Westernization or occidentalization (from occident, see ) is a process whereby societies come under or adopt the Western culture in such matters as industry, technology, law, politics, economics, lifestyle, diet, language, alphabet, religion or values. Westernization has been a pervasive and accelerating influence across the world in the last few centuries. It is usually a two-sided process, in which western influences and interests themselves are joined by a wish of at least parts of the affected society to change towards a more westernized society, in the hope of attaining western life or some aspects of it.

Westernization can also be related to the process of acculturation and/or enculturation. Acculturation refers to the changes that occur within a society or culture when two different groups come into direct continuous contact. After the contact, changes in cultural patterns within either or both cultures are evident. In popular speech, Westernization can also refer to the effects of Western expansion and colonialism on native societies.

For example, natives who have adopted European languages and characteristic Western customs are called acculturated or Westernized. Westernization may be forced or voluntary depending on the situation of the contact.

Different degrees of domination, destruction, resistance, survival, adaptation, and modification of the native culture may follow interethnic contact. In a situation where the native culture experiences destruction as a result of a more powerful outsider, a "shock phase" often is a result from the encounter. This shock phase is especially characteristic during interactions involving expansionist or colonialist eras. During the shock phase, civil repression using military force may lead to a cultural collapse, or ethnocide, which is a culture’s physical extinction. According to Conrad Phillip, the westerners "will attempt to remake the native culture within their own image, ignoring the fact that the models of culture that they have created are inappropriate for settings outside of western civilization" (Phillip, Conrad. (2005). Window on Humanity. New York: McGraw-Hill).

Definition of the West


right|450px|thumb|Several Definitions of the West:">legend|#c4c4c4|Not usually considered western

The West was originally defined as Western Europe. Ancient Romans distinguished between Oriental (Eastern) cultures that inhabited present day Egypt and Turkey and Occidental Cultures that lived in the West. A thousand years later, the East-West Schism separated the Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox Church. The definition of Western changed as the West was influenced by and spread to other nations. Islamic and Byzantine scholars added to the Western canon when their stores of Greek and Roman literature jump started the Renaissance. The West expanded to include Russia when Peter the Great brought back ideas from France. Today, most modern uses of the term refer to the societies of Western and Central Europe and their close genealogical, linguistic, and philosophical descendants, typically included are those countries whose ethnic identity and dominant culture are derived from European culture.

The Western civilization can be defined as "at least" North America, West and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand. North America includes the U.S.A., Canada and Greenland (as part of Denmark). Widening this definition however invites controversy. This widened definition can include these countries, or a combination of these countries:

*Latin-America. Many countries in Latin America are sometimes regarded as Western countries, largely because many people in Latin American nations are descended from Spanish and Portuguese settlers, and thus they share their language and many cultural elements with Spain and Portugal. Indeed, most countries in Latin America use their official language, either in Spanish or Portuguese. According to the "CIA -The World Factbook-", there has also been considerable immigration to Latin America from European nations other than Spain and Portugal, (For example, from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, etc. See Immigration to Brazil or Immigration to Argentina.) causing Europeans and peoples with partial European ancestry to make up 80% of the population.cite web |url=https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2075.html |title= CIA - The World Factbook -- Field Listing - Ethnic groups |accessdate=2008-02-20] . There are also many indigenous cultures with their own languages in Latin America.

*Turkey. Although geographically only 3% of Turkey lies in Europe, Turkey has a similar economic system, has a customs union with the European Union in addition to being an official candidate for membership, and is a member of typical Western organizations such as OECD, Council of Europe, and NATO. It is usually a member of European organizations for sports and cultural events such as UEFA and the Eurovision Song Contest.

*South Africa. South Africa is most of the time considered Western because of its languages (English, Afrikaans) and because of its religion (Christianity). It also has a similar economic system. Furthermore, about 12% of the South African population are of European origin (White).

*Former Communist countries of Central, Eastern Europe, The Balkans. Some peopleFact|date=March 2007 add these countries to the definition of the West, as they more or less share a common European identity with Western Europeans. This view has increasingly gained support, especially since the disintegration of communism (through money) and the current European integration process that is a direct result of that disintegration. Others, however, like the American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, consider the majority-Orthodox Christian part of Europe as very different from the West. Most who support Huntington's view, believe that Eastern Europe, from Central Europe to the Balkans, European Russia and the Caucasus, did not experience the renaissance or the full strength of the industrial revolution to be considered as part of "The West". Equally they maintain that Eastern European culture is not shaped by western Christian traditions of Catholicism or Protestantism, but rather by Eastern Orthodoxy or Islam. From a different angle, this part of the world does not fulfill the economic and standard of living criteria one would associate with the "West".

*Japan. Japan is sometimes considered Western, as this country supported the West during the Cold War, has a similar economic system and welfare, is a stable democracy, protects human rights, etc. Also, Japan is a member of typical Western organizations like the OECD, and together with Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Japan constitutes the Group of Eight (G8).

*The Philippines are sometimes considered Western because of their Spanish-influenced languages and because most of the people are Roman Catholic. The Filipinos' culture has been influenced by Spain and the United States. Furthermore, about 3.6% of the Filipino population are of European origin.

*Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand). With American statehood of Hawaii, French control of French Polynesia, the colonial influence of Britain, and the current political influence of both Australia and New Zealand, Oceania is gradually, but inevitably, becoming more and more "westernized".


A different view on the Western world is not defining it by its territory, but by its people, as these tend to differ in an increasingly globalized world. This view highlights the non-Western population in countries with a Western majority, or vice versa. The Boers for instance can be regarded as Western inhabitants of South Africa.


It would be incorrect to regard the Western world as a monolithic bloc, as there exist many cultural, linguistic, religious, political, and economical differences between Western countries and populations. The western world itself is changing over time as it has in the past.

Process of Westernization

Colonization (1492-1960s)


From 1492 onward, Europeanization and colonialism spread gradually over much of the world, colonizing major portions of the globe. During this period a strong influence was exercised on the indigenous cultures, which resulted in many colonies' indigenous populations assimilating certain elements of European culture willingly or by force, such as the language of the European motherland or the Christian religion. In many cases the indigenous population was supplanted or marginalized by European and African immigrants.

The two World Wars weakened the European powers to such extent that many colonies strove for independence, often inspired by nationalistic movements. A period of decolonization started. At the end of the 1960s, most colonies were autonomous. Those new states often adopted some aspects of Western politics such as the adoption of a constitution, while frequently reacting against western culture.



A reaction to Westernization can include fundamentalism and protectionism. Countries such as Korea and China tried to adopt isolationism, but they have been unable to resist the adoption of many aspects of Western culture. In Japan, the Netherlands continued to play a key role in transmitting Western know-how to the Japanese from the 17th century to the mid-19th century, as the Japanese had opened their doors only to Dutch Merchants before US Navy Captain, Commodore Perry’s visit in 1852. After Commodore Perry's visit, Japan began to accept Western Cultures from all over the Europe and North America. Many Japanese politicians have since also encouraged the westernization of Japan using the term, Datsu-A Ron, which means the argument for "leaving Asia" or "Good-bye Asia". In Datsu-A Ron, "westernization" was described as an "unavoidable" but "fruitful" change.

Globalization (1960s-now)

Westernization is often regarded as a part of the ongoing process of globalization. This theory proposes that western thought has led to globalization, and that globalization propagates western culture, leading to a cycle of westernization.

The main characteristics are economic liberalization (free trade) and democratization, combined with the spread of an individualized culture. Often it was also regarded of the opposite of the worldwide influence of communism. After the break up of the USSR in 1991, many of its component states and allies nevertheless underwent westernization, including privatization of hitherto state-controlled industry.

Westernization as globalization is seen by many as progress, as democracy and free trade spread gradually throughout the world. Others view westernization as a disadvantage. Some have protested that Asian cultures who have traditionally existed on a primarily plant-based diet might lose this healthy lifestyle as more people in Asia switch to a Western-style diet that is rich in animal-based foods. (Cornell Times, 2001 [http://www.news.cornell.edu/Chronicle/01/6.28.01/China_Study_II.html] )


Due to the colonization of the Americas and Oceania by Europeans, the cultural, ethnic and linguistic makeup of the Americas and Oceania has been irreversibly changed. This is most visible in settler colonies such as the United States of America, Australia, Canada, Argentina, New Zealand and Uruguay, where the traditional indigenous population has been overtaken demographically by non-indigenous settlers. This demographic takeover in settler countries has often resulted in the linguistic, social, and cultural marginalization of indigenous peoples. However, even in countries where large populations of indigenous peoples remain or the indigenous peoples have mixed considerably with European settlers, such as Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Ecuador, marginalization still exists. Due to colonization, the prevalent languages in the Americas, Australia and New Zealand are now: Portuguese (Brazil), Spanish (the rest of Latin America), French (Quebec in Canada, French Guiana), and English (USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand). Many indigenous languages are on the verge of becoming extinct. However, some settler countries have gone to great lengths to preserve and expand indigenous languages, for example, in New Zealand the Maori language is official.

ee also

The West

* American culture
* European culture
* Western culture
* Western civilization

Cultural influence

Europe and USA



* Anti-Americanism represents a hostility towards the government, culture, or people of the U.S.A.
* Democratic peace theory is a theory which holds that democracies (almost) never go to war with one another.
* Diseases of affluence are diseases thought to be a result of increasing wealth.
* Non-westernized concepts of male sexuality as opposed to westernized concept of sexual orientations
* North-South divide is the socio-economic division which exists between the wealthy developed "North" and the poorer developing "South".


* "The Idea of the West" (2004), written by Alastair Bonnett (Palgrave)
* "The Decline of the West" (1918), written by Oswald Spengler.
* "The End of History and the Last Man" (1992), written by Francis Fukuyama.
* "The Clash of Civilizations" (1996), written by Samuel P. Huntington.
* "The Triumph of the West" (1985) written by Oxford University historian J.M. Roberts.

Further reading

*cite book|last= Ankerl |first= Guy |title= Global communication without universal civilization |origyear= 2000 |series= INU societal research |volume= Vol.1: Coexisting contemporary civilizations : Arabo-Muslim, Bharati, Chinese, and Western |publisher= INU Press |location= Geneva |isbn= 2-88155-004-5 |pages=

External links

* [http://global-culture.org/blog/ Global Culture] Essays on globalization and its impact on global culture

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • westernization — 1873, noun of action from westernize (see WEST (Cf. west)). Earliest reference is to Japan. [The mikado s] late rapid and radical progress in westernization (to evolve a word that the Japanese will need) justifies great expectations of him.… …   Etymology dictionary

  • westernization — [[t]we̱stə(r)naɪze͟ɪʃ(ə)n[/t]] N UNCOUNT The westernization of a country, place, or person is the process of them adopting ideas and behaviour that are typical of Europe and North America, rather than preserving the ideas and behaviour… …   English dictionary

  • westernization — westernize (also westernise) ► VERB ▪ bring or come under the influence of the cultural, economic, or political systems of Europe and North America. DERIVATIVES westernization noun westernizer noun …   English terms dictionary

  • westernization — noun Usage: often capitalized Date: 1873 conversion to or adoption of western traditions or techniques …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • westernization — See westernize. * * * …   Universalium

  • westernization — noun the process of assimilation, by a society, of the customs and practices of western culture …   Wiktionary

  • westernization — n. adopting the characteristics of North American or European culture ideas and forms of government …   English contemporary dictionary

  • westernization — west·ern·iza·tion …   English syllables

  • westernization — See: westernize …   English dictionary

  • Westernization — noun assimilation of Western culture; the social process of becoming familiar with or converting to the customs and practices of Western civilization • Syn: ↑Westernisation • Hypernyms: ↑assimilation, ↑absorption …   Useful english dictionary

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