Introduction

Global Dissonances—Bringing Class and Culture Back In

in Social Analysis

The essays presented here stem for the most part from the conference New Cultural Formations in an Era of Transnational Globalization, held on October 6-7, 2001 at the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. Globalization is a phenomenon maybe as old as human history (especially if one reads Eric Wolf’s “History” religiously); if not, it is certainly synonymous with the rise of capitalism itself, exemplified by “the modern world system,” a term made famous by Immanuel Wallerstein. Yet, judging from the recent flurry of social scientific writing and academic debate on the topic, it might appear that globalization is a new phenomenon, rather than in the literature,3 just a misunderstood one. Whether globalization has just accelerated in recent years, as though as the result of increased time-space compression in David Harvey’s terms, or has mutated into a new form is a worthy topic of debate that has generated heated discussion.4 But in this regard, I think that there is currency for viewing contemporary globalization more constructively as a process of transnationalism. Thus, one is without doubt dealing here with a new or different kind of phenomenon, regardless of whether one regards it literally as a transcendent phenomenon predicated on nation-stateism or as a function of underlying systemic processes that have prompted coalescence of nations toward increased global integration or transparent fluidity. Time-space compression may have blurred our ability to capture the rapid nature of changes that have taken place globally, but this should not blind us from seeing that transnationalism is, in the first instance, less a continuation of an older globalization than a fundamental change in its systemic practices.

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Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology