Sociology's Global Challenge

Article excerpt

Issues related to globalization are central to most contemporary works in sociology, no matter the specialization. During the past two decades, sociologists have investigated the effects of globalization on most aspects of social life and the extent and variety of the research and literature on the subject have been widely commented upon. This special issue of the Canadian Journal of Sociology represents a modest attempt to stimulate a discussion of the relation sociology itself has with globalization. These papers examine the contemporary transformations of the organization of sociological work and the production of sociological research and discourse in the context of the growing interaction of local, national, regional, and global networks.

The Canadian Journal of Sociology's open source format, something partly motivated by a vision of bringing sociology into a new global era, (1) is an ideal venue for such an initiative. Canadian sociology, of course, is a small national version of the discipline. In English Canada, in particular, our culture and style of research is more influenced by US and British sociology than most other sociological traditions and thus less fully global than we might think. While the role for Canadian sociology in globalizing the discipline inevitably must be modest, however, Canadian sociology's dual identity as both an English- and French-speaking discipline and the open access format of one of our two major journals allow us to contribute to a globally oriented sociological research and scholarly debate that is freely available to scholars throughout the world irrespective of the ability to pay expensive subscription rates. We believe the cost of accessing knowledge under the contemporary regime of privately controlled academic journals is a major impediment to a truly global sociology and the intellectual community more broadly. This special issue, in an open source format, thus represents a step forward in a much larger discussion about the global nature and potential of sociology today.

Ultimately, the authors of our special issue reflect the basic contours of the debate in the global sociological community regarding globalization itself. The more theoretically inclined among us consider it important to think about how to name and conceptualize the contemporary dynamics, while empirical researchers and regional subfield specialists tend to be more interested in thinking about one specific aspect of this whole picture. This special issue of the Canadian Journal of Sociology does both of these things, appropriately so. It provides articles that deal with the various specific dynamics regarding our profession's relationship to processes of globalization and internationalization as well as offering critical evaluations of how our discipline has recently evolved with an eye towards possible futures.

The issue is divided in three sections. In the first section, we gathered three theoretically informed papers examining global sociology and its implications from distinct epistemological perspectives. In the second section, we group together two case studies of regional and national sociologies, grounding the broader issues introduced somewhat polemically in the first section with specific discussions of globalization in practice within two major sociological communities: Russia and Africa. In the final section, we present two papers about the environment, allowing us to think thematically about a central intellectual question that poses truly global challenges to the sociological enterprise to the extent that we think in purely nation-state and territorial terms. Despite the differences among these seven papers, they all address four general issues that we will discuss briefly in this introduction: definitions of what we mean by globalization, the nature of science and sociology itself, the relevance of the nation, and the importance of language. Any serious attempt to globalize sociology would have to confront some version of these issues; we thus offer our thoughts here on some of the shared intellectual question our authors have addressed in their varied contributions. …