Sunday, 2 February 2014

Macro level Trends – EM Economic Templates – Glocal “Auto-Replication” of the Californian Original (Part 1)

The talking heads and chattering crowds of a recent DAVOS sought to better appreciate those important PESTEL topics of today, the remainder of 2014 and beyond. So theoretically providing for greater shared thinking and group impetus toward meeting many of the modern-day regional and global issues.

Challenges re-orientated into opportunities via “the mother of invention”.

One such, not generated from DAVOS but instead the suburbs of London with investment-auto-motives, is the idea that commercial templates can be continually evolved globally using the concept of 'Simulacrum', a latin term which underpins philosophical theorems about copies of reality.

Referred to with increasing clarity as the human time-line expanded it has been a prime subject discussed by many, from Plato to Neitzsche, but perhaps best known by the post-modern Jean Baudrillard's mid 20th century writings.

His French intellectualism essentially directed at the growing cultural influence American popular culture, from Walt Disney's transmogrification of celluloid fantasy into physical realities within set commercial entities of the cinema and theme-park, to the the adoption of 'pop-u-lux' influenced architecture.

Today, investment-auto-motives believes that a new chapter of commercial simulacrum is upon us as aspirational populations from EM nations seek to themselves replicate the materialism and lifestyle satisfaction seen across the west previously.

Such an expansionism of newly created evolved and alternative realities will of course be exploited in tandem with the already massively influential 'mind-shifting' internet and the new concept of “the web of things”.
This new era, like so much to date, will be heavily influenced by the USA's West Coast and could be argued as a continued cultural hegemony.

However, today's much changed times with the strength and coalescence of EM nations (seeking to redress the cultural balance) will add a new layer of political, commercial and referential complexity; but with it bring new opportunities to be captured.

The Shifting Middle -

One prime topic covered at DAVOS, amongst that of corporate cash-piles to discredited general government has been the ideology of “the shifting middle”. A matter of a perceived new dislocations between the global middle-classes, whereby the relatively high societal wealth once enjoyed by North Americans, Europeans and Japanese is notably diminished vis a vis the much improved fortunes of the emergent middle-classes of EM nations. Also recognising that although the growth strides of those acronym groups (whether BRICs, MINTS or CIVETS) though presently more subdued have themselves sought to reduce input costs by expanding activities and export opportunities in other countries beyond.

So testing times for international relations as the global influence of what were the economic giants is comparatively diminished, as The Economist states that now the top 30 EM countries represent 40% of global GDP.

New Economic Order -

Very understandably, the re-surfacing of protectionist mentalities amongst the BRICs, MINTS and CIVETS was born during the US induced Financial Crisis, with many of the once collapsed Asian Tiger economies on firmer economic footings in areas such as national debt, trade balances and critically growth platforms that seek to avoid 'boom and bust' repetition; including much greater control of what constitutes conservative models of intra-national debt financing across housing, white and brown goods, automobiles etc. Many EM nations no doubt today quietly gloat over the new economic growth disparity between East and West; and what they see as the crumbling of previous western financial authority.

Internationalist Angst -

Given their own histories and recent events, convincing many of the what are now fundamentally much stronger EM nations who are still cautious of western agenda setting (and subsequent “real-politik”) will be tough. “Once bitten twice shy, many times bitten very very protective”.

Since they are constituted of and led by people, countries obviously act like human beings and will become separatist if banished from the international community, threatened or indeed subtly but powerfully persecuted.

This no doubt still the view of China, given that the Opium Wars and Japanese Invasion are still deep in the psyche of the PRC as is the later privation suffered. Hence unsurprisingly, given its viewpoint and recognition of the value of its massive population, it in turn since the 1980s has sought what its sees as a proportionately greater JV advantage from each individual incoming Triad-based firms seeking in-market penetration. It would only participate in global capitalism – seen as its previous undoing – if it set the terms. Perhaps only Germany given greater respect for its continuous industrial prowess, the similarity of separatist historical suffering and socialist-leaning attitude.

Indeed, China very probably sees Germany as the capitalist ideal given the manner in which social fairness appears to prevail; as seen by the constructs of: the nuclear family, community activities and indeed corporate supervisory boards. Whilst still existent (as with wealthy industrialist families) the reduced obviousness of social hierarchy and so inter-class friction has arguably led to a betterment of educational standards for all, and so increased the population's contribution to overall national productivity.

[NB this is neither a pro-EM nor anti 'olde world' stance, since ultimately all nation's power constructs are essentially the same].

Yet as for the here and now, China like Russia, obviously seeks to retain influence over neighbouring nations and historically allied countries. Critically many internal leaders and inhabitants sees its own cultural pillars – the values by which privation has been battled through self-reliance - as threatened by the liberal and weakening “western global agenda”. Hence Vladimir Putin's retained power as a Russian “strongman”, and choice of an open but cautious Xi Jinping by the CPC Polit-Bureau.

Beyond Internationalist Angst -

Whilst this is obvious so, without full appreciation of the broader issues and facts regards international relations a “blame game” can all too easily surface between what could become rival world hemispheres, north vs south, and west vs east; this in turn crystallising Orwellian notions of powerful separatist regions (ie Oceana, Eurasia and Eastasia).

Whilst this has not arisen, populist tensions did indeed grow during the EM dominated early 2000s period, as seen previously with the BPO 'off-shoring' trend; which ironically by its very nature is a key feature of global capitalism.

Thankfully any such simplistic political recoil has itself been partly disarmed as those prime EM nations themselves suffered as a consequence of western economic contraction. So seeking a range of partial to possibly painful reforms so as to re-set internal competitiveness.

Today major focus once again is upon the power-houses of the USA and China. The former seeking not to derail its recent improved 'turnaround' performance, and the latter charting and testing its roadmap for continued transition.

Thus, in this context, any simplistic (and what internationalists describe as xenophobic) perspective and rhetoric is flawed.

Instead, to diffuse the possibility of old and new tensions, ever deeper insights must be gleaned as to how a new pan-regional rising-tide may be created; which likewise metaphorically lifts all nations' boats.

A New Era for Cultural Glocal-isation ? -

Herein, investment-auto-motives cannot possibly offer an immediate panacea to such internationalist tensions; but instead proffers the notion that 'glocalisation' should continue to create various “glocalisation streams” ranging from the purity of reverential cultural traditional, to a range of formulae for (typically post-modern) cultural hybridisation.

What is today the oft over-used, often ill-considered term “glocal-isation” ostensibly came into general use during the late 1980s and 1990s, a suitable time lag after the final decay of what had been European colonialism and the need to alter viewpoints about American 'imperialism'. Importantly it was the umbrella for new thinking (by western corporations) as to how to maintain local market influence by altering the premis of their regional business models' activity chains to become closer to the fundamental requirements of the region and gain greater influence.

As seen by the efforts of various FMCG companies in Latin America and Asia, the process necessarily continues and must become ever more sensitive and so insightful and so influential.

Within this world of materialistic consumption, western foodstuffs, personal care items and (faked) branded clothing has played by far the most powerful role.

Whether it was a South Korean child of the 1960s cherishing a can of Coca-Cola, or today a middle-aged woman in a Brazilian favella purchasing 'European' personal care products, the desire by individuals to feel as if their lives are improving through consumption (for status or comfort) is today a “global village” imperative.

And no doubt, as experienced in the still notionally advanced Triad nations with advancement of vinyl record, cassette tape, CD, DVD and down-load, Marshall McLuhan's theories regards “the medium as the message” referring to consumed style over substance, will inevitably be the case as EM nations prosper.

McLuhan's 1960s conceptualisation of “the global village” which at the time was prescribed upon international telephone cables, jet-powered aircraft and the promise of satellite connectivity – fundamental to his early prediction of the web - has over the years created the perfect environment for not just a metaphysical interpretation of the term, but the endemically post-modern realisation of what may be called “cultural streaming”.

“Cross-Cultural Streaming” -

Over the latter half of the 20th century some 'futurologists' have recognised the concept that one emergent, dominating trend is often accompanied by a counter-trend. Whilst experienced in many fields from scientific to sociological, it is in the latter that it becomes most evident. This very probably surfacing as 'individualists' (once predominately the young, but now across all age groups) seek to retain their self-valued separateness by going against the new norm and seeking out new adapted, adopted or over-laid identities to do so.

Inevitably over time such individualist actions become ever more mainstream as others copy the originators to acquire their own supposed 'individualism', such mass adoption prompting new incentive for exploration and self-recreation by the originators.

With the socio-economic boom years of the 1990s and 2000s, a fortunate segment of young and middle aged people from within the Triad region were able to travel internationally for leisure and education. And though not quite experiencing the culture-shock of globe-trotting 18th century sailors, or indeed the migrant masses of the 19th century, were able to absorb the influences of what foreign cultures. And though their social histories and mentalities have invariably been moulded and 'modernised' by western influence, the apposite counter-trends have arguably re-enforced local identities; both for commercial gain in tourism, but also to re-affirm self-identity within an increasingly homogenised world.

To such an extent that western youth culture itself has now long been a hybridised milieu of interwoven cultural facets. The most obvious being the 24/7 cyber-connected 18-35 year olds who brandish the simulacrum of a “long lost” Maori or Amazonian tribal tattoos down one arm.

[NB there is one saying derived from Victorian middle-class circles which states that “if a man cannot make a mark on life he makes a mark upon himself”, presumably to re-affirm personal existence. Today this belief is rare, yet given the disillusionment of today's western university leavers - educated but lacking opportunity – it is little surprise that the personal signification of the tattoo trend took such hold].

Cultural Fragmentation vs Economic Centricism -

More than ever, today we see how people, followed by commercialism seek to interweave sensitive (and possibly insensitive) forms of cultural hybridisation. This across what historically have been very different ethnic groups in very different countries / territories.

And parallel to such populist social hybridisation achieved through the advent of expanded global trade, travel, mixed relationships and cultural curiosity, has been the undoubted worldwide dominance of the American economic template.

Western derived macro and micro economics have unified the industrious and productive efforts of billions of people, and whilst there are still variances in general accounting rules (such as financial year-end dates) the fact is that such consolidation of an economic status quo will be the business basis for creation and exploitation of culturally informed (or exploited) activities.

Thus whilst Davos is indeed a truly useful meeting place to become made aware of broad trend PESTEL issues, Switzerland stands as remote as possible relative to the rest of the world. Instead investment-auto-motives directs such thought leaders to look in a meta-physical manner to the low-land coastal plains of the USA, California specifically, and the outer reaches of Los Angeles.

For it is here that the culture industry was effectively born – Simulacrum a central tool - and from which it's tentacles had worldwide influence.

'Californiacation' Revisited -

At the end of 2013 a web-log trilogy reviewed the concept of 'Californiacation' regards Europe's master-piece classic cars. A generalised notion by which this state's most wealthy individuals and foundations have been able to 'suck-in' various high-culture foreign artefacts .

But of course it cannot be denied that in proportionate comparison with regards to the far more influential and critically commercially linked matter of 20th century mass culture - and specifically its global exportation - California has been the leading actor on the American stage. From the early film studios set within the original 'HOLLYWOODLAND' hills which sprawled and expanded LA, to the advent of the silicon-chip revolution that established Silicon Valley, to the latter internet-based and eco-directed business models formed from Palo Alto, California has been perhaps the most important cultural hub of both the 20th and 21st centuries.

Of course the previous 'American Century' was build upon the internationalist achievements of many goods and services companies. most from all over the “lower 48”, their in-roads primarily made across Latin America, Japan, S.Korea and remaining S.E. Asia; obviously the influence of US military might (whether enacted, threatened or perceived) allowing for initial foot-holes that were expanded with the mutuality of international trade.

This stage was set many decades ago, leading to the near ubiquitous worldwide presence of Coca-Cola, Marlborough cigarettes, McDonald's burgers and of course the avid visual and aural consumption of what are the most powerful subliminal architects of the human mind: cinema, television and the world-wide-web; with now enmeshed brands such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple able to provide a connective immediacy to the powerful reach of “Glocalised Americana”.

However, along with the new power shifts of EM countries comes their own populations desire to both emulate the 'American Dream', yet also participate within it through a bifurcated, hybridised manner; one in which goods and services include national and regional substance, so much more than simply a tokenist gesture via branding palettes or sales-force patter. Something which instead includes the appropriate credible formulaic mix.

This, investment-auto-motives believes is recognised by a new band of industry orientated cultural theorists.

But moreover, investment-auto-motives believes that (inevitably) given idolatry offered to the automobile by well established and newer EM nations, that a new era of glocalised auto-cultural meaning will be created.

To Follow -

Part 2 of this weblog undertakes a basic review of how California, and specifically the multi-media production house Disney-Pixar through its Cars and Cars 2 animated films and merchandising will lead America's continued foray into an ever attractive array of economically developing foreign markets. Seeking to seep into the auto-cultural hearts and minds of new generations via ever greater and necessarily more sensitive. ''glocalisation'.