Globalization Affects Dictators Too

Syria is just one of the Middle Eastern countries that’s been affected by the ongoing “Arab Spring” that began in that part of the world over a year ago. Atrocities committed by government forces in the city of Homs, as well as other cities across that country, have kept Syria at the top of most major news broadcasts for the past several weeks. Rebel forces recently intercepted and leaked several thousand emails sent by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Amongst other things, these emails clearly show just how far globalization has spread in our modern world.

From a sociological perspective, a lot of different paradigms and theorems are at play in this particular situation. A conflict theorist would say that the inequalities in Syrian society have caused one group (a subculture or counterculture) to rise up against the oppressive nature of the dominant group. A structural functionalist would tell you that obviously there is some part of Syrian society and culture that no longer fits into their sociological structure and the society is reacting to correct this imbalance. And a symbolic interactionist would simply see this as just another piece of the Syrian environment working to alter the “self” of that country’s society and culture.

However, there is another sociological and cultural force that can clearly be seen in the intercepted President’s emails: Globalization. The emails include communication with Iranian officials, the family members of other Middle Eastern leaders and discussions of the ongoing conflict within Syrian cities. But the discussions between President Assad and his wife clearly illuminate the border crossing effects of globalization. The emails show that this Middle Eastern dictator enjoys much in the way of popular culture. For example, he uses iTunes (a software application created by an American company) to purchase and listen to western music; his family enjoys the Harry Potter movies (created by American and British film studios). Additionally, they clearly outline how much the President’s wife likes luxurious products, spending tens of thousands of dollars on high culture goods like candlesticks and furniture. They even shop on amazon.com.

There are many sociologists who would explain that globalization is a means to bring the world closer together and make conflict between globalized nations less likely. While the Syrian government is currently not at war with any other “globalized” nation, they are clearly at war with their own people. So, while globalization is probably a good thing in general, it is clearly not a means to an end of all war and conflict.