The Global Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems promotes interdisciplinary empirical understanding of how globalization both intensifies and mitigates existing social problems, as well as how it contributes to the generation and representation of new ones. By “globalization,” we mean more than simply the institutional expansion of markets around the world, past and present. We view economic globalization as fundamentally embedded in society, politics, law, and morality, while acknowledging diverse degrees and combinations of its embeddedness, and a wide array of existing and potential institutional means for organizing and regulating its uneven spatial and temporal development. Social problems researchers therefore may examine how globalization impacts (or is impacted by) a host of phenomena -- including, but not limited to, social relations, cultural practices, institutions of governance, market arrangements, political processes, identity formation, historical memory, symbolic interaction, discursive representation, socially constructed emotions, technological innovation, patterns of human mobility, environmental transformation, demographic shifts, dynamics of conflict, collective action, and social movements.
Of course, the other special divisions of the Society for the Study of Social Problems have long examined such phenomena --but it has been only more recently that they have struggled to examine their significance within a global, or transnational, context. Doing so presents social problems researchers with an important methodological challenge. As Sociologist Ulrich Beck cautions us, “methodological nationalism” is not only insufficient for understanding social problems, like poverty and social inequality in the United States, that are generated by contemporary globalization; it also reflects an exploitative mode of knowledge production that legitimates global inequalities. As he writes in Power in a Global Age (2007),
The zombie science of the national outlook that thinks and researches in the categories of international trade, international dialogue, national sovereignty, national communities, the ‘state nation’ (Staatsvolk), and so forth, is a ‘science of the unreal’ pursued by ‘national sociology’. Just as nation-based economics has come to a dead end, so too has nation-based sociology. This is because there is a failure to recognize -let alone research- the extent to which existing transnational modes of living, transmigrants, global elites, supranational organizations and dynamics determine the relations within and between nation-state repositories of power (23). …[T]he nation-state world order fragments global inequalities; national norms of equality exclude global inequalities; the intranational comparability of inequalities guarantees international incomparability; and the irrelevance of large-scale inequalities is predetermined. All of these principles make it possible for powerful and rich nation-states to pass on the risks entailed by their decisions to poor states, a practice stabilized not least by the fact that the methodological nationalism of the social sciences confirms and supports actions based on the national perspective (30).
Methodological nationalism blinds us to exploitative transnational relationships upon which the United States, for example, has achieved its wealth, security, and rule of law relative to poorer nation-states. By constraining our field of vision to an exclusively national (including its exteriorized “international”) outlook and presumed corresponding “domestic” issues, we marginalize the poor in other nation-states and blind the relatively privileged to global inequalities and their connection to them. We also marginalize the poor within our nation-state by blinding them to any important sources of transnational solidarity and agency that might address local, national, international, and transnational obstacles generating and perpetuating inequality and poverty. Such obstacles, it is worth noting, include hegemonic discourses on neoliberal globalization and UN Millennium Development Goals, which emphasize concerns for how globalization has exacerbated baseline poverty, but which dismiss its simultaneous production of greater economic inequality. Thus, a central aim of the Global Division is to promote scholarship on globalization that squarely situates analyses of social problems within a transnational context of understanding.
Taking seriously our commitment to the principles that markets are fundamentally embedded in social relations and that understanding contemporary social problems requires our attention to transnational context, we also critically explore universalizing views of globalization. Indeed, some of these universalizing discourses dominate popular understanding of the term globalization, like those of neoliberal economics and, perhaps ironically, Marxist functionalism, both of which assume that markets are (or would be) most efficient when “self-regulating” (i.e., wholly dis-embedded from states and societies). Another universalizing view of globalization comes from international law, to the extent that it asserts we can only meaningfully understand the development of human rights through the institutional rationalization of states “harmonizing” their law within an internationally coordinated system of states. We challenge the trickle-down theories of social justice implied by such approaches -- both empirically and morally. We also try to draw public attention to processes of globalization (and its ongoing institutional development) that provide room for greater democratic participation from civil society – particularly social and political movements that enrich, rather than erode, the fundamental resources of civil society that make sustainable local and transnational movements possible, and strive to make our Division a vibrant resource for scholars and activists seeking to identify visions and practices that are successfully shaping such “alternative” globalizations.
Reflecting the broader ideals of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, members of the Global Division are generally committed to producing scholarship, educational materials, and other forms of knowledge that promote principles of equity, equality, social justice, sustainability, and cultural recognition that foster human agency. They also devote themselves to the practical challenges of “public scholarship” -- that is, producing and presenting research that deliberately engages audiences beyond the boundaries of their respective disciplines. Such audiences may include not only scholars and students outside their fields, but also policy-makers, think-tanks, media organizations, corporations, law enforcement officials, military institutions, courts, regulatory agencies, financial institutions, healthcare organizations, schools, childcare providers, social workers, lobbyists, attorneys, NGOs, and social activists.
Toward these ends, our Division is presently engaged in five broad areas of activity within the Society for the Study of Social Problems:
(1) We organize thematic sessions and co-sponsor annual conference sessions within our professional association that promote transnational perspectives and inquiry and encourage scholars to transcend methodological nationalism across the various special divisions of the Society for the Study of Social Problems.
(2) We foster innovative student scholarship by co-sponsoring with the journal Critical Sociology (SAGE Publications) annual competitive awards for the best graduate and undergraduate student papers on globalization submitted to our voluntarily refereed committees of academic specialists. Winners of these awards receive a modest cash prize for their efforts, an invitation to present their papers at that year’s Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and attend our annual award banquet, where the members of our professional association formally recognize and promote their scholarship. Theses students also receive a one-year paid membership (including conference fees) in the Society for the Study of Social Problems.
(3) Since 2007, we have sponsored the Best Book on Globalization Award to recognize cutting edge research on globalization published within the past three years that our award committee judges, based on the nominated books that it receives that year, to best reflect the principles and aspirations of the Global Division.
(4) We provide an ongoing institutional forum and professional network of exchange among scholars and activists who are working to understand globalization and create identities, relationships, practices, and institutional mechanisms that are contributing to currents of global development that are more democratic, just, secure, and sustainable than are the dominant ones that most states, international financial institutions, transnational corporations and even other social movements are advancing.
(5) We are helping to spearhead a new initiative within the Society for the Study of Social Problems to further transnationalize our association by deliberately recruiting new members who live, work, and research social problems in the Global South. Our intention in doing so is to increase our awareness and understanding of the transnational impact local practices in the Global North, as well as the transnational impact of local practices in the Global South, and to democratize the production of activist-scholarship within newly forged transnational networks of research on social problems of mutual concern.
Division mission statement last edited in 2011 by John G. Dale, George Mason University, Global Division Chair, 2009-2011
A brief list of recommended books and edited collections include:
[* Indicates recipient of the Global Division’s Best Book on Globalization Award]
Dennis Altman, Global Sex, (University of Chicago, 2001).
Richard P. Appelbaum and William I. Robinson (eds), Critical Globalization Studies (Routledge, 2005).
Zygmunt Baumann, Globalization: The Human Consequences (Polity Press, 1998).
Fred Block and Mathew R, Keller (eds), States of Innovation: The U.S. Government’s Role in Technology Development (Paradigm Publishers, 2011).
Clifford Bob, The Marketing of Rebellion: Insurgents, Media, and International Activism (Cambridge University Press, 2005).
*Ethel C. Brooks, Unraveling the Garment Industry: Transnational Organizing and Women;s Work (University of Minnesota Press, 2007). [2010 recipient of the Global Division’s Best Book on Globalization Award]
Ulrich Beck, Power in the Global Age (Polity Press, 2005).
John Cavanagh, Alternatives to Economic Globalization: A Better World Is Possible: A Report of the International Forum on Globalization, Second Edition (Berrett-Koehler, 2004).
John G. Dale, Free Burma: Transnational Legal Action and Corporate Accountability (University of Minnesota Press, 2011).
Donatella Della Porta (ed), The Global Justice Movement: Cross-National and Transnational Perspectives (Paradigm Publishers, 2007).
Richard A. Dello Buono and Ximena de la Barra, Latin America after the Neoliberal Debacle: Another Region is Possible (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009).
Michael Dennis, The New Economy and the Modern South (University of Florida Press, 2009).
Francesco Duina, The Social Construction of Free Trade: The European Union, NAFTA, and MERCOSUR (Princeton University Press, 2006).
Marc Edelman and Angelique Haugerud (eds), The Anthropology of Development and Globalization: From Classical Political Economy to Contemporary Neoliberalism (Blackwell Publishing, 2005).
Arturo Escobar and Diane Rocheleau, Territories of Difference, Place, Movements, Life, Redes (Duke University Press, 2008).
*John Foran, Taking Power: On the Origins of Third World Revolutions (Cambridge University Press, 2005). [2007 recipient of the Global Division’s Best Book on Globalization Award]
Jack A. Goldstone, Why Europe? The Rise of the West in World History 1500-1850 (McGraw-Hill, 2008)
Mark Goodale and Sally Engle Merry (eds), The Practice of Human Rights: Tracking Law between the Global and the Local (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
LaDawn Haglund, Limiting Resources: Market-Led Reform and the Transformation of Public Goods (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010).
Wendy S. Hersford and Wendy Kozol (eds), Just Advocacy? Human Rights, Transnational Feminisms, and the Politics of Representation (Rutgers University Press, 2005).
Daniel Jaffee, Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival (University of California Press, 2007).
Sanjeev Khagram, James V. Riker, and Kathryn Sikkink (eds), Restructuring World Politics: Transnational Social Movements, Networks, and Norms (University of Minnesota Press, 2002).
*Fuyuki Kurasawa, The Work of Global Justice: Human Rights as Practices (Cambridge University Press, 2007). [2009 recipient of the Global Division’s Best Book on Globalization Award]
Richard Lachmann, States and Power (Polity Press, 2010).
Peggy Leavitt and Sanjeev Khagram (eds), The Transnational Studies Reader: Intersections and Innovations (Routledge, 2007).
Walter Mattli and Ngaire Woods (eds), The Politics of Global Regulation (Princeton University Press, 2009).
Howard Lune, Urban Acton Networks: HIV/AIDS and Community Organizing in New York City (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006).
Jennifer Bickham Mendez, From the Revolution to the Maquiladoras: Gender, Labor, and Globalization in Nicaragua (Duke University Press, 2005).
David Naguib Pellow, Resisting Global Toxics: Transnational Movements for Environmental Justice (MIT Press, 2007).
Ngai Pun, Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace (Duke University Press, 2005).
Balakrishnan Rajagopal, International Law from Below: Development, Social Movements and Third World Resistance (Cambridge University Press, 2003).
Ananya Roy, Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development (Routledge, 2010).
Tony Roshan Samara, Cape Town after Apartheid: Crime and Governance in the Divided City (University of Minnesota Press, 2011).
Herman M. Schwartz, Subprime Nation: American Power, Global Capital, and the Housing Bubble (Cornell University Press, 2009).
Jon Shefner, The Illusion of Civil Society: Democratization and Community Mobilization in Low-Income Mexico (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008).
Jackie Smith, Social Movements for Global Democracy (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).
*Michael Peter Smith and Matt Bakker, Citizenship across Borders: The Political Transnationalism of El Migrante (Cornell University Press, 2008). [2008 recipient of the Global Division’s Best Book on Globalization Award]
Boaventura de Sousa Santos (ed.) Reinventing Social Emancipation: Toward New Manifestos (Volumes I, II & III of five volumes): Volume I: Democratizing Democracy: Beyond the Liberal Democratic Canon (Verso, 2005); Volume II: Another Production is Possible: Beyond the Capitalist Canon (Verso, 2006); and Volume III: Another Knowledge is Possible: Beyond Northern Epistemologies (Verso, 2007).
Millie Thayer, Making Transnational Feminism: Rural Women, NGO Activists, and Northern Donors in Brazil (Routledge, 2010).
Alain Touraine, Thinking Differently, (Polity Press, 2009, originally published in French, 2007)
Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Free Trade Reimagined: The World Division of Labor and the Method of Economics (Princeton University Press, 2007).