Politics and Globalisation: Knowledge, Ethics, and Agency

Politics and Globalisation: Knowledge, Ethics, and Agency

Politics and Globalisation: Knowledge, Ethics, and Agency

Politics and Globalisation: Knowledge, Ethics, and Agency


Globalisation is widely understood as a set of processes driven by technological, economic and cultural change. Few have successfully defined the changing character and role of politics in global change. Political institutions such as the nation-state have been seen as undermined by globalisation, or needing to respond to it. This book clarifies the tensions which global change has provoked in our understanding of politics. Politics and Globalisation suggests that globalisation is a process which is politically contested and even politically constituted. The volume presents five key intellectual and political contests in globalisation: ¿ the extent and political significance of globalising changes in economy and society ¿ how and how far the relations and forms of nation-state organisation are transformed ¿ whether the given concepts and methods of political science as a discipline can be applied to global and regional politics, and whether they require radical reformulation; ¿ the role and significance of ethical questions in global change ¿ whether global change is constituted by, or denies, radical political agency


Martin Shaw

In major transitions the fundamental interrelations, and very identities, of organisations such as ‘economies’ or ‘states’ become metamorphosed. Even the very definition of ‘society’ may change.

(Mann, 1993:9)

In the theoretical world of the social sciences, as in the practical world of social action, ideas are changing rapidly at the turn of the twenty-first century. the discourse of globalisation rose swiftly to primacy among both academics and practitioners in the last decade of the old century. Reflecting the new world-market era which seemed to open up following the fall of Communism, the simple hegemony of this discourse peaked, perhaps, in the middle of the 1990s. the idea attracted increased criticism as the end of the decade beckoned—not least because of the crises of globalised financial markets, in which the problems of post-Communist Russia loomed large.

The end of the first post-Cold War decade is therefore an appropriate point at which to take stock of ‘global’ change. While the concept of globalisation has become as current in academia as in popular debates, here it is always viewed at least somewhat critically. the crises of a globalising world are not as surprising to most scholarly writers as they have been to some pundits. Nevertheless, there are profound differences among academic social scientists on the meaning and significance of ‘global’ change—over both the extent to which globalisation is occurring, and its meaning and effects.

However, academic writers have tended to accept the wider consensus that—to the extent that it is a reality—the main loci of globalisation are in technology, economy, communications and culture. in other words, politics has been seen as secondary to globalisation; political institutions, forces and ideas are generally believed to be responding to phenomena which are located primarily in other social realms. Where political theorists have entered the fray, it is often with dire warnings of the social and political effects of unbridled globalisation (Gray 1998) or at least serious reminders of the continuing salience of nation-states and other political institutions (Hirst and Thompson 1996).

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