Global Sociology Sampler


Globalization in terms of economics, information, and culture are constantly a hot topic and thought of as always new and a radical movement however, globalization is not a new concept and by no means does a global society signify a move towards homogeneity. The connectivity that we experience is actually a flow of according to some, information, currency, identities, and models in which we can identify with along with what is considered local. So does this mean that there is only one way to view globalization because we are only one world seperated by water but no longer distanced due to technological advances?

So The Deal Is…

This sampler introduces us to some important thinkers who discuss and break down what globalization is and whether globalization is something positive or negative.

The Thinkers & Their Thoughts: A Brief Annotated Overview

The Global Network- Manuel Castells (1996)

  • There are shifts towards globalization in all forms (economy, politics, social networks etc)
  • Evolution towards networking compliments capitalism well
  • A result is that things have become space-less and timeless. (meta-network then exists within)
  • Because of technological changes and historical evolution, our social interaction and organization is based on this new culture. (Even environmentalism is a culture)

World Risk Society- Ulrich Beck (1999)

  • There is a question of are we becoming a “me-first” society.
  • Individualization implies that we are responsible for our own failures but also reinforces a collective lifestyle because “we all” agree to be individualistic.
  • Our community, solidarity and what was once considered things that tie us together are decaying and there are unseen consequences.

The Global, the Local, and the Return of Ethnicity-Stuart Hall (1996)

  • Globalization changes national identity and national culture (Hall emphasizes migration).
  • Globalization and its effects cause people to create and form new identities and culture in reaction to racism, exclusion, and fear.
  • Thus, the idea of a fixed national identity and fixed culture is changing.

The City in a Globalizing World- David Harvey (1996)

  • Globalization is not a new process but stems from urbanization.
  • Movement/ Migration of people from rural spaces to urban cities.
  • Capital oriented people.

Asian Values and the West’s Claims to Uniqueness- Amartya Sen (1999)

  • There is an enormous set of values within Asia as well as the rest of the world which should not and cannot be generalized.
  • How the West views the East cannot be the only way the East is viewed because the view point is not accurate.

The End of the modern Era- Vaclav Havel(1992)

  • We should not seek out new ways to manage society but instead change the things we fundamentally believe in and politician should lead the way because they lead the current form of thinking.
  • We have to go back to the basics and re-learn things like respect, compassion, responsibility and other characteristics we have lost somewhere through modernization.

What Does This All Mean?

Let us revisit the term globalization. According to Wikipedia…

"Globalization describes the process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a global network of political ideas through communication, transportation, and trade…The term can also refer to the transnational circulation of ideas, languages, or popular culture through acculturation."

In other words, globalization has effects beyond economics and capitalism. From a sociological point of view the focus of globalization is on how societies and individuals deal with the interconnectedness. The thinkers analyze migration, national identity, changing social structures, values, and the movement of information to form a multi-dimensional discussion of the implications of globalization. Let's make some sense out of the readings…

Step One: Understanding Identity

We must first understand identity and culture in order to understand globalization and its implications.

The first approach is to identity is to view it as something that unifies.

Hall explains that national identity is composed of narration - an emphasis on origins and invented traditions, and the use of foundational myth. Narratives include literature, media and popular culture which “…provide a set of stories, images, landscapes, scenarios, historical events, national symbols, and rituals which stand for, or represent, the shared experiences, sorrows, and triumphs and disasters which give meaning to a nation” (609.6). This leads people of a nation to feel like they’ve experienced and shared the same thing as the larger national community. In short – a sense of belonging.

On the other hand, “A national culture is a discourse- a way of constructing meanings which influences and organizes both our actions and our conceptions of ourselves” (609.2).

National culture reflects society’s actual actions in comparison with this so called unified one shared experience: National Identity.

The conflict then is how national culture differs from identity. Hall illustrates that “Most modern nations consist of disparate cultures which were only unified by a lengthy process of violent conquest… [and that] nations are always composed of different social classes, and gender and ethnic groups” (611.7). Ultimately, Hall states that “The discourse of national culture is thus not as modern as it appears to be” (610.7).

"Instead of thinking of national cultures as unified, we should think of them as constituting a discursive device which represents differences as unity or identity ( 612.3)".

In other words, the conflict is either you have no separate identity in order to become unified or that there are separate identities therefore you are not so unified. This conflict is old and still happens today. Sen agrees with the western tactics of conquest Hall describes regarding Asian values.

On identity, Hall states that globalization “…does have a pluralizing impact on identities, producing a variety of possibilities and new positions of identification, making identities more positional, more political, more plural and diverse; less fixed, unified or transhistorical (615.7)”.

Sen indicates that the western forces have tried to dominate and challenge Asian values but in the end, it is not about giving up one thing for another but choosing when to embrace. This cultural and identity mixing characterizes both the individual and globalization.

Step Two: Urbanization As A Function Of Globalization

Now that we know we are not becoming more homogeneous, how does migration and urbanization function in globalization?

Harvey explains that globalization has a "…process-based definition [that] makes us concentrate on how globalization has occurred and is occurring (618.3)".

Harvey believes that urbanization plays a huge role in how we have become and will become increasingly connected and that capitalism is a driving force.

" The process of globalization is not new. Certainly from 1942 onwards, and even before, the globalization of capitalism was well under way in part through the production of a network of urban places (617.7)". Additionally, Harvey points out that The Communist Manifesto emphasized that "modern industry not only creates world market.. but the need for constantly expanding market 'chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe' so that it 'must nestle everywhere, settke everywhere, establish connections everywhere (617.9)'". Marx and Engels emphasized how the proletariates were removed and alienated by capitalistic work creating a distance between the workers and the products they produced as well as alienation in the home and from employers.

Cultures and Identity clash in urban environments. Hall believes that “modern nations are cultural hybrids… (612.5)” but it is unclear whether his outlook is as dreary as Harveys. Urbanization is a function of globalization according to Harvey because it is capitalism that drives the rich and powerful to enter untapped markets. Innovations also occur because of this drive.

Step Three: The "Me First" Society and Networks

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Referring back to the formation of our national identity and our 'imagined community' and a nations narrative explained by Hall, Beck adds on by stating that "… community, solidarity, justice and ultimately democracy's [roots] are decaying… (640.6)". In other words, Beck thinks that the base in which we built upon is falling apart.
Beck states that urbanized cultures are moving toward this "me first" society where we are becoming individualized.

"Individualization is a structural concept, related to the welfare state; it means 'institutionalized individualism (640.5)'".

Beck does not think this is necessarily bad because individualization implies that we are responsible for our own failures but also reinforces a collective lifestyle because “we all” agree to be individualistic. This point ties back to culture and hybridity because it makes us question whether we are being dominated and giving up one value for another or are we choosing to mix and match what we deem appropriate in order to belong. This individualism works especially well with capitalism.

Likewise, Castells implies that because we live in urbanized societies that agree to be individualistic, networks serve as a thread to keep us connected.

"Because of the convergence of historical evolution and technological change we entered a purely cultural pattern of social interaction and social organization. This is why information is the key ingredient of our social organization and why flows of messages and images between networks constitute the basic thread of our social structure (624.5)".

Global Sociology

Said, Edward. 19xx. "Intellectual Exile: Expatriates and Marginals"
Castells, Manuel. 1996. "The Global Network" (620-624)
Beck, Ulrich. 1999. "World Risk Society" (636-640)
Hall, Stuart. 1996. "The Global, the Local, and the Return of Ethnicity" (609-615)
Harvey, David. 1996. "The City in a Globalizing World" (616-620)
Sen, Amartya. 1999. "Asian Values and the West’s Claim to Uniqueness" (629-636)
Havel, Vaclav. 1992. "The End of the Modern Era" (577-579)

Mills Library

See interviews with U. Beck, S. Sassen, J. Butler, S. Lash in Gane, Nicholas. 2004. Future of Social Theory. Continuum International Publishing (Ebrary HM585 — .G35 2004eb)
Scholte, Jan Aart. 2000. Globalization : A Critical Introduction. Palgrave Macmillan. (Ebrary JZ1318 — .S36 2000eb)
See chapter 20 in Calhoun, Craig. 2007. Sociology in America : A History. University of Chicago Press. (Ebrary HM477.U6 — S63 2007eb)

Schirato, Tony and Jennifer Webb. 2003. Understanding Globalization. SAGE Publications Inc. (Ebrary JZ1318 — .S35 2003eb)

"The Dynamics of Globalization" in Mittelman, James H. 2000. Globalization Syndrome : Transformation & Resistance. Princeton University Press. (Ebrary HF1359 — .M58 2000eb)

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