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Sociology of the Global System

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1 Sociology of the Global System
Leslie Sklair, Ch. 7, pp (Edited from Sklair, Ch. 5, in Globalization: Capitalism and its Alternatives, Oxford, 2002)

2 How/where can we observe globalization?
Transnational Practices (TNP) TNP are the effects of what people do when they’re acting across borders (i.e., within institutional contexts that cross state borders) TNP create globalizing processes TNP, as a concept, focus attention on observable phenomena instead of abstract & vague relations among conceptual entitites

3 The global system can be divided into 3 spheres
the economic the political the culture-ideology

4 With capitalist globalization, the primary agents and institutions of economic TNPs are transnational corporations (TNCs) But also The World Bank, IMF, WTO, commodity exchanges, the G-8, the US Treasury, etc. They are controlled by those who share the interests of the major TNCs

5 Current capitalist globalization follows the Washington Consensus
[One may roughly] summarize this consensus as…the belief that Victorian virtue and economic policy – free markets and sound money – is the key to economic development” (63)

6 Who adheres to Washington Consensus?
“Not only the US gvt, but all those institutions and networks of opinion leaders centered in the world’s de facto capital – the IMF, World Bank, think-tanks, politically sophisticated investment bankers, and worldly finance ministers, all those who meet each other in Washington and collectively define the conventional wisdom of the moment…” (63)

7 Who determines priorities for economic, political, and cultural-ideological TNPs?
economic: those who own and control the TNCs organize the production of commodities and the services to manufacture and sell them political: the “state fraction” of the transnational capitalist class (TCC) produces the political environment where products and services can be marketed all over the world cultural-ideological: those responsible for the dissemination of the culture-ideology of consumerism produce the values and attitudes that create and sustain the need for the products

8 Capitalism is changing from an international to a globalizing system
The emergence of global capitalism can be traced to a series of technological revolutions (mainly in transportation, communications, electronics, biotechnology) This shift is most obvious in TNCs, where “production processes within large firms are being decoupled from specific territories and being formed into new global systems” (p. 63, Howells & Wood) an example of deterritorialization

9 Economic Transnational Practices (TNPs)
Economic TNPs are economic practices that transcend state boundaries Over half of all US export value derives from TNPs and much of their business is comprised of intra-firm transactions The volume of economic TNPs has been increasing since the 1950s, as seen in the tremendous growth of cross-border trade – rising global exports FDI and other types of capital flows have increased even more rapidly  even some quite poor people in some poor countries now have access to many non-local goods

10 Transnational capitalist class (TCC)
"This class sees its mission as organizing the conditions under which its interests and the interests of the global system can be furthered within the transnational, inter-state, national and local contexts." "…there is one central TCC that makes system-wide decisions," and connects with the TCC in each community, region, and country." (65)

11 Members of the TCC are transnational in that they:
share global as well as local economic interests seek to exert economic control in the workplace, political control in domestic and international politics, and culture-ideology control in everyday life have global rather than local perspectives on a variety of issues are people from many countries, more of whom begin to consider themselves citizens of the world as well as of their places of birth share similar lifestyles, esp. patterns of luxury consumption of goods and services

12 TCC has 4 fractions (segments):
corporate: TNC execs & local affiliates state: globalizing state and inter-state bureaucrats and politicians technical: globalizing professionals consumerist: merchants and media

13 Labor & the TCC The relative strength of the TCC can be understood in terms of the weakness of transnational labor Although there are a few genuinely transnational unions, they face "substantial difficulties in their struggles against organized capital, locally and transnationally, and they have little influence" Host governments, esp. those promoting export-processing industries, often suspend national labor laws to attract TNCs and foreign capital (66)

14 Cultural-ideological TNPs
National boundaries are growing increasingly meaningless as media conglomerates strive for total control in the production, delivery, and marketing of “the culture-ideology goods of the capitalist global system” “Their goal is to create a buying mood for the benefit of the global troika of media, advertising, and consumer goods manufacturers” (67)

15 the culture-ideology of consumerism
Globalizing capitalism has reformulated consumerism, transforming all the mass media and their contents into opportunities to sell ideas, values, products, in short, a consumerist worldview (think: McWorld) Facilitated by systematic blurring b/w information, entertainment, and promotion

16 consumerism consumerism is a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation of desire to purchase goods or services in ever greater amounts The term is often associated with criticisms of consumption In economics, it is the theory that an increasing consumption of goods and services is economically beneficial

17 the shopping mall Shopping malls are the key symbol and spatial reference point for consumer capitalism “where now large numbers of people and their families flock to buy, usually with credit cards, thus locking themselves into the financial system of capitalist globalization” (68)

18 Theory of the Global System: A Summary
Under capitalist globalization: TNCs strive to control global capital and material resources TCC strives to control global power Transnational agents/institutions of the culture-ideology of consumerism strive to control the realm of ideas Effective corporate control of global capital & resources is almost complete (p. 68)

19 The key counter-hegemonic idea to the global capitalist project is the rejection of the culture-ideology of consumerism itself “Without consumerism, the rationale for continuous capitalist accumulation dissolves.”

20 toward the commodification of everything…
“It is the capacity to commercialize and commodify all ideas and the products in which they adhere, tv programs, advertisements, newsprint, books, tapes, CDs, videos, films, the Internet and so on, that global capitalism strives to appropriate.” (p. 69)

21 plutocracy & oligarchy
plutocracy is rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth. The combination of both plutocracy and oligarchy is called plutarchy. oligarchy: A society or social system ruled by a few people.

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