THE CONVERGENCE OF CULTURES: FROM SOCIALISM TO CAPITALISM
PRASNIKAR, J., PAHOR, M. AND SVETLIK, J.V.
Serbia was once in an in-between state, in which it demonstrated a brotherhood type of unity amongst its many ethnic backgrounds and even some elements of market policies. It embodied a balance of values from the West and the East, until Balkanisation separated Yugoslavia into smaller, feuding countries. However, studies have gone into observing how much similarity and difference there is within these individualised states considering how new technology has led to an information/knowledge driven global community wherein values, and thus cultures, are converging into one another across continents. Prasnikar et al suggest that the clusters of countries once known as Yugoslavia have recently come to share the same values by following the same trends and patterns that the Internet age incites. They suggest that the Balkans may only remain separated in today’s age by lingering historical enmity and politics, but not by values or morals. The younger generations of the Balkans are the living examples of this as they live through the remnants of the war understanding only others’ previous experiences and memories of the era. “If societies are changing, we can expect to find evidence of those changes among young people first. Young people’s reactions to social change are a great barometer and announce the future social flows” (2006: 154).
Prasnikar et al stipulate that communist revolutions usually all take on the same paths and, consequently, produce similar outcomes. “The issues on the agenda of most post-communist governments were stabilisation, privatisation and liberalisation and other structural reforms… The results were that the expectations of a ‘better life in capitalism’ were not met” (2006:155). The only ones to prosper seem to be the nouveau riche, who overtake numerous companies during the inevitable collapses of economic systems, and the young people living in the socialist dream who educate themselves and travel to the West to use their business knowledge and mobilise up the financial and social strata. In doing so, they consume and disseminate products of Western values.
Young people from every continent are plugging into virtual communities, sharing and consuming each other’s experiences and values and becoming citizens of the world. Globalisation and technology is allowing their cultures to steadily converge into one much larger experience. Prasnikar et al identify the shift in young people from a materialistic and career-oriented lifestyle towards one that seeks out affective relationships and enjoyment of the intangible qualities of life. They note that the value systems operating today are much more fluid and thus difficult to directly pinpoint, however they are more concerned with individual expression, creativity and hedonism as opposed to any loyalty to institutions or social conventions. “Young people often respond with a mixture of seen pessimism and inner personal optimism, which is a paradox of this generation… However, they want to be independent, free of fear, but not haughty” (2006: 156). Prasnikar et al describe this as the stepping out of dionysic values in the post-communist transition period.
They argue that this is also encouraged by the converging cultures found in the formal education system and the greater access younger generations have to this. Older generations will have had a shared experience of education within their country, and so culture and identity was founded and stable within these institutions. However, advancements and in communication and relationships between certain countries means that formal education has come a long way in the advent of new technology and has contributed to the shaping of a new economic system, new value system and new lifestyle for the young people of today.