Introduction--Structural Transformations in the Contemporary Era
The contemporary era, often described as the era of globalization, is characterized by far-reaching changes in the constitution of nation-states and in the constitution of collective identities and inter-civilizational relations.
The general background of these changes and transformations has been the development first in the West of several processes which crystallized in different constellations, throughout the world (see Eisenstadt, 2006: ch. 16, 17). The most important of these processes were first, far-reaching structural transformations in world economy--manifest in the development of new technologies and the formations of new highly globalized patterns of political economy, moving in the direction of transnational, global knowledge information technology and economy; second were concomitant far-reaching changes and shifts in the crystallization of overall social formations, of class and status relations; third, continual tendencies throughout the world to democratization as manifest in the growing quest of many sectors for greater participation in the political arenas of their respective societies and on the international scene; and fourth, processes of far-reaching ideological and cultural changes and transformations.
These processes started to develop, in different tempi in different parts of the world already from the late 1950s or early 1960s, continually expanding even if in transformed ways throughout the world and coming together, very much under the impact of new intensive processes of globalization and of changes in the international arenas, above all those attendant on the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Until about the 1970s these processes and the changes they entailed were played out mostly--although certainly not only--within the confines of the different nation and revolutionary states and the international relations and frameworks within which they played the major role. From about the 1980s on, there developed and crystallized more and more trans-state or transnational arenas, organizations and networks, often combined with the growth of sub-national regional ones giving rise to far-reaching changes in global-local relations and in the formation of institutional arenas, collectivities and networks.
The common core of these processes was the growing dissociation of major --social, economic, political, family and gender roles, organizations, and relations from the hitherto broader macro formations, especially from the hegemonic formations of the nation and revolutionary states, and from the broad "classical" class relations; the development of multiple networks and clusters which cut across many organizations and "societies" a growing dissociations between political centers and the major social and cultural collectivities. Concomitantly, relatively closed collectivities and social arenas became weakened, highly diversified and there developed new nuclei of cultural and social identities which transcend the existing political and cultural boundaries.
Occupational, family, gender and residential roles have become more and more dissociated from "Stande," class, and party-political frameworks; they tended to crystallize into continuously changing clusters with relatively weak orientations to such broad frameworks in general, and to the societal centers and broad class formations in particular the former, relatively rigid, homogenous definition of life patterns, and hence also of the boundaries of family, community, or of spatial and social organizations became weakened and became more porous. Concomitantly those cultural orientations which were often perceived as the bases of the legitimation of these formations were weakened and there developed growing dissociations between political centers and the major social and cultural collectivities, as well as new nuclei of cultural and social identities which transcend the existing political and cultural boundaries. …