Schiller: Not Yet the Post-Imperialist Era

Modern-day Colonialism: Webwork by John Ryan Lim, Com105 A


As we discussed in class, "Not Yet the Post-Imperialist Era," by Herbert Schiller discusses how imperialism is done, and how much it has changed through the years. We all know how it was in the past, especially during the age of the conquistadors, where countries were taken over. It has then moved to something like what happened during the Cold War, where the world was divided into the first world, second world, and third world countries. Now, even if we are all "free," imperialism has taken a different form: Media-cultural imperialism.

Schiller mentions a few aspects of media-cultural imperialism. The first is the shift from the use of "Hard Power," which basically means force through material means (such as the use of weapons) to "Soft Power," the ability to get what you want by co-opting rather than commanding, by the use of non-material resources (such as culture). Also, it is important to note that with this kind of trans-national corporate-media domination, the world is heading not towards pluralism, but actually towards homogeneity.

Soft Power Today

The term soft power was coined by a Harvard University professor named Joseph Nye. It is defined as the ability to get what you want by co-opting, instead of commanding, by attraction instead of coercion. It involves the use of non-material resources (such as culture) as a means to control, to set the framework of debate. A good example that illustrates this would be Hollywood movies. They are popular worldwide, to the point that local movies are less patronized than Hollywood films. This article shows the situation in China where Hollywood films are preferred. Here are a few important quotes from the article showing just how America has "taken over" China with Soft Power:

A random survey conducted in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in 1998 showed that as much as 35 per cent of the 1,500 18-year-old respondents chose "Titanic" as their most favourite film.

The reality is, the domestic film industry is shrinking into non-existence," said Dai Jinhua, a professor of Chinese Literature and Culture at Peking University.

The name of Hollywood is so strong that it has reached the status of being a kind of symbol for movies. It is already well-known that India's film industry is even become known as "Bollywood." This article tells more about Bollywood.

For something like Hollywood to enter the mainstream of various countries and actually conquer the hearts and minds of people, that is what soft power can do.

Homogeneity: The New World Order

With soft power and media-cultural imperialism, the standards and ideologies of the "conquerors" start to be passed on to the "conquered." This can be clearly seen in localizations of concepts and ideas. With the trend heading towards globalization, the world now has open borders, which means all kinds of ideas, concepts, and cultural resources are flowing through different countries. Today's open trade also allows for global competition, and in the end, the strongest will dominate. And of course, with these come the peoples' open minds, which make them susceptible to cultural inflow. In the end, nations with strong soft power start to dominate and other nations will find themselves adapting ideas and concepts from them. One such concept is that of the TV game show, where today, there are many different game shows with different adaptations worldwide. Let's take Deal or No Deal as an example:

The Many Faces of Deal or No Deal

In case you can't see it here, click this link.

Can't see the video? Use this link.

This one's a Dutch version:

Click here if you can't see the video.

And of course, you'll probably know this one:

Here's the direct link.

Notice the similarities? The general format is just about the same for all shows, except that each version may have their own little twists, and of course they have different values for rewards. Also, aside from the ones shown here, there are more than 20 adaptations of this show all around the world (I don't really like linking to Wikipedia, but there's a list of the adaptations there if you're interested). There are so many adaptations, but it's still like watching the same show no matter where you are in the world. Perhaps this is the kind of homogeneity that the world is heading towards. Not only that, this homogeneity may even go further and affect the way we live, and maybe sometime in the future, our way of life may even change. Our colonial mentality has already proven that this takeover has already started a long time ago, and it's really made itself manifest today.


The media is indeed a powerful tool to use. As Althusser mentioned, the media is a part of the Ideological State Apparatus, which means it plays a role in forming us as members of society. With today's developments, it seems that it has become quite a fearsome tool that can be used to conquer our minds and hearts. Indeed, Herbert Schiller was right when he said that it is not yet the post-imperialist era, because until today, imperialism is still around, but unlike the past, it has taken a new form, and it seems that we have become victims to this. This kind of imperialism is slowly but surely leading us to the path of becoming one world, and no, it's not one that celebrates our differences, but it tries to absorb us and in the end we become one homogeneous world.


China Daily (2002). Domestic Movies: Under the Shadow of Hollywood?. Retrieved February 16, 2009 from english website <>
McGuigan, B. (2003). What is Bollywood?. Retrieved February 16, 2009 from wiseGEEK website: <>.
Nye, J. (1990). Bound to lead. Basic books

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