generation? Is this really a form of modern
The world is now seen as a global village but at whose ex-
pense. Is there equal playing ground for the villagers in the so
called village? The ‘villagization’ of the world owes its exis-
tence to international communication which has been defined
by Agba (2002: p. 250) as
the exchange of meanings across national frontiers and
between two or more countries. It is brought about by the
inter dependency need of man which makes it imperative
that the way one man needs to reach out to other men for
meaningful existence, so does a country need to reach out
to other countries for better life for its citizens.
This definition implies that international communication is
meant to strengthen bonds among countries and maintain a kind
of uniformity in pace in terms of developmental strides. In oth-
er words, if we share our developmental programmes in terms
of soap opera, then there ought to be uniformity in the pace of
the message effects on the citizenry.
The recent concern by writers points differently to that effect
in that the original and innocent intention behind international
communication and relations have been over ridded by the
developmental wallowing gap threatening to engulf the devel-
oping countries. Through review of related literatures, this pa-
per hopes to analyze this concept of cultural dependency as it
What actually is meant by cultural dependency?
It was found out that the term “cultural dependency” have
been labeled many names by writers depending on the angle
they address the issue from. Some of such names are cultural
imperialism; cultural hegemony; cultural synchronization; cul-
tural homogenization; and cultural mainstreaming.
Culture which is the customs, beliefs, art , music, a nd all other
products of human thought made by a particular group of peo-
ple at a particular time. This culture is what distinguishes one
culture from another, or a kind of identification which when
exhibited reveals or gives inkling to where you came from. A
mode of dressing often leads to such comments like “you dress
like an American; or you look like one who is coming from the
airport”. Cultural Dependency arises when a country is con-
trolled by another. By way of definition, cultural dependency or
imperialism is a
process whereby ownership, structure, distribution, or con-
tent of the media in any one country singly or together
subject to the external pressure from the media interest of
B. UMEOGU, O. IFEOMA
any country or countries without a proportional reciproca-
tion in influence by the country so affected. Boyd 1971 in
Nwosu 1990 cited in Agba (2003:256)
Cultural dependency invariably puts pressure on one society
to adopt the culture, values and lifestyle of another. This situa-
tion is worsened if there is an existence of any form of inequal-
ity among the partners; like the type that exists between devel-
oped and developing or under developed countries. There are
other cultural products in the market like Mexican and Chinese
movies but the beam light often happens to be on American pop
culture. Commenting on this was Rauschenberger (2003:5) who
Individuals and governments around the globe have ex-
pressed concern regarding the influence of American cul-
tural products on both local and national cultures. US
cultural imperialism has become a topic of debate in not
only scholarly circles, but in economic, legal, and legisla-
tive arenas as well.
……Despite American culture’s global hegemony, China’ s
film industry in Hong Kong remains vibrant, India’s “Bol-
lywood” films are gaining worldwide audiences, and Ko-
rean music, film and fashion recently gained immense
popularity throughout Asia markets. Clearly, other cultures
are capable of producing world-class cultural commodi-
ties as well (2003:20).
This observation followed the heels of such occurrences like
the presence of American culture in nearly every facets of life.
Whether it’s beverages, foods or products, it appears that the
world can’t quench its thirst for American culture. Every
change or improvement has to be tailored to American culture
to be considered a change in the right direction. In other words,
resemblance to American culture has become the yardstick for
measuring development and developmental efforts. In fact, in a
country like Nigeria, people are on the verge of losing their
local culture as a result of trying to be civilized. Here, civiliza-
tion is defined and measured as how one is able to conform to
the American ways.
Cultural Dependency and the Media
The power of the press in this twenty first century is not
contestable. This has led to the well deserved name of “infor-
mation age” where millions of people scattered all over are
reached simultaneously through evolving sophisticated and com-
munication technologies. Media plays a central role in creating
and transmitting the dominant culture to the developing society.
Writing on this, Okunna (1999: p. 186) explains that
as new communication technologies are developed, their
increasing sophistication and power are enfolding the di-
verse people of the world into a global village. The speed
and sophistication with which information now travels
round the globe have constituted the media into what has
appropriately been described as the ‘information super-
I concur with the “information superhighway” but I am con-
cerned about the pedestrians along this highway? How do they
compete with the flying and zooming cars on the highway? Are
they lost or do they even count as the users of the highway?
This power of the media to reach a mass audience with in-
formation for awareness or attitudinal change implies that it has
a role to play with regards to cultural dependency. In fact, there
is no mention of the term cultural dependency without the me-
dia coming into the discussion because they are the media of
communication especially the Television and recently, the inter-
Explaining the role of the media in this dilemma was the
MacBride Commission in (Okunna, 1999:141) who found out
and wrote that
mass communication is a major carrier of culture, and that
the mass media are cultural instruments which supply the
cultural fare and shape the cultural experience of many
millions of people in the modern world.
This concern for the role of media in cultural units also stems
from the fact that communication in whatever form is a major
carrier of culture and hence, it is important in the production
and transmission of culture.
Theory of Electronic Colonialism
Electronic Colonialism Theory (ECT) posits that foreign
produced communication negatively influence local values and
This theory according to Roberts, (2010) was “formed to
protect cultural diversity and traditional cult ures of a culture”. It
was more like a reaction to the belief that first world nations
were on the verge of invading the cultures of developing and
underdeveloped c ou n t r ie s .
According to Wikipedia, ECT basically tries to analyze what
the media does to the mind of the audience. Its power is largely
derived from repeated exposure to media contents. ECT “ex-
plains how mass media are leading to a new concept of empire.
It will not be based on military power or land acquisition but
based on controlling the mind. It is a psychological or mental
empire” (www.wikipedia.org). This is a new form of colonial-
ism and more fatal because mind management and manipula-
tion is the modern form of enslavement. One can now under-
stand the saying that “a controlled mind makes a willing slave”.
The relevance of this theory to this work is vividly captured
in the words of Rauschenberger (2003:2) that:
……the spread of American consumer culture goes be-
yond popular consumption, raising questions and con-
cerns of US dominance in the cultural sphere, what effects
such cultural commodities are having on the values of so-
cieties and in turn, on the realm of politics.
This theory gave us a line to grasp the implication of cultural
dependency on dependents culture.
Implications of Cultural Dependency
Why the concern about the quantity and nature of informa-
tion flow into the country? The answer to this question will be
found in the implications of this over dependency on foreign
media and these implications are explained thus:
Elimination of Culture
Culture has been summarily seen as the totality of the way of
life of a people. In other words it is the existence and meta-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
B. UMEOGU, O. IFEOMA
physics of their being. It is then of little wonder why each town,
nation or country jealously guard their culture which is their
pride. In the face of the massive flow of foreign materials and
the effects of heavy viewing on the audience, what is the fate of
the nation’s culture? Realizing that we are on the verge of un-
consciously eliminating our culture, scholars and writers are
scared. Ansah 1989 in Okunna (1999: p. 143) writes that
…the fear is prevalent that through the use of modern
technology and mass communication, some cultures risk
losing their identity and becoming submerged by the cul-
tures belonging to those who control modern technology
and communication software.
Saying that it is some cultures that is just being subtle. To be
specific, it is the cultures of mostly the developing and de-
pendent countries that are endangered. I also want to add that
the fear is primarily experienced by the receivers. The senders
are not bothered because their giving further strengthens their
dominant position in world culture. Our way of eating and
dressing have changed that many have forgotten what locally
made foods and wears taste and look like. Also contributing is
Okun- na (1999: p. 143) who commented that:
…in virtually every third world country, mass media au-
diences consume large quantities of foreign media culture.
It is feared that this massive exposure to foreign culture
could distort and displace native cultures in developing
She went ahead to assert that the media has a role to play in
the threat to own culture by writing that
…because mass communication is such a powerful vehi-
cle for the dissemination of culture, there has always been
fears that massive flow of foreign mass media contents
into societies other than those in which such contents are
produced, will negatively influence local culture (Okunna,
In fact, as it stands, it is not only the developing and under
developed countries are experiencing fear as was observed by
Rauschenberger that ,
“the intrusion of American consumer culture into the
everyday lives of the average global citizen has prompted
many to charge the US with a new form of colonialism-
“cultural imperialism” (2003:2).
The fear has been globalized in that all and sundry are feel-
ing the weight. Clearly, global trade of cultural commodities,
dominated by US products, is growing rapidly. And people are
not only noticing but also feeling the pinch, voicing concerns
that their way of life and traditional culture are being threat-
Loss of Identit y
Who am I? Who are we? This is the type of question that
subsequent generations will ask if the rate of cultural depend-
ency on foreign material is not checkmated. This situation will
be an aftermath of the elimination of culture. When a country
consciously or unconsciously loses its identifying traits, what
will they become? If “A” ceases to be “A” or blends into “B”,
what happens to “A” when it comes to sovereignty and location?
Agba (2002: p. 267) clearly captured the scenario by observing
African media must understand that dependence elongates
subordination and insults a nation’s sovereignty, reduces
its political interdependence to a mere nominal proclama-
What this me ans i s that al l the time a nd money spe nt in Inde-
pendence Day celebration is a sham because we are being
mocked as slaves who celebrate freedom while still mentally
bound in slavery. The claim of being free from the colonial
masters is just a way of showing our level of ignorance.
Elimination of Epistemologies
An example of elimination of epistemology is replacing Af-
rican languages with European ones. Recently, I went to offici-
ate children’s mass in my locality and made an interesting ob-
servation; I asked a child his name in vernacular and he could
not answer before his mother explained to me that he does not
understand vernacular. What a shame that a boy cannot under-
stand a simple question in his mother tongue. When that child
grows up with the ideology that vernacular is inferior, what do
you think he will teach his children considering the fact that
you cannot give what you do not have? It will be a question of
how long before that native tongue become obsolete or attains
that status of an alien language. When an owner becomes an
alien in his/her domain, what next?
Cultural Dom i nat ion
All this implications are somehow interlinked to another.
“Whether through their importation of western media cul-
ture or through the barrage of western television culture
which flows into their countries through Direct Broadcast
Satellite (DBS) over which they have no control, devel-
oping countries are at the receiving end as alien cultures
which are alienating their peoples from their own coun-
tries” (Okunna, 1999:145).
There are uncountable numbers of Satellites TV and an equally
number of foreign statio n that flood our T V screen. Uy o in Agb a
1999 cited in Okunna (2002:264) opines that
“our screen have been surrendered, more or less to foreign
programmes that have little or no redeeming values as far
as our culture is concerned”.
Can you even begin to imagine the number of cable TV sta-
tions on our television with far brighter and fuzzy free pictures
than local stations? The number is updated at regular intervals
to increase their number and quality level thereby ensuring their
unrivaled relevance in cult ural markets.
Cultural Syn chronization
When a person’s culture is eliminated resulting in loss of
original identity, there is a need for a new one. To fill this vac-
uum for a new identity and culture, the people thereby become
synchronous with the culture that led to the elimination of the
original. How do I mean? What is cultural synchronization?
Giving a definition, researchers like Kamara and Howell in
Okunna (1999:145) explains that cultural synchronization
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 125
B. UMEOGU, O. IFEOMA
means that the receiving cultures of the developing countries
“take on the shape of or become synchronous with the outside
This invariably leads to non appreciability of own culture
and a resultant loss of samene ss. This is to the detriment of the
society as revealed by Okoye 1993 in (Okunna, 1999: p. 146)
“heavy viewing of foreign culture could overwhelm Nige-
rian culture resulting in their alienation from their local
He warns that this alienation will be at the detriment of na-
tional development because the preservation of a person’s cul-
ture is essential to their development.
International communication according to the definition by
Agba (2002:250) is
the exchange of meanings across national frontiers and
between two or more countries. It is brought about by the
inter dependency need of man, a situation which makes it
imperative that the way one man needs to reach out to
other men for meaningful existence, so does a country
need to reach out to other countries for better life for its
In the introductory part, this paper asked if there is an equal
playing ground for the exchange and the answer is in the nega-
tive. Research revealed that there is a quantitative and qualita-
tive imbalance in the exchange process.
In the words of Agba (2002:255) “communication in
these areas is used as a tool of the continued exploitation
and subjugation of the African continent”. There is an
imbalance to the extent that this situation, often has been
cited as the bedrock of many a woe of the black race.
He went ahead to explain quantitative and qualitative imbal-
Quantitative imbalance concerns the amount of news flow
in both directions (developed and developing). He ar-
gued that most news and information flow from the de-
veloped to the under developed world, while news and in-
formation crawl up from the latter to the former. Agba
In other words, there is no basis of comparison between the
amount of information between or among the players. The ratio
of the news exported to other countries is quite insignificant as
against the quantity that imported into the receiving country.
Qualitative imbalance is a concern about the quality of news
that is carried about the developing counties. Agba (2002:258)
“most of the unfavorable reports are based on wars, pesti-
lence, strifes, and all kinds of crises, diseases, hunger, dis-
asters, famines, coups, political instability , economic down -
turn, and every other thing that wears a black outfit.”
Going by this explanation, it is now obvious that the devel-
oping areas are misrepresented and under represented by the
developed countries. This is a clear case of “world outside and
pictures in our heads”. The pictures about the developing coun-
tries in the heads of the developed countries are all negative and
to a large extent, untrue. Summarily, the little quantity of in-
formation about developing nations is mostly in the negative
which further tilts the balance against the developing nations.
Decades ago, the concern was how the media could aid in
developmental efforts; how and what can be done to close or
bridge the gap between developing and under-developed na-
tions. The answer was international communication. As it has
been said that no man is an island, so it is that no nation or
country is an island. If the lesser developed countries depend on
the big shots for media contents, the big shots like US depend
on them for oil and other natural resources. The major concern
now is how far the original goal has been achieved.
The question is if international communication has done
more harm than good. Well, in the course of this research, the
harm was and is on the side of the developing nations. In their
quest to live up the all American dream, their root, their identity;
their culture, are all on the verge of being eroded and replaced
by the donor countries. This situation is even worsened by the
fact that most of the foreign stations on our television are
free-to-air while local stations are only open to subscribers or
hackers. The fact that the developed countries are also techno-
logically advanced does not help the cause of the third world
Be that as it may, seeing where international communication
have gotten the dependents, this paper advocates that the ex-
change should be between countries on the same footing so that
both will carry each other along. In other words, developing
countries should be inter-dependent on other developing coun-
tries to have an equal pace without one invading another. Pre-
vious research called it the South-south cooperation which has
been described as a strategy for inter dependency among coun-
tries of the south with the aim of reducing their economic de-
pendence on the north.
Also, this paper recommends further research to ascertain the
problems (if it exists) experienced by the developed countries
in the course of their inter dependency with the developing and
under developed nations to have a balanced assessment. On a
final note, it is time for both senders and receivers to wake up
and smell the coffee; it is time for self assessment in order to
correct the mistakes of today for a better and healthier tomor-
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