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The emergence of the global debt society

Governmentality and profit extraction through fabricated abundance and imposed scarcity in Peru and Spain

Ismael Vaccaro, Eric Hirsch and Irene Sabaté

As a result of the financialization of household and national economies, indebtedness has become a system of domination shaping the making of contemporary subjects. Th is sort of governmentality through debt is a multifaceted phenomenon affecting people’s economic and political behavior in both the North and the South. Disguised and legitimized by the moral obligation to repay debts, and by promises of upward social mobility (for the working classes in the North) and of development (for the population of the Global South), indebtedness disciplines households and neutralizes political agency under finance capitalism, as our ethnographic examples on the mortgage crisis in Spain and on microfinance in Peru reveal.

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Violence, Global Unrest and Advanced Capitalism

(And Why Wile E. Coyote Never Catches Roadrunner)

Daniel Briggs

Over the last five years or so, we have witnessed increasing forms of violence and unrest across the world. In the media, these depictions are presented as actions of resistance to oppressive regimes and corrupt politics, yet are, at the same time, deliberately detached from a global politik which is collapsing in numerous ways: the manifestations evident in market instability, and increasing austerity, unemployment and social inequality; a sign perhaps that the orgy of globalisation is reaching its climax. Some of all this was reflected in what we saw across English cities during the summer of 2011 and in this article, I discuss these riots and why they might have happened and the State response. Perhaps more importantly, I show how they should be reconsidered alongside other forms of violence and dissatisfaction against oppressive regimes and corrupt politics as a collective response to a global system on the brink of collapse as a result of its never-ending pursuit of rampant profit at the expense of millions of people. I relate this fruitless quest of profit to Wile E. Coyote’s incessant pursuit of Roadrunner.

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Mohammed A. Bamyeh

The globalization of modernity obviously exceeds in its profundity the signifiers of open pathways and commodity circulation—clothing, music, food, and so on—tend to capture much of our immediate attention. In the first place, among tales of cultural dissemination modernity has the unique feature that it made its epoch without a heroic duel with any opposing force. The effort expended today to magnify the scale of supposedly ‘anti-modern’ fanaticism, or to force the world into the logic of a clash of ‘civilizations’ notwithstanding, the globalization of modernity owes much to the fact that, in its broadest outlines, it has never been truly rejected by any significant force in any society. Hardly any commentator on modernity, after all, defines the term in ways, which, upon closer inspection, reveal anything in modernity that should be anathema to social processes and longings everywhere. If we define modernity in terms of material outcomes—prosperity, longevity, lack of scarcity, leisure time, better communication systems, better housing, education, a wider range of consumer commodities—it is hard to see how any of this could be opposed by anybody, although these outcomes may be rejected by ascetic monks in any society, modern or not. If we define modernity in terms of social structure, such as predominantly urban life and within it a strong bourgeois class, it is easy to see that this outcome has been the conscious goal of policies in most of the world even before the termination of the alternative path of East bloc socialism.

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Timo Pankakoski and Antto Vihma

This article examines the concept and metaphor of fragmentation and its underlying assumptions in international law and global governance. After engaging with fragmentation historically, we analyze current debates through five conceptual perspectives. Fragmentation is oft en perceived as a process, a gradation, a process with a single direction, a prognosis, and normatively as either loss or liberation. These interlinked tendencies carry conceptual implications, such as making fragmentation apparently inevitable or provoking positive revaluations of fragmentation in terms of differentiation. Furthermore, the conceptual coupling of fragmentation with modernity enhances these effects with an historical thesis. Consequently, fragmentation appears as a ubiquitous and necessary, rather than contingent, feature of modern law—a conceptual implication that may hinder empirical work, and that merits critical analysis.

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Gabriela Kütting

This article reviews the contributions of the two main discourses that study the environment and development in global politics: the human/environmental security discourse and the critical globalization discourse. Both sub-disciplines deal with what is substantively the same subject matter from different perspectives. However, there is hardly any cross-reference between these two dialogues. This article explores the contributions of these two bodies of literature and evaluates their common ground. It argues that with the exception of the traditional environmental security school of thought there is substantial overlap in terms of research concerns. However, it also finds that the language of the critical human/ecological security school of thought hinders rather than helps its research concern.

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Jutta A. Helm

For more than a century, Germany has had a well-balanced system

of cities showcasing considerable variety in their social and physical

make-up. It has lacked spectacular global cities like New York,

Tokyo, or London. Instead, western cities include industrial cities

like those in the Rhine-Ruhr Valley and cities shaped by universities

and research (Göttingen or Freiburg), media and publishing (Hamburg),

culture and high-technology sectors (Munich), banking and

finance (Frankfurt/Main), wholesale trade and insurance (Cologne

and Düsseldorf), as well as government and administration (Berlin,

Bonn, and most state capitals). Dramatic social or economic crises

that generate debates about urban decline have not happened.

Thanks in part to effective urban governments, no German city has

come close to the near-collapse of American rustbelt cities during

the early 1980s, or the fiscal meltdown of New York City in the

1970s. Crime has been consistently lower and less violent, and the

American racial divide has no equivalent in German cities. East German

cities, while more unevenly developed, have been no less stable.

East Berlin was the dominant center, linked to the industrial

cities in the North (Rostock) and South (Leipzig, Halle, Dresden) by

a rather creaky infrastructure.

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Carl A. Maida and Sam Beck

The community of practice is an organisational form that complements the current knowledge economy, which since the late twentieth century has accelerated with advances in information production and dissemination (Wenger 2000). Communities of practice ensure greater engagement for sustainability by the public as local and global actors. A paradigm that arose through the anthropological imagination, the community of practice is an organisational form that complements the current knowledge economy (Lave 1988). A community of practice provides a framework for understanding social learning in complex organisations, specifically the notion of knowing. For novices and experts alike, knowing within a community of practice is based upon socially defined competence, or the ability to act and to be viewed as a competent member. Belonging to a particular community is based upon engagement, imagination and alignment within a social learning system that supports and sustains members and the community itself. Communities of practice provide the framework for social learning, because members: share a sense of joint enterprise, indicative of the level of learning energy within the community; interact on the basis of mutuality, which points to the depth of social capital generated by mutual engagement; and share a repertoire of resources, indicating the degree of participants’ self-awareness (Lave and Wenger 1991). This framework – of knowing, belonging, and social learning through more informal styles characteristic of a community of practice – provides members with the skills to engage meaningfully in knowledge production, exchange and transformation in complex organisations by creating new ways of ‘being in the world’.

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Hannah Knox, Damian O'Doherty, Theo Vurdubakis and Chris Westrup

In this article we seek to address 'the experience of work in a global context' by revisiting the relationship between globalisation and information technologies and attributions of local and global effects. We do this through an empirical investigation of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, information systems which are purported to enable the institution and the enactment of global business practices. Rather than looking for the metrics that might best demonstrate the shaping influence of global processes upon local work settings - and which would in turn allow talk of such settings becoming more or less globalized - we draw on debates in science and technology studies and in particular the work of Latour in order to re-approach 'the global' as the outcome of a specific set of socio-material knowledge practices. Such an approach allows us to re-situate the analysis of globalization as an emergent, cultural and political phenomenon involving, for example, contestations over the potential and the nature of knowledge, the evaluation of different ways of knowing and the ongoing importance of the embodiment of ideas about the human subject, which we find are being worked out in processes of global (re)organisation.

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Thomas D. Hall

Islam, Md. Saidul. 2013. Development, Power, and the Environment: Neoliberal Paradox in the Age of Vulnerability. New York: Routledge.

Islam, Md. Saidul. 2014. Confronting the Blue Revolution: Industrial Aquaculture and Sustainability in the Global South. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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Robert A. Denemark

Copeland, Daryl. 2009. Guerrilla Diplomacy: Rethinking International Relations. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Mittelman, James. 2010. Hyperconflict: Globalization and Insecurity. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Thompson, William R., ed. 2009. Systemic Transitions: Past, Present, and Future. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.