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While all parts of planet Earth become ever more closely interconnected, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they all become the same.

In 2014, the Indian retail scene still appears exotically old world to someone from the UK. But as a fruit vendor hustles for trade on a typically noisy street, behind him lurks an air-conditioned supermarket, a South Asian adaptation of the kind of place the British go to for the bulk of their grocery needs. What price the street vendor still being able to compete in the India of 2024?

Globalization has an intra-national counterpart. Visit the high street in, say, the Scottish town of Perth, and you might be hard-pressed to espy any regional characteristics distinguishing it from the main shopping areas in Norwich or South London. Specsavers, Phones4U, Boots the Chemist… the usual suspects and ubiquitous shop fronts are here.  

Greggs the baker is an admirable retailer with a good offering, but their presence on the main drag can often be at the expense of an independent bakery. I discovered an exception during my time living in Winchester a decade ago: in an otherwise cloned row of shops was a locally-owned enterprise displaying lardy cakes (a ‘traditional’ product with origins in that part of the country) in its window, a reassuring sight even if you take a dim view of the nutritional benefits of lard-laden sweet treats.

Globalization isn’t a simple matter of big conquering small, or one-size-fits-all, which is why it has been described as a dialectical process: in an attempt to counter the new realities of modernity, a society will actively seek out its origins and form a story or tradition out of them (even if some semi-fabrication is required). In revitalising its culture, a society will reassert itself.

I don’t believe that globalization is, in itself, a bad thing. But surely, in a prosperous country such as the UK, we have the luxury of choosing to stop our market towns becoming so boringly indistinguishable from each other?

a British high street

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