Roland Robertson & Kathleen E White. The Sage Handbook of Sociology. Editor: Craig Calhoun, Chris Rojek, Bryan Turner. Sage Publication. 2005.
[W]e are going through [a] major intellectual sea change, a shift in perspective. Somehow, the world appears to have changed: people everywhere seem to accept the once preposterous notion that local events can only be understood through a global lens and to view social processes primarily as local manifestations of global patterns. Internationally, human character and social relations appear to be going through a dramatic upheaval—judging by a sudden and overwhelming concern with the way local lives are shaped by global flows, as politicians, business leaders, and academics assume that globalization is a primary dynamic in all our lives. (Seidman, 2000: 339)
Since the early 1980s the theme of globalization has had an increasingly significant presence in the discipline of sociology. It would not be too much to say that ‘the global paradigm’ (Robertson, 1990) has transformed (and continues to transform) sociology as well as numerous other academic disciplines—not to speak of various professions and occupations. At the same time it has become a much-used, double-edged buzzword and/or blameword. The attendant confusion between academic and general use in a number of arenas—political and ideological, business and advertising, and others—has been and remains considerable.
Indeed, the shaping and commodification of the globalization motif has placed long-time academic analysts of it in something of a quandary; insofar as some have had, in effect, to choose between persisting with the tangle of conceptual offshoots of globalization or latching onto other evolving conceptual formulations. Thus, there are those who now prefer the term ‘transnational’ to global, so as to distance themselves from what they perceive as the morass of ‘global babble.’ The position taken here is to stay with the use of the term globalization and to continue with the research program mapped by sociologists in the early 1980s, some years before the term became commonplace in business and politics. Nonetheless, extra-sociological or extra-social scientific issues cannot entirely be excluded. To take but one such issue: recent years have witnessed the rapid growth of what are often called anti-globalization movements—usually concentrating on the economic dimension of globalization. These demand sociological analysis—as part of the family of so-called new social movements (cf. George, 2004).
Some readers may think that we are here engaged in a semantic quibble, of which sociologists are so often accused. While there may be a little of this, for the most part the issues involved are very challenging. For a start, let us prioritize those that appear to be the most salient and controversial:
- The origins and historical length of globalization.
- The motor, or driving, force of globalization, if any.
- The relationship between heterogeneity and homogeneity-difference in relation to sameness—as the process(es) of globalization proceed.
- The much-heralded problem of the relationship between the local and the global and the degrees to which the former is produced by the latter.
- The question of the fate of the nation-state, within the historical frame of globalization.
- The difficult problem of the relationship between globality (or globalities) and modernity (or modernities).
- The fast-growing recognition that so-called globalization is social (interactional and communicative), as well as cultural, political and economic; much irony lying in the fact that many sociological analysts of globalization entirely omit the social as a dimension of globalization.
- The increasing use of the concept of glocalization as a gloss on or even a substitute for globalization, this proposition being closely related, of course, to the global-local issue.
These themes will appear at various points in what follows.
It should be evident, even at this very early stage, that our discussion crosses—indeed, transcends—academic disciplines. In other words, globalization and its numerous related topics are not by any means a solely sociological issue. By now it encompasses virtually all social and humanistic disciplines (and has also made a number of inroads into the natural and physical sciences). So, when we speak, in a sociological context, of globalization, we must be clear about this. Whereas it would be more than reasonable to suggest that sociology- as an embryonic discipline of the mid-nineteenth century—constituted the truly effective foundation of global studies’ and the global paradigm, there can be no neglecting the fact that a large number of disciplines have contributed considerably both to the development of the latter and to the more specific focus on the contested theme of globalization. Study of the latter is, perhaps, the exemplar of current cross-disciplinary ‘confusion.’
Many of the matters addressed nowadays under the heading of globalization had been considered for centuries by theologians, philosophers, historians and, later, by social scientists without using that specific term. And in the two hundred years or so prior to 1980, there had been increasing concern with world—or global—history and with ‘distant’ continents and ‘other’ civilizations and regions. Thus alterity has become a central feature of the overall globalization process in a phase of postdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and anti-disciplinarity. The latter part of the eighteenth and the whole of the nineteenth centuries constituted a period in which such influential writers as Kant, Hegel, Marx, Saint-Simon and Comte, as well as numerous influential historians and historiographers, paid considerable attention to such matters. In their work one finds, to different degrees, acknowledgment of the great changes that had occurred earlier in the century with respect to travel and communication—changes that made it increasingly clear that a new kind of world was emerging, new particularly in the sense of its potential oneness. Kant had set the tone for much of this when he spoke of our living, in a global sense, increasingly side by side.
It should be said, that, while these world-compressing trends continued with increasing rapidity towards the end of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, the great sociologists of the so-called classical period (1880-1920), such as Durkheim, Max Weber, Simmel and Toennies, almost entirely neglected such vital specific developments as the establishment of the telegraph, the telephone, the airplane, and World Time, to name but a few of the advancements that fundamentally—at least in the Northern Hemisphere—altered the experience of time and space (Kern, 1983). Instead, their focus was mainly upon social formations, more particularly the temporal transitions away from premodern sociocultural and economic circumstances, although the work of Durkheim and Weber certainly did involve comparison of different social forms and civilizations. Weber obviously became increasingly aware of the worldwide reach of modern capitalism and Durkheim showed much interest, particularly towards the end of his life, in the problems of the compatibility of different moral and ethical patterns, in relation to his growing concern with ‘international society.’ Nonetheless, even though this was almost certainly not their principal intention, classical sociologists, with the aid of other developing human sciences, marked out the focus on national societies’ as the domain of sociology.
In sum, globalization is a site upon which relationships between disciplines are being restructured. Social science textbooks, which are notoriously well behind the main, innovative trends of their respective disciplines, have only very recently begun to reflect the global turn that has been evident in scholarship for at least twenty years (e.g. Beynon and Dunkerley, 2000; Cohen and Kennedy, 2000; Lechner and Boli, 2000; O’Donnell, 2000; Steger, 2003). It is also worthy of note that in bookshops, especially in the UK and the USA, special sections entirely devoted to works on globalization are becoming quite common.
Dimensions of Globalization
Even though we have highlighted at the outset the multi-disciplinary features of the present study of globalization, ours will be an approach that is centered on—but emphatically, not confined to—the discipline of sociology. Since sociology itself is, like a number of academic disciplines, in a state of great flux, this is much less a statement of disciplinary inclination than it may seem to be. Nonetheless we should note the irony of the social dimension being very frequently omitted by sociologists, as well as others, as a major aspect of globalization. For example, while insisting that the first distinctive features of globalization are those of ‘stretched social relations,’ Cochrane and Pain (2000: 15) argue that such relations involve ‘the existence of cultural, economic and political networks of connection across the world.’ Or ‘as social relations stretch there is an increasing interpenetration of economic and social practices’ (Cochrane and Pain, 2000: 16). The second statement somewhat contradicts the first, but our argument here is not to make points against these, and other writers, but to draw attention to a problematic lacuna in much of the sociological study of globalization.
To some considerable degree the absence of explicit focus on ‘the social’ is being rectified by the sheer ubiquity of the new electronic means of communication. For example, the Internet is giving rise to new modalities of self-identification (Turkle, 1995) and sociation. More specifically, the virtual social is an increasingly significant form of social communication. Sociality occurs more and more in cyberspace (e.g., Porter, 1997; Hakken, 1999: 93-173; Jordan, 1999). Knorr Cetina (2001) has argued, in this and other related senses, it would perhaps be more accurate to say that we live in a postsocial environment in which ‘social principles are thinned out with other cultural elements and relationships replacing them, mediating between them and in some measure [collapsing] in on social relations and structures’ (Knorr Cetina, 2001: 520). Whether this helps to explain why the social dimension has been neglected in the discussion of globalization is not entirely clear; but, in spite of the importance of Knorr Cetinas argument, we will here conflate the ideas of social relationship and communication, acknowledging that this may be only a provisional move. We will take up some aspects of this again when we come to discuss the ‘microscopic’ aspects of globalization. But we would be remiss were we not also to mention the crucial contributions of McLuhan in anticipating new electronic forms of sociality and his conception of a highly contentious global village (McLuhan with Fiore, 1968)—this not being the conventional way of invoking McLuhan.
With these considerations about the social in mind, we stipulate that the four major dimensions of globalization are: the cultural, the social, the political and the economic. These are analytic dimensions, subject to further refinement (cf. Scholte, 1993: 100-18; Anderson, 2001). In any case, in the real world which we study, there are never solely economic, solely political aspects, or whatever. Every phenomenon has elements of all four major dimensions, in spite of the fact that, most clearly in Western philosophy and social science, there has been an ongoing—we believe, futile—debate about the primacy of one dimension over others. The issue of dimensionality is intimately related to that of disciplinarity for there are a number of discourses of globalization (Robertson and Khondker, 1998), some of them corresponding to disciplinary perspectives.
Directionality and Globalization
The analysis of globalization has been plagued by the Problemstellung of its directionality. We maintain that globalization has to do with the movement of the world as a whole in the direction of unicity- meaning oneness of the world as a single, sociocultural place. This, in turn, indicates that the singularity of the world increasingly diminishes the significance of territorial boundaries—territoriality having for much of human history been a basic geographic strategy of control (Sacks, 1986; cf. Lewis and Wigen, 1997). Hence the emphasis on border-lessness in much of the literature on globalization (e.g., Jacobson, 1996; Shapiro and Alker, 1996). Nonetheless there are some respects in which borders are becoming more rather than less salient, as is clearly to be seen in the current concern in both ugly and relatively benign ways in more or less worldwide controversies about restrictions on immigration, cultivation of restrictive national identities and the like (Papastergiadis, 1999). There is, admittedly, a fuzziness about the concept of unicity (to be distinguished from its use to refer to a unified urban complex) in that there are no criteria for deciding when unicity has been obtained. However, as will also be discussed at a later point, there is available to us a way of talking about globalization as an ongoingly self-limiting process via the concept of glocalization (Robertson and White, 2004).
Various terms have been used to describe the present world circumstance that is being consolidated (or even consummated) by globalization—for example, world society, world-system, global ecumene, global system, global soci ety, the-world-as-a-single-place and even more. Some of these entail substantial analytical arguments, while others are in themselves atheoretical. Yet other terms, such as global arena and global field, have been more calculatedly employed so as to maximize distance from any particular image of the globe or the world. Of at least equal importance are the actual quotidian ‘images of the world’ to be found in different places and/or among different groups of people (Robertson, 1992: 61-84; Hannerz, 1996; Holton, 1998:33-41), for such images have great consequences for political movements. To put this more concretely, it makes a lot of difference whether the world as a whole is conceived of as being a series of nation-states, as centered upon international relations or as a system of societies, seen as a very large collection of individuals, or as defined by the human species relative to its envi ronment (Robertson, 1992: 61-84). These four basic possibilities—which can be combined into a number of images of the world—constitute, in fact, the form globalization has taken over the past five hundred years or so.
The Form of Globalization
There are, in principle, a number of different ways in which the world as a whole could have moved in the direction of unicity, which is most certainly not to be confused—as, in one way or another, it often is—with the idea of global integration or unification. This is a mistake that a number of individuals frequently make when they insist on the fragmentary aspects of globalization in binary opposition to its integrative aspects. A strong drive towards unicity could have happened under the aegis of a universal church, such as the Roman Catholic Church, as a world empire, or in yet other ways. Indeed, at various points in human history a number of projects for world organization have been advanced and serious steps taken towards implementing these, such as—in addition to our previous examples—international communism after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Japanese project of the world under one Japanese roof, the latter being fully developed in the early 1940s. In very recent times a variety of world-encompassing, primarily religious, movements have arisen, notably in East Asian contexts. On the other hand, notwithstanding a considerable number of imperial projects, as well as religio-ideological ones, none has actually been successful, even though from the world-systems perspective of Wallerstein and the many who have been influenced by him different social formations and nation-states have been hegemonic at various points in history (Wallerstein, 1974, 1980, 1989; Chase-Dunn, 1989; Arrighi, 1994; Arrighi and Silver, 1999). In any case, the contributions to world formation made by projects of world domination or organization cannot be neglected. Currently there are many intellectuals and political leaders and activists who regard the United States as being engaged, particularly since September 11, 2001, in a project of world domination. In this respect the issues of Americanization and anti-Americanism have become central features of global culture (Robertson, 2003). The American policy of ‘full spectrum dominance’ announced in 2002 by the Bush administration in connection with the war against terrorism has raised this to new heights. The crucial subject of the place and the role of the United States in the contemporary world as a whole cannot entirely be ignored here, particularly because it occupies a complex mixture of centrality and marginality in the global circumstance. This was indirectly acknowledged by George W Bush in his second inaugural Presidential address on January 20 2005, when he insisted that the future of ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’ in the USA depended upon the achievement of these same ideals around the world.
As the world moves towards a condition of unicity, the temptations and the opportunities for world domination by an empire, ideology, religion or alliance of nation-states becomes that much more likely. Indeed, the events since September 11, 2001 have produced a global circumstance that illustrates very well the kind of catastrophic downside of globalization that a few writers, including the present authors, have been predicting as a possibility for the past twenty years or more. As globalization proceeds, it facilitates the kind of circumstance that has emerged since 9/11, in terms of electronic means of communication, rapid movements of peoples with the subsequent creation of diasporas, reappropriation of histories, ‘familiarity’ with distant regions of the world and so on.
Let us return more directly to the question of how the world has become increasingly characterized by (1) extensive connectivity, or inter-relatedness, and (2) extensive global consciousness, a consciousness which continues to become more and more reflexive (Robertson, 1983; Tomlinson, 1999; Beck, 2000). These are, indeed, the two most important general features of the overall process of globalization. We can speak of cultural, social, political or economic globalization (or any combination thereof) in a general sense or we can deliberate upon the globalization of certain practices, activities, institutional structures and so on; but when we talk of globalization per se, we are referring to the two features of the human condition that have been specified concerning connectivity and global consciousness. These, in combination, constitute the move in the direction of global unicity, although the second has been much neglected relative to the first.
The form or, alternatively, the structural pattern that globalization has taken, certainly in recent centuries, consists of the four major components mentioned before: nation-states, interational relations, individual selves and humankind. Particularly since the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, this form has been generalized beyond its home—namely Europe—and came much later to constitute the basis upon which the United Nations organization was established soon after the conclusion of the Second World War (1939-45). In spite of the importance of calculated projects of world formation on the part of specific organizations, movements, empires and so on, globalization is best seen in its most general sense as a relatively unguided process over the long haul. Hence the distinction between globalization as project(s) and globalization as process(es). But it must be emphasized that although this distinction is analytically easy to make, it is very difficult empirically to distinguish between the two at any given point in time. Long-term globalization is surely a mixture of project and process. Moreover as contemporary ‘anti-globalization’ movements have rapidly flourished in recent years, ideas concerning ‘globalization from below’ or people taking the control of globalization into their own hands have given a new significance to globalization-as-project.
Much of the literature on globalization has emphasized Western imperialism of one kind or another—as if imperialism were a Western invention (Spivak, 1999: 37)—and the hegemonic position of Western nation-states during the past five hundred years or so. Thus, for some, globalization has been a Western (more specifically, an American) project with the former colonies, and other dominated or threatened areas, being cast as victims of Western globalization. We, however, consider it to be necessary, for a number of reasons, to move away from this stress on victims, in order to make analytic space for the past, present and potential contributions of non-Western societies to globalization in its multidimensional sense—without going to the other, absurd extreme and regarding the world as one of relatively equal nation-states. In sum, a balance should be struck between a paradigm of blame involving simply exploiters and victims, on the one hand, and a paradigm of equality in which there is no room for power and inequality, on the other. In this regard, it is necessary to recognize that what are often called postcolonial studies have become part of the general globalization debate, as have closely related subaltern studies (e.g., Dirlik, 1994, 1996; Hall, 1996; Gandhi, 1998; Spivak, 1999; Sandoval, 2000; Robertson, 2005). The issues of postcolonial-ity and subalternity cannot, for reasons of space, be elaborated here. But this is certainly not intended to marginalize them, not least because a very emphatic feature of recent anti-globalization/anti-capitalist demonstrations has involved the very poor and exploited.
In the present era many international and transnational movements and international pressure groups have joined in the shaping of the world, although we should not neglect the transnational character of much older movements, of which the anti-slavery movement in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is an excellent example. Nor should the transnational nature of nationalist movements in the same and later periods be overlooked; this refuting the all-too-common tendency to think that globalization and nationalism are necessarily at odds with each other (compare Meyer, 1980 with, for example, Barber, 1995). In this connection it must be said that a very common mistake in the human sciences is to conflate analytical with empirical modes of inquiry. Specifically, there is a major difference between talking about, for example, world order in an analytical sense and, on the other hand, addressing this issue in empirical terms. There is, in other words, a distinction between the patterns that the analyst can discern at a high level of abstraction and the tangible fragmentation or, indeed, the conflict that he or she perceives.
It should be transparent that we conceive of globalization as a very long-term process, extending back through thousands of years. Many contributors to the discussion of globalization have seen it, on the other hand, as a relatively recent characteristic of the world as a whole. Our commitment to the perspective of globalization as a very long process raises the question as to the difference, if any, between it and the history of the world, or what some now call global history. Unfortunately, space limitations prevent discussion of this here, but it must be said that the interest in the history of the world has grown concomitantly with acceleration in the pace of globalization. Nonetheless, the current interest in globalization—at least in political and economic terms—in large part derives from the fall of the Berlin Wall late in 1989 and the subsequent and widespread belief that the world would, with the very extensive decline in communism, be ‘globalized.’ The latter meant in its more ideological form the marketization of the entire world, involving the triumph of neoliberal economic ideology with its commitment to free trade, privatization and deregulation.
There can be no easy answer to the question as to the difference between globalization and global history, although there are less than satisfactory ways of doing this. The most clear-cut case is if one maintains that globalization is a relatively recent process—a good example of this being Giddens’s influential—but, we think, flawed—The Consequences of Modernity (1990), in which the author regards globalization as being facilitated, precipitated, even caused by, the rise of Western modernity (cf. Rosenberg, 2000). In this and other cases where globalization is conceived of as a recent phenomenon then it is simple to argue that our present interest in global history has been brought about because globalization has necessarily pushed us in that direction. As the world has moved—almost dramatically—toward unicity, then it is inevitable that we become ever more concerned with the whole rather than its parts. Moreover, since increasing connectivity and reflexive global consciousness involve muchcompression of the world (Harvey, 1989), then different regions and smaller parts of the world—notably, nation-states—are both constrained and enabled to identify themselves by producing their own unique histories and collective memories. Globalization, then, is the major factor in the current concern with the invention of tradition (Robertson, 1992: 146-63), much of it generated by Hobsbawm and Ranger (1983).
Thus, insofar as one regards globalization as a recent process, then one can acknowledge that it opens the way to interest in global history. If, however, one thinks of globalization as a very long historical process, then such acknowledgment is not so simple and the question of the degree to which global history and globalization are identical processes becomes much less avoidable. The skeleton of a solution lies in the following formulation. Whereas global history is, in its broadest scope, concerned with the history of mankind, globalization, on the other hand, dwells upon those aspects of global history that can plausibly be seen as related to the question as to moves towards or away from global unicity. This, of course, includes ostensibly anti-global movements.
Opposition and Resistance to ‘Globalization’
Much of that which has been included under the rubric of anti-globalization movements and activities has involved thinking of globalization not merely as an economic process but, even more narrowly, as a capitalist-economic one (cf. Mittelman, 2000:163-249). To be sure, the leaders of many of these movements have come to the realization that globalization cannot, in one sense, be overcome for the, by now obvious, reason that the more that demonstrations against and communication about (capitalistic) globalization have proliferated and expanded, the more that globalization in a broader, more comprehensive sense is actually intensified. This applies most clearly to the period which began with the, particularly successful, demonstrations against the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle, USA at the end of 1999. So anti-globalization in a primarily economic sense leads to more globalization in its comprehensive, multi-dimensional meaning (cf. Held and McGrew, 2002).
This in large part accounts for the emergence at the end of the 1990s of the theme of globalization-from-below (e.g., Falk, 1993). Globalization-from-below indicates a notable acceleration in the growth of global consciousness. More specifically, it represents a shift from the idea of an overarching macro process, a tidal wave overwhelming local specificities and self-identities. In any case, the theme of globalization-from-below is clearly related to ideas about global citizenship, cosmopolitan democracy, global ethics and new, extra-national types of governance. These and other motifs are each related to the recently and widely thematized notions of (global) civil society and the (global) public sphere. These became particularly conspicuous topics of study among intellectuals and politicians following the collapse of much of Communism in late 1989. It was widely observed that totalitarian societies lacked a civil realm standing between and relatively detached from governments and individuals or their families, a realm in which debates and communication about human affairs could take place and movements could be mobilized. It is upon the back, so to speak, of the focus on national civil society in formerly Communist societies that much of the interest in (global) civil society has grown.
It will be recalled that, certainly over the past five centuries or so, the form, or structure, of the world as a whole has been centered on four major points of reference (Robertson, 1992): (1) nation-states; (2) international relations; (3) individual selves; and (4) humankind. Each of these has become more tangible—at first most clearly in Central and Western Europe—over the centuries, in such a way that together they form in the most general sense the world as a whole. Even though there is an ongoing debate as to whether the nation-state is in decline, there can be little doubt as to its still being the major container of human beings. Similarly, relations between and among nation-states remain crucial features of the global-human condition, notwithstanding aggregations of states such as the European Union (EU) or the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA). Individual selves are clearly of major importance, as is well recognized, for example, in the discussion of and conflict about human rights (Ignatieff, 2001a). Humankind has come to be regarded as a concrete reality rather than a philosophical or theological idea, notably in the past one hundred and fifty years or so, via a variety of global-human tragedies such as slavery; two world wars, the European Holocaust and other more recent projects of ethnic cleansing; the use and spread of nuclear weapons; threats to the human species posed by disease (such as AIDS and SARS); extensive famines and national disasters; civil wars; the proliferation of a number of means of mass destruction; as well as the globe-wide, but fragile, institutionalization of the principle of crimes against humanity.
These four components of the global field (Robertson, 1992, 1994; cf. Robertson and Chirico, 1985) should be regarded for the most part as becoming more and more differentiated from each other over time, although differentiation should not be thought of as separation or fragmentation. Differentiation here refers to a process, or processes, of concretization of the components in relationships of autonomy-within-reciprocity. In other words, the components become more distinct but at the same time increasingly (and often problematically) interdependent. In addition, each component changes internally, often traumatically and conflictfully. The nation-state becomes more multicultural and/or polyethnic (e.g., Cornwell and Stoddard, 2001); international relations become more polycentric and less predictably polarized (e.g., Keohane and Nye, 1989; Rosenau, 1990); selves become less singular, identities less fixed and loyalties more fluid (e.g., Elliott, 2001); and conceptions of humankind become unstable (Ignatieff, 2001b; Yearley, 1996) and less clearly bounded vis-à-vis nature and the growth in artificial modifications and extensions of human bodies. Along such lines different phases of globalization (Robertson, 1992; Waters, 1995) during the past five hundred years or so can be delineated. But it should be generally recognized that through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the idea of the world as a singular entity grew. For example, by 1740 in the texts of French freemasons the world was being described as a single great republic, in 1784 Immanuel Kant spoke in his On Perpetual Peace of a cosmopolitan world (see also, Johnson, 1991; Messner, 2002: 22).
In this perspective globalization is obviously not a distinctively macro process. It is not something that occurs over and beyond our quotidian lives. In other words, globalization is not simply a horizontal, compressing process; it is also a vertical one. It pertains not just to the big phenomena of sociocultural life but also to the small aspects such as the life cycles of increasingly protean individuals. If we are addressing the subject of globalization, we are likewise interested, at least in principle, in everything pertaining to the most salient characteristics of the world as a whole.
Often this consideration has been approached in terms of the global/local distinction. Here similar problems arise, not least because it can well be argued that the local comes into focus the more that we are sensitized to the global (Appadurai, 1995; Dirlik, 1996). But there is in fact much to be said for the argument that the local is globally—or, at least, panlocally—produced. This may appear to some to be counterintuitive, but there are both empirical and analytical reasons for insisting that there has to be a conception of the context before the text, of the universal before the particular, of the whole before the part, and so on (Robertson, 1992). Thus, the idea of the global is an all-encompassing one that does not entail the exclusion of what may simplistically be called the local, nor the microscopic. These ideas apply particularly to our inclusion of the individual self in the global field. Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (2002) have well demonstrated the significance of relatively recent processes of institutionalized individualization, which was also a major theme in the work of Parsons (Bourricaud, 1981). Parsons put much stress on the increasing complexity of social systems and the requirement that they need more and more constructive inputs from individuals. But this does not mean that such inputs are readily forthcoming, this having much to do with rising crime rates and lack of citizenly involvement. The complexity of the modern—or postmodern—world, with its very problematic emphasis upon the extension of choice, has much to do with consumerism, which we will consider briefly elsewhere.
For Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, as well as for Parsons, but for somewhat different reasons, individualism is a structural feature of much of the contemporary world. And here it is necessary to bring into consideration the innovative work of Meyer, who has convincingly shown during a long period of highly productive dedication to the analysis of world society, that the modern individual self is remarkably similar all over the world—although with local, particularistic variations. So much so that both of the two main aspects of the contemporary individual are shaped by global culture (Meyer, 1987; cf. Robertson, 2002a). These two aspects are the routinized individual playing standardized roles in contemporary, organized settings, on the one hand, and the existential self with her or his personal predilections and desires, on the other. Meyer’s major point here is that both—the routinized and the existential—aspects are parts of the institutionalized individualism of which we have been speaking.
Another important aspect of the micro/macro and the local/global problem(s) is provided by Knorr Cetina and Bruegger (2001) and is associated with the previously mentioned work of Knorr Cetina on the postsocial. The paramount idea in the present context is the wish of Knorr Cetina and Bruegger to find analytic space within global theory for a microsociology of such. This they do by employment of the concept of global microstructures, their empirical exemplification of this concept being the virtual societies of financial markets. The concept of global microstructure is of great relevance in the present context because it draws attention away from the macroscopic, tidal wave view of globalization. But, more important, in the writings of Knorr Cetina new categories of analysis directly relevant to the theme of globalization are suggested (although often in continuity with classical themes of social science). And it is via her work that we can move to a short consideration of the important writings of Manuel Castells (Castells, 1996, 1997, 1998; Castells et al, 1999).
Wittel (2001) sees significant affinities between, inter alia, the writings of Castells, Sennett (1978,1998), Beck (1999), Lash (2002) and Knorr Cetina. As Wittel (2001: 64) puts it: ‘Knorr Cetina has one foot in individualization theory, and another in actor-network theory, and provides a framework for connecting both of them.’ In the present context we indicate the significance of individualization, de-socialization and network solidarity principally in order to highlight the so-called microscopic aspects of globalization and to demonstrate, to use McLuhan’s evocative words, that world life’ (McLuhan and Powers, 1989) is, when all is said and done, at the heart of the discourse of globalization. Nonetheless, Wittel’s proposition is that rather than speaking of de-socialization, as Knorr Cetina does, it is better to speak of ‘a shift away from regimes of sociality in closed social systems and towards regimes of sociality in open social systems’ (Wittel, 2001: 64-5). So the basic question here is whether network sociality is merely a technological sociality or not. Our own inclination is to argue that there is much continuity between pure sociality’ (Simmel) and cyberspatial sociality. Indeed, we are prepared to say that to cling to pre-electronic forms of sociality as the real, authentic—even essentialistic—type of sociality is a form of nostalgia. In any case, it should be said in reference to Castells’s work that his is normally regarded as a global macro-sociology of the information age (Wittel, 2001: 51). Wittel’s strategy is attractive—namely, to translate this macro-sociology of a network society into a micro-sociology of the information age. This involves focusing not on networks themselves, but on the making of networks.’ In other words, what kind of sociality is at stake in the information age?’ (Wittel, 2001: 52).
Aligning the Global and the Local
In one respect, the use of the term glocalization (Robertson, 1992, 1994, 1995a; Robertson and White, 2004) may be regarded as a way of slicing through the numerous conundra thrown in our paths by the insistence on the significance of the global/local distinction, while in so doing it draws definite attention to spatiality. For while globalization per se refers to a temporal process, glocalization injects a spatial dimension in its emphasis upon the necessarily spatial distribution of that which is being globalized (Robertson, 1995a; Robertson and White, 2004). In other words, rather than stating that a big problem arises from the latter, we can obliterate much of it by responding that the concepts of the global and the local can, and should, be synthesized, even that they are com-plicitous (Stanford Friedman, 1998:110). A second and more substantial reason for elevating the concept of glocalization within the array of globalization-relevant motifs is that it has a strong bearing on the homogenization thesis. It is in relation to the latter that the concept of glocalization is most usefully elaborated (Robertson, 1995a). This thesis pivots on the claim that the central—for some the defining—aspect of globalization is that the world is being swept by forces making for sameness, for global standardization of culture and institutional structures. Much of this contention adheres to the cultural imperialism argument that a few societies of the West or a single society, the United States, impose(s) culture upon many other societies. This has been encapsulated in the influential McDonaldization thesis (Ritzer, 2000, 2002), which claims that the fast-food preparation methods of McDonald’s restaurants, originating in the United States, are dominating the world in a heavily standardized way, extending well beyond McDonald’s restaurants themselves, including the most intimate aspects of our lives. In other words, McDonald’s production and promotion methods are taken as a paradigm of Americanization, one which has increasing applicability to a number of Western-based transnational corporations, as well as to smaller enterprises—indeed, to much of everyday life.
While the McDonaldization argument can be subsumed under the thesis of cultural imperialism (although strictly the former is not confined to culture per se), there is another aspect of sameness that is of equal importance when discussing the homogenization proposition. This has to do with the fact that we can see around the world much similarity with respect to the various structural features of nation-states. In other words, there is a remarkable degree of isomorphism with respect to the structure of modern nation-states, a key feature of the work of Meyer and those influenced by him. Some would try to account for this in terms paralleling the cultural imperialism thesis, others would argue that isomorphisms can be accounted for in terms of the diffusion, without imperialist intent, of structural forms—the diffusionist argument also being applicable to culture (cf. Buell, 1994). But a third way of considering this crucial issue, a way that is not by any means entirely at odds with the isomorphism argument, is in terms of the concept of glocalization. For whereas the isomorphism approach depends much on the idea of there being a world culture that provides models for structural and other phenomena, the glocalization tack underlines the more processual aspect of what is approximately the same problem (Meyer et al, 1997).
Although the term glocalization as such is not used in the book edited by Watson (1997) on McDonald’s in East Asia, he argues, apparently contra Ritzer, that McDonald’s is a vehicle for localization. In other words, the cities in East Asia examined by Watson and his contributors each have their own particular variation on the universality of McDonald’s. Thus although we are not arguing that the issue of the economic strength of transnational corporations is thereby diminished, the argument in Watson’s volume is but part of a growing literature on the ways in which the particular enables the universal to work and, indeed, how homogenizing forces actually produce heterogeneous tendencies. In certain respects, the world is becoming very similar. But at the same time, this similarity is sustained by difference. Products of various kinds gain purchase in specific locales, particular ethnic and gender groups, and so on, through adaptation to these different circumstances. Thus we can most usefully speak of sameness-within-difference.
It may be said that globalization cannot occur without the global spread of ideas and models being adaptable to particular circumstances—circumstances that should not be regarded in an essentialistic way, for they may be invented, particularly, but not only, for niche marketing, in the broadest sense. Globalization must have some limits—unless one thinks in terms of its leading inexorably to a highly standardized, claustrophobically compressed and entropic world—and so it then behooves us to be aware of these. Our contention is that there are built-in brakes on globalization, namely those inherent in the unavoidable necessity of adaptation to—or production of—particular circumstances. Hence the proposition that globalization is self-limiting. Moreover, what is often called local resistance against globalization is a reflexive form of glocalization. We can, in fact, speak of normative glocalization. People consciously attempt to localize seemingly homogenizing forces, this being a particularly contemporary form of reflexive global consciousness.
In the hands of Meyer, Boli, Thomas and others, isomorphism among social-structural, cultural and individual features of the world occurs as the consequence of models provided by world culture, models which are enacted by the many, many collective and individual actors in the global arena.3 There is in this perspective, however, relatively little attention given to the selective emulation or incorporation of the features of some nation-states rather than others (Westney, 1987; Robertson, 1995b). In contrast we argue that emulation and rejection have been core features of global change—more specifically of globalization and glocalization—through much of human history, but particularly since the advent of the nation-state.
Implications of Economic Reductionism
During the 1990s globalization became a new way of speaking of capitalism with special reference to the global, or—in the cogent perspective of Hirst and Thompson (1996)—international, economy; and a new international, or supranational, organization, the World Trade Organization (WTO), was created to enforce the rules of globewide capitalism. The blatant signs of increasing international (and intranational) inequality have exacerbated opposition to transnational corporations and to capitalistic globalization. This has been made the more intense by various decisions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, centered on the manner in which, often very heavy, constraints were placed on countries needing loans to allow them some chance of overcoming big economic problems. Often nation-states have been required seriously to cut back on their educational and welfare services—in sum, to reduce substantially state expenditure in order to facilitate the repayment of loans granted by the IMF. The whole problem of Third World debt and agitation for the forgiveness thereof has very often been at the center of so-called anti-globalization demonstrations. The latter have included opposition to G8 summits, the annual assemblies of the world’s major economic superpowers.
Having said this in a somewhat anti-capitalist vein, there is a not entirely ineffective case to be made for economic globalization in this regard. Many of the anti-globalization demonstrations draw upon ill-informed views concerning the operation and principles of the IMF, the WTO and the World Bank—more particularly the long-term effects of relatively capitalistic globalization. In rhetorical terms, if not in practice, many prominent world politicians, including Western ones, have conceded that international inequality is unacceptable. Simply put, we have yet to see whether the ostensible liberalization of markets will bring significant benefits to the deprived and exploited. Nor have we, on the other hand, sufficiently contemplated the protectionist implications of much of the anti-globalization movement. For a relatively rare argument against globalization by a mainstream economist, see Stiglitz (2002) and, for a contrasting view, see Sen (2000).
One of the most addressed aspects of globalization has been that of consumerism (e.g., Featherstone, 1991; Urry, 1995; Sklair, 1995; Howes, 1996; Jameson, 1998; de Mooij, 1998; Ritzer et al, 2001). It is with regard to this topic that we can readily see the ways in which globalization and glocalization have gained so much momentum in the past fifty years or so (Robertson, 1994,1995a). For one of the seeming ironies of globalization is that capitalism has highlighted the salience of global culture.
So-called micromarketing (Tharpe, 2001) is in fact a central feature of what Sklair (1995, 2001) calls the culture-ideology of consumerism; even though he neglects the vitality, at least in a superficial sense, supplied to worldwide capitalism by the phenomenon of glocalization. Thus, cultural difference—not to speak of culture production—is crucial to modern capitalism. Currently there is much emphasis on stress as a motivation for purchasing goods and services. It has been shown in a number of European countries that purchasing fragrances, cosmetics, desserts, confectioneries and wine is being undertaken by half of the consumers of such as a means of alleviating stress. But, of course, stress is in large part a product of advertising strategies and of excessive choice (as ‘real’ as stress itself may also be). Jameson (1998: 69) has effectively put the issue: ‘the reason why so many people feel that this boring and archaic thing is sexy … results from the sweetening of this pill by all kinds of images of consumption as such: commodity, as it were, becoming its own ideology’ (Jameson, 1998: 69).
Clearly, in spite of claims to the contrary, people do not simply consume things because they autonomously desire to do so. Most forms of consumption are embedded—like capitalism(s) itself/themselves in culture (more narrowly, ideology)—which is not to deny that those cultures or ideologies are themselves ‘simply there.’ The fact is that we live at a time when culture and economy are evermore intertwined (cf. Ray and Sayer, 1999; Thrift, 1999). The economy is culture-producing and commodifying.
We must recognize that the economic reductionist stance has facilitated the opening up of new domains of analysis—notably the study of global civil society, post-national, regional and global shifts in the conception of citizenship, and transnational forms of governance. So in spite of narrowing even more the capitalistic leanings of many current understandings of globalization, the anti-globalization—increasingly called the anti-capitalist (or, not infrequently, the ‘anarchist’)—movement has helped in prising open even more areas of inquiry that might not otherwise have received as much attention as they have. Of these not the least important is the growing interest in the organization of global and transnational movements (Guidry et al., 2000), even though this concern with capitalistic-economic globalization should not, by any means, be considered as the determinant of expanding interest in global civil society, global citizenship, global or transnational government and so on. Rather, the economization of the idea of globalization gave much of such interest an extra push. Moreover, the idea of global civil society was developed relatively independently in media studies (e.g., Volkmer, 1999; Keane, 2003), while environmental, legal and health questions have also led to these expanding foci.
Definite, conceptual use of the idea of globalization began, as we have seen, around 1980; although the work of a number of sociologists, political scientists, media analysts and others prepared the way for this by stepping out of their disciplinary boundaries to study transnational and global phenomena. For the most part, matters beyond societal boundaries were studied only by specialists in the field of international relations (cf. Nettl and Robertson, 1968). One of the stimuli within sociology and political science for moving towards a global perspective was located in the field of modernization studies. With the wave of decolonization which began after the end of the Second World War in 1945 and accelerated considerably in the late 1950s and early 1960s—as well as with the Allied attempts to reconstruct (West) Germany and Japan that had been envisaged before 1945 and then put into operation in the years following the end of the war—there arose a considerable interest in nation-building and the prospects for progress within newly independent nations. But, for the most part, the comparison of nations within the Third World category, and with nations that had moved upwards and beyond it was undertaken with little or no regard for the interaction of nations.
Eventually, during the late 1960s and early 1970s a few sociologists and political scientists began to see that comparison by the political leaders and intellectuals within nation-states of the conditions of their own nations with other nations was a crucial factor in coming to terms with international inequality and the concept of modernization. To this extent it was necessary also to comprehend how the modern world-system had come into existence at all, including the part played by international, inter-regional and intercivilizational factors (Nettl and Robertson, 1968; Wallerstein, 1974, 1980, 1989; Bergesen, 1980; Nelson, 1981).
Thus by the late 1970s and early 1980s the scene was set for the development of intellectual work concerned with study of the world as a whole. It was in these years that the concept of globalization first began to be used with any frequency or emphasis. Those already within or moving into the field of analyzing the making of the modern world, needless to say, did not do so in a consensual way or with the same motivations. Some of the earlier sociological contributors of significance to the discussion of the world as a whole were concerned above all with peace-making; others were primarily concerned with the demise of world capitalism and the coming of world socialism, most notably the American historical sociologist, Immanuel Wallerstein. Yet others were primarily analytical social scientists with no set political agenda (see also Lagos, 1963; Horowitz, 1966). A particularly crucial, but greatly neglected venture into the analysis of the world as a whole was that of Talcott Parsons (1971), whose approach had some affinity with that of Nettl and Robertson (see also Luhmann, 1997).
of the perspectives just mentioned—and there were also others—it was that of Wallerstein which most emphasized the causal significance of economic-material factors, relegating other aspects to epiphenomenal status. But its emphasis upon the economic dimension in socialist perspective was so distinctive as to make it immune from being associated with the capitalistic advocates of globalization who became increasingly numerous from the late 1980s onward. Thus world-systems analysts could easily, for the most part, take an anti-globalization posture when such became fashionable in the mid-1990s. In fact, without using the exact term globalization they, particularly Wallerstein himself, had been doing that for quite a few years before then (Robertson and Lechner, 1985). Ironically and somewhat perversely, it was largely 9/11 that made the multi-dimensional character of globalization very apparent again—notably with its clear reintroduction of cultural and religious factors into the debate. But quite apart from these post-9/11 circumstances, the focus of the anti-globalization movement and talk of globalization-from-below, rather than stressing the local against the global, enhanced existing interest in new forms of citizenship, civil society and the like (e.g., Mander and Goldsmith, 1996). In fact much of the debate about these arose within the context of concern with economic inequality, global justice and lack of control over the activities of transnational corporations. But this is not to say that interest in such grew only within the anti-globalization perspective, but such interest was certainly given an extra push by anti-globalization activity. Indeed, the anti-globalization movement provided a great impetus for the expansion of NGOs in cyberspace, as has the Al-Qaeda movement (Naim, 2002), which Chandra and Talbott (2001: xi) speak of as ‘the ultimate NGO.’
Global Citizenship, Global Civil Society, and Human Rights
The idea of global citizenship grew in a general sense through the 1980s and 1990s (Rotblat, 1997) as part of what has been called the global turn. One particular result of this was the expanding focus on environmental issues. This was reflected in the growth of Green political movements in a number of European countries and more diffusely in the increasing attention to environmental themes in what at first, particularly in the United States, was called international education. We should not, however, privilege environmental concerns too much, for the peace movement which grew in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s in response to the nuclear threats posed by the Cold War was also crucial. The nuclear threat and fear of environmental damage were closely linked. More recently this form of pedagogy has just as often been called, more accurately, global education. The intensification of globalization has simultaneously increased educational foci around the globe both on the wider world and, reactively, upon national identity. In fact these two opposing tugs are a major feature of educational debates in a number of countries; although concern with nationalism and national identity is part-and-parcel of the general globalization process.
The swelling interest in the late 1980s and the 1990s in the ideal of global citizenship was also part of growing academic concern with citizenship generally, much of it being the result of interventions by feminist theorists (e.g., Duran, 2001) and/or writers specializing in ethnicity and race (cf. Delanty, 2000). But since the main paradigm for studying citizenship had, prior to the 1980s, been developed in terms of national citizenship, the advent of the focus on the global circumstance has necessitated rethinking. Much of the latter has been occasioned by the multicultural/polyethnic stance brought about by waves of migration, residence abroad, the flight of refugees and ethnic cleansing (cf. Jacobson, 1996). For long, particularly from the mid-eighteenth century onward, the idea of the nation-state had entailed the homogenization of newcomers (McNeill, 1986), but by the 1960s it was becoming clear that the idea of the national society being a melting pot—a much-used characterization of the United States from the 1920s through the 1960s—was giving way to what had by the 1980s widely come to be labelled the multicultural society. Or, as McNeill (1986) argued, we have been experiencing the return ofthepolyethnicnorm.
But the widely recognized, but not as widely accepted, conception of the multiculturality, or polyethnicity, of the nation-state at the beginning of the twenty-first century has brought with it a concern with problems of social cohesion within and loyalty to nation-states. In fact, 9/11 produced a particular panic in some Western societies as to whether refugees or immigrants were being sufficiently socialized into their new national homes. At this time of writing the fear of immigration and concern with enforcing citizenly commitment on immigrants is growing ever-stronger. There has developed at one and the same time a concern with cohesion, common values and national identities and traditions (Macedo, 1999) and the opposing thematization of cosmopolitanism, the latter being of great importance as a feature of globalization. Cosmopolitanism entails the idea of people—both as individuals and as collectivities—being open to and involved, to varying degrees, in nations other than their own. Indeed, in a highly cosmopolitan world, many people would have multiple nationalities, or, conceivably, none. As Nussbaum points out, the very old ideal of the cosmopolitan referred to a person whose allegiance was to the worldwide community of human beings (Nussbaum, 1996; also Rapoport, 1997; Robbins, 1999:147-68). In our time, however, there is a plurality of cosmopolitanisms, in large part because cosmopolitanism as a phenomenon actually exists in a variety of, sometimes banal, forms in different parts of the world (Robbins, 1998: 2). Many people are increasingly cosmopolitan by virtue of travel, communication, long-distance friendship, fashion, entertainment, museum attendance, e-mail and so on, but they do not—apparently, for the most part—reflect upon what this means for humanity (as far as we can tell). In any case, the recent increase in various types of tourism—for example, faith, ecological, archaeological, gastronomic, espionage, battle, sex, medical and cosmetic surgical—has been considerable (Urry, 2002).
These are the kinds of consideration which are of particular concern also to those involved in considering the present condition of citizenship (van Steebergen, 1994; Beiner, 1995; Delanty, 2000). The specific notion of global citizenship can be looked at from two main viewpoints. It can, on the one hand, be discussed in terms of empirical trends, insofar as one can generalize across the world about such. On the other hand, global citizenship can be thought of normatively, as an ideal to which we should aspire out of necessity and/or as a global virtue. As far as the first of these is concerned, national citizenship has become problematic—quite apart from the apparent alienation of the adult populations of many nation-states from their governmental affairs—because of the fact that large numbers of people now live in nation-states of which they are not national members. It has also become problematic because there are so many matters of governance that cannot be dealt with entirely by the governments of nation-states (Falk, 1994, 2000a; Held, 1995; Kennedy et al, 2002). Some of these we have touched on before, but in any case problems of governance include, inter alia, transnational crime, ‘terrorism,’ environmental issues and refugees.
All in all, particularly in view of the two major general aspects of globalization—increasing connectivity and increasing reflexive global consciousness—the concerns of individuals as to the way in which they are governed tend to lead either in the direction of a minimalist conception of cosmopolitan citizenship or to detachment from citizenship, as conventionally understood, altogether. The latter entails an emphasis upon universal personhood (Soysal, 1994) or even netizenship, participation in global or transnational affairs on the basis of Internet communication and the establishment and reading of websites. Thus when global citizenship is advocated as a desirable state of affairs, this must take full account of the actually existing form—the parameters—of the global circumstance, this having been discussed in a different respect in much of the above. At the same time, the current state of globalization compels us to advocate global citizenship, even though it is not easy to see how such would actually operate in a formal sense. This problem is bound up with the equally important, but certainly not unproblematic, phenomenon of cosmopolitan governance (Held, 1995; Archibugi et al., 1998). The normative ideal of global citizenship is sometimes used simply to refer to an attitude, or as a mode of being-in-the-world. Or it may involve an active participation in and/or contribution to what one perceives as the good of the world—for example, dedicating oneself to teaching about the world as a whole, writing about it, or organizing and taking part in a movement whose purpose is to improve a particular aspect of the world as a whole. Yet in talking in this way one has to be very conscious, at least from the analytic standpoint, of the fact that conceptions of what constitutes the world will vary according to which of the four main components of the global field is (are) emphasized the most; although full awareness of the different components will make it more likely that a person will not reduce his or her understanding of the world to one or two components. This means that reading, thinking and teaching about comprehensive, long-term globalization should increasingly become a pivotal feature of citizenship education and learning.
The strongly emerging theme of civil society is a relatively untheorized concept, but refers minimally to the social space that lies between the state and the individuals in their familial networks. Totalitarian and highly authoritarian societies lack such space. The addition of the qualifier global’ to civil society raises the slightly different question as to an analytic space for debate about the future of world or global society and the conduct of cultural, social, political and economic affairs within it, as well as the relationship between this society and its natural and cosmic environment. To be more specific, global civil society is a domain where values and ideas concerning the affairs within and between nation-states, as well as the global-human situation as a whole, can be debated. A particular problem in this regard is the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member nation-states of the UN, a protocol which, strictly speaking, clashes with the idea of a global civil society that sets standards through dialogue and debate, for various internal matters, notably human rights. Likewise, the European Union has steadily increased the demands that it makes on its nation-state members through a range of laws that were previously regarded as entirely matters for internal legislatures. The need for a global civil society has developed in tandem with the speed and scope of globalization. Or to put this another way, the more differentiated the four major components of the global field become, the more there is a sphere of discourse to deal with this differentiation. This means that discussion of global society is located in diagrammatic terms in the middle region of our four-fold depiction of the global field.
Such developments have either been interpreted as an expansion of global civil society (e.g., Archibugi et al, 1998; Scholte, 2000; Edwards and Gaventa, 2001) or as the growth of a transnational public sphere (Calhoun, 2002). Although on occasions a distinction is made between the two notions, such is not necessary here. Suffice it to say that a development of this kind has undoubtedly been a prerequisite for the burgeoning of concern with human rights, global citizenship and matters of family resemblance. Of these it is the theme of human rights to which we must now turn, bearing in mind that it is the drive toward unicity which encourages this issue. But it should also be kept in mind that, while, for many, human rights is a matter of strictly ethical concern, being closely tied in fact to the problematic of global ethics (Dower, 1998; Robertson, 2001b), it has likewise become central to international relations, or world politics, in combination with national strategies (or Realpolitik).
Sensitivity to human rights has greatly expanded since the late eighteenth century (Lauren, 1998; Falk, 2000b), with the Napoleonic War, plus the two world wars of the twentieth century, occasioning numerous declarations, protocols and laws. The early twentieth century witnessed an acceleration of this, centered on the Standard of Civilization in what some have called international society (Gong, 1984). This standard had its heyday in the first quarter of the twentieth century and became a crucial feature of international law. It was to a considerable extent a consequence of the imposition on East Asian countries of the domestic laws of European nation-states in the areas seized by the latter. During the various catastrophic events of recent decades, human rights have been the object of growing agitation and declaration.
With the extensive amount of migration, the creation of transnational diasporas (Portes, 2000; cf. Gilroy, 1993; Cohen, 1997) and the slow and uneven acceptance around much of the world of the multicultural/polyethnic nation-state, there has arisen a number of problems in connection with the idea of human rights. To put it more concretely, there has been in the United States—until recently, at least, the paradigm case of a multicultural/polyethnic society-the so-called cultural defense. This involves defendants in court cases claiming that what they have been charged with is a generally accepted practice in their country of origin. This defense has been made in such cases as female genital mutilation (or female circumcision), wife beating, animal sacrifice and other practices alien to Western norms and laws.
Much of the tension resulting from clashes over human rights comes from the relativization of certain worldviews and practices. In fact, relativization is one of the core aspects of globalization over the long haul (Robertson, 1985, 1992). To put this mythologically, one might well say that when the first two ‘tribes’ met, then began globalization. For each group the encounter with the Other inevitably had very significant consequences. There was the option for one or both to adhere steadfastly to the original worldview(s); there was the option, at the other extreme, of one or both deciding to co-exist with the Other. Global history generally can be considered in such terms, but with respect to the more specific issue of globalization, it is, we would maintain, the central thematic. In other words, the unicity—but not, of course, integration—of the world has been formed through a very lengthy series of constructions and counter-constructions of collective Selves and collective Others. Once relatively well established, these Selves and Others have been involved in encounters with each other, continuously raising problems of relativization. Thus, the historical and geographical dimensions of these constructions are highly relevant to globalization as well as to the issue of relativization—which has a great bearing on the current conflict between Islam and the West.
But we cannot go into details of relativization here. The general point is that increasing connectivity—which may range from complete symmetry to much asymmetry with respect to power—has crystallized over the centuries, as has global consciousness, in the sense that such encounters involve elevating the problem of shared consciousness, that problem having become worldwide in its reach. This is, in more technical terms, the problem of value generalization, as well as that of greater inclusion (Parsons, 1977). Throughout world history, encounters between, as well as social constructions of, civilizations have been of profound—and often very long-run—significance (e.g., Beardsell, 2000; Fey and Racine, 2000; Hallam and Street, 2000; Hendry, 2000; Nelson, 1981; Roudometof and Robertson, 1995). They have, of course, been the cause of wars—which must also be included in the odyssey of globalization. In fact, the designation of ‘the global age’ (Albrow, 1996) as the period of the Third World War (frighteningly, for most people) consolidates this thesis.
Conclusion: Sociology and Disciplinarity
Bauman (2003: 156) has written that:
at no other time have the keen search for common humanity and the practice that follows such an assumption been as urgent and imperative as they are now. … In the era of globalization, the cause and the politics of shared humanity face the most fateful of the many fateful steps they have made in their long history.
As has been emphasized at the outset we live now at a time of great disciplinary mutation. The position of sociology in this situation of flux is not at all clear. However it can certainly be said that the theme of globalization has been the major site upon which these changes have been and continue to be wrought. Moreover, it seems very clear to the present authors that not merely has globalization been a field of study which has led to rapid disciplinary mutation, it has also resurrected the old question as to what Comte called the hierarchy of the sciences. We dare to reiterate that sociology was, so to say, in from the outset of the current interest in globalization and related issues. More accurately, the disciplines of sociology, anthropology and religious studies were particularly conspicuous in the rapid development of ‘the global paradigm.’ To be sure, it is only fair to say that other disciplines, or sub-disciplines, were working along lines similar to those which have been laid down during the last twenty-five years or so. Nonetheless the question here has to be confronted as to the related matters concerning whether, on the one hand, we are passing through a stage of the reconstruction of the disciplines as we have canonically known them for the last hundred years or, on the other hand, we are participants in the demise of disciplinarity.
In either case it is here postulated that sociology has an increasingly significant role, even if that role may only be fuzzily demarcated. We conclude simply by stating that sociology, in whatever form, is at the fulcrum of the globalization debate. Moreover, this new type of sociology will undoubtedly transcend old issues concerning ‘value-neutrality,’ ‘objectivity’ or their opposites. We are now, as Bauman suggests, unavoidably participants in struggles about the way in which the world is becoming for-itself, as opposed to being merely in-itself.