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As the world appears to waver between globalist expansion and nationalist retrenchment, it is hardly surprising that two questions related to the perceived ‘globalization backlash’ have taken centre stage in relevant popular and academic discourses. What is happening to globalization? Does it still matter in our unsettled times? These fundamental questions traverse the chapters of this book and are the subject of this introduction. Our answer is affirmative: globalization still matters a lot—though not in the same ways it did 25 years or even a decade ago. The main task of this chapter is to introduce how the significance of globalization has been reconfigured over the period we call the 'Great Unsettling’. We begin our engagement with the global in these strange times by narrating the recent unfolding story of globalization: why and how it rose to superstardom only to fall into infamy in the short span of three decades.
Objective phenomena of globalization have been studied in extraordinary detail. Scholarly publications abound describing the flows of global financial interchange, the movement of goods and people, and even the empirical spread of global culture. By comparison, the subjective dimensions of globalization have barely received any attention. Seeking to rectify this neglect, this chapter explores how various ideological articulations of globalization have shaped its material designs and instantiations. We suggest that the thickening of global consciousness can be conceptualized along four interrelated dimensions or layers: ideas, ideologies, imaginaries, and ontologies. Each of these layers is, as we show, constituted in practice at an ever-greater generality, durability, and depth. In this period of the Great Unsettling, normative contestations have intensified, but they tend to have a common global point of reference. Putting an analytical spotlight on such subjective dimensions not only yields a better understanding of the changing ideological landscape of our time, but also helps us make sense of the profound and multidimensional processes that go by the name of globalization.
How long is the history of globalization? Most scholars would now agree that the sense of living in a world-space—a space conceived of as global—existed centuries before modern science projected a planet moving around the sun in the relative blackness of space. Different senses of the global go back much further than most casual commentators would allow. Certainly, they go back before the common myth that it was Copernicus who first argued that an erstwhile flat Earth should be understood as a planet. Hence, as we have begun to outline in earlier chapters, the processes of globalization through which the world-as-known became global need to be defined in terms of the historically variable ways in which they have been practiced and socially lived. This chapter questions earlier forms of periodization of globalization and sets out to map the dominant forms of globalization across world history from its earliest embodied beginnings as human settlement stretched across the planet to the relativizing upheaval of the present when globalization is now associated with a Great Unsettling.
Global studies emerged as a transdisciplinary field exploring the many dimensions of globalization. This chapter assesses how well the field of global studies has fared in its development. Criticisms of the field can be organized under four major headings. First, global studies is accused of failing to generate a scholarly consensus on what constitutes its central features and essential components. As a result, the field is said to have remained a diffuse project-in-the-making, still relying heavily on murky generalizations and cobbled-together methodologies. Second, there has been significant disagreement among global scholars on the relationship between globalization studies and global studies. Third, a number of detractors claim to have identified a profound theory–practice gap involving the programmatic content of global studies. Fourth, postcolonial thinkers have offered incisive critiques of what they see as the field’s troubling geographic, ethnic, and epistemic attachments to understandings anchored in the dominance of the Global North. Responding to each of these critiques, this chapter examines the promise of global studies and the current state of the field.
This chapter concludes Globalization Matters with one of the most pressing issues of all: what does it mean that, at the height of our capacities as humans to command technological change and produce the means of our existence many times over, we have reached a point in human history when we have the capacity to destroy the planet as we know it? This is the ultimate form of globalization—the globalization of our own possible demise. Two themes are discussed. First, the possibilities of military violence have been stretched to ongoing global proportions, whether it be annihilation through nuclear exchange, ragged attrition through a global war on terror, or disruption through localized transnational violence. Second, incremental and escalating ecological destruction has brought global debates to the point of pronouncing a new global epoch: ‘the Anthropocene’. The task of giving the term practical consequence has been constantly and actively deferred by most policy-makers. This chapter explores the uneven and fractured nature of these global process and debates, arguing that there is now too much at stake to leave it to those who think that nothing consequential needs to change.
This chapter shifts to an assessment of the main currents of globalization theory. It traces the twists and turns taken by different approaches, placing the rationale for Globalization Matters in the context of the strengths and limits of current theoretical orientations. A central paradox emerges. Recognition of the importance of understanding globalization as a generalizing category came to the fore at the very same time that an aversion to generalizing theory emerged. Our exposition is framed by a critical overview of the conventional three-wave model—widely distinguished as the hyperglobalizers, the sceptics, and the transformationalists. This model does not work for many reasons. To be sure, waves and corresponding schools of thought are accessible metaphors that possess descriptive utility for introductory surveys. But they have less value for the development of global theory beyond entrenched and rather petrified positions. Our synchronic framework conveys a much messier picture of simultaneous and frequent interactions among four analytically distinct modes of theorizing the global: neoclassical theorists, domain theorists, complexity theorists, and generalizing theorists.
This chapter focuses on intensifying urbanization as a global phenomenon. Each year, the equivalent of two cities the size of Tokyo are built; one in six urban dwellers live in slums; and we are heading towards that black figure of 2°C global warming (the subject of the next chapter). The twenty-first century has been already called the ‘Urban Century’, supposedly leaving behind the Century of Nation-States (the twentieth century) and the Century of Empires (the nineteenth century) as prior dominant forms. While it is certainly true that urbanization has become one of the dominant global trends, this prognosis is hyperbolic, missing the tensions between different levels and forms of governance. Cities across the world are crossed by global processes of ecological pressure, economic fragility, political contestation, and cultural questioning. All of this means that the current approach to ‘global cities’ is reductive and skewed. Here, we confront a shibboleth in scholarly writing—not only has the urbanization of the world been a long-term if massively accelerating process, but it should also be said that cities have long been the locus of globalization processes.
Contrary to influential theses of the ‘end of ideologies’, the early twenty-first century has witnessed the revival of political ideologies deeply opposed to democratic liberalism. The most recent of these ideational clusters is what we call ‘anti-globalist populism’—a particular strain of right-wing national populism that focuses on the alleged negative impacts of globalization. The remarkable success of anti-globalist populism is most spectacularly reflected in the electoral victory of Donald Trump in the United States and the triumph of the Brexit alliance in the United Kingdom. This chapter maps and critically evaluates the core ideological concepts and claims of anti-globalist populism. We employ a morphological discourse analysis—a qualitative method for a contextually sensitive mapping and assessing of the structural arrangements of political ideologies—that attributes connected meanings to a range of mutually defining political concepts. Ultimately, the chapter seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the shifting ideological landscape in the twenty-first century and the crucial role that globalization is still playing in this transformative process.
This chapter tracks the social life of the concept of ‘globalization’. The concept burst upon the world relatively recently; it was rarely used before the 1990s. This chapter follows the genealogy of the concept from its unlikely beginnings in the decades of the 1930s–1950s to the heated debates across the end of the twentieth century to the present. Before it became a buzzword, the concept began to be used in the most unlikely fields: in education to describe the global life of the mind; in international relations to describe the extension of the European Common Market; and in journalism to describe how the ‘American Negro and his problem are taking on a global significance’. The chapter begins to answer a basic question that has not before been researched in detail: through what lineages and processes did the concept of globalization become so important? Drawing on textual research and interviews with key originating figures in the field of global studies, the chapter attempts to get past the usual anecdotes about the formation and etymology of the concept that centre on alleged inventors of the term or references to the first use of the term ‘globalization’ in dictionaries.
This chapter begins by outlining some of the principles that guide the work of engaged theory. We then elaborate these principles to show how engaged theory can be understood as a form of critical theory. Engaged theory is critical, but not for criticism’s sake. It is committed to making a positive difference in the world. By mapping the complexity of our world—locally and globally—our approach is intended to contribute to the process of engaging sensitively and practically with that world. By recognizing the messiness of that world while drawing out broad patterns of practice and meaning, it provides a new way of understanding that complexity. The chapter shows how our approach works across different levels of analysis to discern patterns of practice and meaning. It responds to five key questions. First, how should globalization be conceptualized? Second, should globalization be equated with material interconnectivity? Third, what dominant forms has globalization assumed throughout history? Fourth, what is the relationship between globalization and relations of power, domination, and subjection? And fifth, what is the relationship of globalization theory to social practice?
Beyond fleeting newspaper headlines or passing academic fads heralding ‘globalization’s failure’, this book has advanced the case for the continued relevance of globalization in both theory and practice. At the same time, however, the stark reality of the Great Unsettling looms large. The world in the early twenty-first century faces significant disintegrative threats. The destabilization of familiar life-worlds is well underway. Deep social volatility is occurring on a scale and at a speed perhaps never before seen in human history. For example, global economic growth is uneven and plagued by contradictions, resulting in troubling consequences such as the seismic shift from secure long-term employment to precarious short-term work, increasing automation, and the rise of inequality within and between countries. An associated climate of insecurity and loss of identity has penetrated people’s consciousness down to its ontological core. These concluding reflections outline how the book has attempted to stretch the existing body of scholarship on globalization to examine the structural conditions and complex dynamics of global social formation under contemporary unsettled conditions.
At the turn of the twenty-first century, globalization - both the process and the idea - bestrode the world. Widely acclaimed by political and economic pundits as the most important phenomenon of our time, it took the world by storm. Two decades later, it has come under sustained attack by the re-invigorated forces of the extreme right and radical left. Does globalization still matter in our unsettled world? Responding in the affirmative, this study develops and applies a new framework of an 'engaged theory of globalization' to analyze some of today's most pressing global challenges: the rise of national populism, ecological degradation, rapid urbanization, new sources of insecurity, and the changing landscape of higher education. Offering a comprehensive appraisal of globalization in our unsettled times, the authors explain why and how transplanetary interrelations continue to matter in a world that is wavering between globalist expansion and nationalist retrenchment.