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Global Sociology

by Robin Cohen and Paul Kennedy

Macmillan, Basingstoke, March 2000, paperback - 410 pages. ISBN: 033365112X.

‘A very important book . . . I would heartily recommend it to my students’

Professor John Solomos, South Bank University

‘There are some fantastic achievements here . . . The use of examples, the glossary, and text boxes all work well. I think the language is clear and consistent and I can imagine it working with an international audience’

Professor David Chaney, Durham University, UK

’An impressive textbook. The authors are well-informed, write in a clear, lively, balanced and persuasive manner . . .there is nothing in introductory sociology literature quite like this’

Bob Holton, Flinders University, Australia

Offering an innovative new approach to sociology that takes the global dimensions of the contemporary world as its overarching framework, Global Sociology is written in a style that is fresh and engaging for the undergraduate reader whether they have studied sociology before or are approaching the subject for the first time.

Challenging the ‘West and the rest stance’ of other textbooks Global Sociology:

  • carefully balances sociological theory and concepts with arguments and examples drawn from around the globe
  • graphically conveys the scope and value of sociology for understanding the complex and fast-changing world we live in
  • combines cutting edge debates with the rigorous pedagogy demanded of a first-year undergraduate sociology text
  • combines cutting edge debates with the rigorous pedagogy demanded of a first-year undergraduate sociology text

Designed to make study easy and enjoyable, Global Sociology includes:

  • numerous boxed case studies that capture the issues and bring the arguments to life
  • ‘key moment’ boxes giving essential background information clearly, concisely and graphically ‘major concept’ boxes highlighting core theoretical concepts
  • on-page definitions of sociological terms, backed up by a complete, extended glossary at the end of the book
  • end-of-chapter suggestions for further reading, seminar activities and essay questions
  • ‘questions to think about’ that can be used for independent study as well as formal assessment copious maps, graphs, tables, photographs and other illustrations throughout.

Contents: List of Maps and Illustrations - List of Boxes - List of Tables - List of Abbreviations and Acronyms - Part 1: Interpretations - Introducing Global Sociology - Thinking Globally - Modernity and The Evolution of World Society - The Changing World of Work - Nation States and Global Change - Part 2: Divisions - Global Inequalities: Gender, Race and Class - TNCs: Their Economic and Social Roles - Uneven Development: The Victims - Failures of Global Control: Crime, Drugs and Famine - Asia Pacific: From Miracle to Mirage? - Part 3: Experiences - Population Pressures and Migration - Tourism: Social and Cultural Effects - Consuming Culture - Media and Communication - Urban Life - Part 4: Dynamics - Explaining Social Movements - Challenges to a Gendered World - Towards A Sustainable Future: The Green Movement - Communities and Belonging - Globalization: Utopia or Dystopia? - Glossary - References – Index

About the authors:

Robin Cohen is Professor of Sociology and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation, University of Warwick.

Paul Kennedy is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the Manchester Metropolitan University.

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 0-333-65112-X


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A summary and key quotes by the authors, follows below: You are free to quote this material so long as it is acknowledged.

Global Sociology explores what it means to live in a fast-changing world where all our lives are becoming increasingly interconnected, interdependent and exposed to each other’s needs, practices and meanings irrespective of national boundaries or identities. Although we do not claim that globalization is the only force currently transforming our experiences we argue that it is probably the most important as it pulls everyone on the planet in its wake - albeit to different degrees and not always to equal advantage.

As it does so, it is crossing all lines, challenging every kind of received wisdom, re-scrambling all our experiences and confronting everyone with new connections, choices and problems.

Many observers have noted how global capitalism is relentlessly superimposing its own transnational grid of profit-driven logic onto insecure citizens and nervous governments while transforming every crevice and item of social life into fodder for commercial exploitation. The deepening inequalities and social exclusion experienced by many in both the North and the South along with worsening environmental deterioration and the prospect of the ‘cocacolonization’ of the world’s unique cultures are, indeed, crucial issues.

However, we see globalization as much more that the rise of unaccountable corporate forces dominating the global economy and national cultures.

Indeed, one of the paradoxes of globalization is that the same technological changes brought by corporate capitalism which expose us to greater insecurities are simultaneously providing ordinary people everywhere with two resources of immense potential significance for the future. One concerns the tools of visual, educational and interactive communication - girding the planet - that empower us to collaborate and understand one another across national and cultural divides as never before. The second is the clear motivation to engage in transnational co-operation in order to negotiate safer and fairer alternatives to our currently unsustainable global condition.

Thus, several chapters of Global sociology focus on the issues surrounding the rise of an embryonic global society and the increasing range of effective activities being generated by various global actors in addition to transnational corporations (TNCs).

These include the following:

  • those in involved in the media, professions, scientific research, advertising, corporate management, who co-ordinate the network of global cities which are increasingly linked together as containers of world-wide power and creativity;
  • the rise of cosmopolites who feel at home everywhere;
  • the growing influence of innumerable transnational migrant communities whose social and political ties span countries and continents;
  • the role of globetrotting international tourists, as they weave cultures together and compel every city, region and culture to offer an account of itself in the global arena;
  • and - most important of all in the light of recent events in Seattle - the rise of international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) whose activities increasingly coalesce to form virtual global social movements clamouring for fundamental world-wide change in every sphere from women’s rights and green issues to the abuse of human rights and debt relief for the poorest countries.

Some academics have so far been slow to perceive the significance of globalization. Yet, the multiplicity of cultural flows and new social and economic forces to which globalization is exposing us all, are contributing to the massive fragmentation of human experience while threatening to de-centre our identities. As the French sociologist Touraine, has argued, the notion that there is still something we can meaningfully call a "society" - a bounded unit, mapped quite literally onto the nation state and coinciding with its own self-sufficient economy and separate, distinctive "culture" - has become untenable. Globalization means that cultures, nations and societies are becoming uprooted from their once familiar and particular places and thrown into the global maelstrom. Boundaries are being breached by ever more criss-crossing flows of information, images, goods and people. Communities, formally tied to fixed locations, are becoming de-localised - flung into cyberspace and linked by far-reaching networks stretching across continents. Meanwhile, individuals are learning to avoid the threat of dysfunctionality caused by such fragmentation by learning how to constantly re-construct their selves while juggling multiple personal identities in order to navigate the now perilous uncertainties of social life. Sociology urgently needs to come to terms with such momentous change by re-appraising its core concepts, categories, debates and issues. We hope our discussion in Global Sociology will contribute to propelling this process forward.

Hopefully, the following brief quotes from Global sociology will indicate the breadth of coverage in the book and some of our main preoccupations.

(T)ime -space compression, facilitated by the electronic media, has put many of the world’s inhabitants on the same stage and has brought their lives together for the first time. There is scope, even for people who do not know one another personally, to interact meaningfully..... Humankind ... has begun to be capable of thinking about itself collectively as one entity. For some of the time at least, our shared concern with the category ‘humanity’ is beginning to extend beyond our affiliation solely to people ofthe same ethnic, national or religious identities as ourselves’. (Chapter 2 p.26)

(T)he flows of ideas, images and information made possible by information technology are not amenable to the traditional controls governments have always exercised over the movement of goods and people..... Cultural pluralism - intensified by globalization - (further) undermines national politics. This is because the historical building blocks of the nation state are an imagined community, territoriality and sovereignty. But these are threatened by the de-constructionist tendencies implied by post-modernity. (Chapter 5 p. 90)

One way in which transnational corporations have achieved spatial organization since the 1960s has been through engaging in ‘offshore’ production located in export processing zones (EPZs), mostly in developing countries.......Most of the labourers - over 90 per cent in EPZs - are young women .. said by some employers to have ‘nimble fingers’, making them suitable for work on electronic circuit boards.......In these characterizations one has to distinguish between convenient stereotypes and the reality facing many female workers in poor adverse labour market and a desperate desire to escape from.... the patriarchy ... of many rural societies.(Chapter 7 p. 127)

All three issues... crim , drugs and famine - seem to testify to the need for a more radical break with the international, regional and bilateral agreements of the post-1945 period. The control of cross-border crime cannot be left solely to bilateral agreements while reducing the supply of drugs cannot occur until massive transfers of resources and alternative development initiatives are provided for people whose livelihood depends on producing drugs. (Similarly)....interventions for humanitarian purposes, such as in the case of famine, have shown the limitations of charitable and voluntary effects. (Chapter 9 p. 169)

(T)o ...compete in the growing global tourist market, governments and their agents need to give an account of what is special about their particular cultures and national landscapes.....Through skilful advertising ... paradise regained appears on the beaches of Barbados while a tropical, ancient exotic wonderland emerges in Malaysia....There is no escape for any of us from the gaze of tourist visitors... this means that everyone is now dependent, in part, on the tourist gaze in order to affirm and perpetuate his or her own identities. (Chapter 12 p. 222-3)

The spectre of world cultural domination through the spread of western consumerism and the rise of increasingly similar materialistic societies worries many observers. The fear of Americanization is often even more acute. Sometimes this is described as ‘Mcdonaldization’......(However) American consumer culture from Disney to the TV soap Dallas may be strongly present in every culture across the globe but the reverse is equally the case.... (and)....the local normally finds ways to capture, alter and mix external influences with indigenous ones re-invent itself with the aid of new resources brought by the global. (Chapter 13 p. 243)

Global cities are assigned a specialized place in the global international division of labour......(they are) centres of global transport....densely connected to other global cities ....centres of communications.....of information, news bureaux .. entertainment and cultural products... .New kinds of people, of different ethnic backgrounds and with cosmopolitan outlooks and connections to several countries, enter the global city and often succeed in their quest for social mobility. By contrast, established racial minorities are often marginalized and turned into a so-called ‘ underclass’. (Chapter 15 pp. 271 et seq.)

(I)t is ...this embeddedness of much social movement activity in life politics and personal identity which enables global social movements and INGOs to transcend purely local protests. ... Selective buying a particularly important role because they are ..easy to across countries simultaneously......while there are many situations where the most practical policy is to seek global support for solutions to local problems - ‘act locally but think globally’ - increasingly it is both necessary and possible to mobilize local support in order to solve global problems. (Chapter 18 p. 336)

A ‘global ecumene’, ‘a universal humanism’, a ‘shared planet’, a ‘cosmopolitan democracy’- these idealistic notions are nor realities, but possibilities and aspirations. The world remains lop-sided....‘global winners’ use their privileged access to power, wealth and opportunity to feather their own nests ... while the ‘global losers’ ...still peer through the bars at ... the rich and powerful ....The key social change of the twenty-first century is to prise open the bars for these disadvantaged people so they can discover the transformatory possibilities that globalization has generated. A vibrant civil society and active global social movements provide far-off glimpses of that benign future.(Chapter 20 p. 372)

About the authors:

Robin Cohen and Paul Kennedy have taught in universities spanning three continents and several countries for a number of years. They have also researched in many fields relating to global themes - including labour struggles, urban poverty, numerous aspects of migration, development issues and environmental movements, to name but a few. Both remain strongly committed as academics to Weber’s goal of value-neutral but also value relevant research while as citizens they have always regarded the goal of furthering transnational understanding and unity as of paramount personal significance.

Draft chapter of the book: "Transnational Social Movements: An Assessment" PDF icon

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0-333-65111-1
Price: £47.50

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0-333-65112-X

book cover global sociology