What is happening to globalization?

01 February 2022
We are not witnessing the end of globalization. Rather, it’s all about reglobalization - © Unsplash Gaël Gaborel

Globalization is now at its most tenuous phase in human history. The popular charge of ‘deglobalization’ notwithstanding, we are not witnessing the end of globalization.

The planetary COVID-19 crisis has combined with the vulnerabilities of global capitalism to disrupt social routines around the world. ‘Social distancing’ has become a ubiquitous term and government-mandated practice. And yet, instances of ‘distant socializing’ via such digital platforms as Zoom and Google Hangout have exploded. To better understand these contradictory dynamics, we should approach globalization not as a single economic phenomenon but develop a more comprehensive typology capable of explaining what is happening to globalization today.

Why it’s important:

Our new fourfold typology identifies four major formations of globalization. Embodied globalization refers to the physical mobility and connectivity of human bodies across the world; objective globalization covers the mobility and connectivity of physical objects across the world; institutional globalization refers to global mobility and connectivity conducted through public and private institutions; disembodied globalization pertains to the social relations formed through intangible things and processes including ideas and digital data. The most consequential movement among these ‘tectonic plates’ has been one of disjuncture between the increasingly digitalized disembodied formation of globalization and the other three configurations.

The bigger picture:

As the mobility of people, things, and institutions fails to keep up with the global interconnectivity of digital networks, disembodied globalization begins to devour pieces of the other formations. For example, the service sector is being cannibalized by digital globalization’s growing ability to transform embodied workers thousands of miles away into disembodied tele-migrants by means of new collaborative software packages. This analysis based on a new globalization typology also informs the study of power by offering larger explanations of novel forms of surveillance and data mining. The popular charge of ‘deglobalization’ notwithstanding, we are not witnessing the end of globalization. Rather, it’s all about reglobalization: the profound rearrangement of globalization’s main formations that move at different speeds and levels of intensity.

The basics of globalization, summarised in just five minutes.

Manfred B. Steger

Manfred B. Steger is Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and Global Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Culture & Society at Western Sydney University and Distinguished Global Fellow 2021 at the Center for Advanced Studies at Eurac Research. He has previously held executive positions as Head of School of International and Community Studies, Director of the Globalism Research Centre, and Research Leader in the Global Cities Research Institute at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. A member of the editorial boards of prestigious academic journals such as Globalizations, the American Political Science Review, and Global Perspectives, Professor Steger has served as an academic consultant on globalization for the US State Department and as an advisor to the US Public Broadcasting Services’ television series, Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism. A past Chair of the Steering Committee of the Global Studies Consortium, Professor Steger has been one of the pioneers of Global Studies who made a major contribution in established the new academic field across several continents.


Steger, M. B. What is happening to globalization?

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