Society and Globalization

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In this wiki the aspects of Globalization are analysed in relation to and in the disciplinary perspectives of sociology. To discuss the focused theme the ideas of Zygmunt Baumann (Globalization: The Human Consequences, 1998), Ulrich Beck (What is Globalization?, 2000) and Anthony Giddens (Runaway World: How Globalization is reshaping our lives, 1999), summarized by Nicholas Gane in his article “Chasing the ‘Runaway World’: Politics of recent Globalization Theory”, which was published 2001, were critically disposed and were very useful to understand the different arguments this theme is implicating. Also the more shortening and assembling assignments of David Held, Anthony McGrew, David Goldblatt and Jonathan Perraton gave very good input, but in a wider perspective.

The article “The future of the Welfare State and Democracy: the effects of Globalization from a European Perspective” (2007) from the Poland Professor Marek Kwiek analysed the results from his colleagues in some cases – mostly by analysing Ulrich Beck- nearly 10 years later, which makes his conclusions very up to date and it was really refreshing to get through his work. Also the often cited aspects sorted out from Jürgen Habermas enriched the sociological discussion about the risk society and it seems to be a very fascinating work to dive deeply into the different opinions and their resulting predictions which are very often spelled out.

First it has to be underlined the historical development of society’s framework building, beginning with the Keynesian idea of Welfare State and what it meant for Europe. But what was the very shifting impact that forced this Welfare State to be constructed and later on to be changed? The nations were no longer that much powerful during the ambivalent process of transformation. As HABERMAS pointed out the question for the 21st century “can democracies based on social welfare survive beyond national borders?” (HABERMAS, Jürgen (2001). The Postnational Constellation. Political Essays. Cambridge.), he is also including the –sometimes frightening- aspects of individual lifestyles, security and prosperity of the nation and the individual as well. Because the actually operating process does influence and does shift societies around the world in different ways and this does implicate results for the societies’ individuals. And this has to be understood as one very indicating fact about our society when back looking at the already completed transformation processes of the society.

In the transition from the first to the second modernity, we are dealing with a “fundamental transformation, a paradigm shift, a departure into the unknown world of globality, but not with ‘catastrophe’ or ‘crisis’, if the concept of crisis means that we could return to the status quo ante by taking the ‘right’ measures” . (BECK, Ulrich (2000). What is Globalization? Cambridge.)

This paradigm shift I hope to be able to highlight in this wiki. How does individually responsibility changes its first attentions? What role does consumption play in this Globalization game? Does the opinion of “freedom” still fits together well with the item “individual”? Did it ever? Does the individual gets more powerless or powerful?

Individual fear and society's power

The question about the role of individuality in the Globalization process is very interesting, because it's changing all the time, it's differently influenced be different inputs producing and being produced by Globalization processes. Individuality may seem as intangible as Globalization itself. So Individual means –what?

How is a society to be defined in a globalized world?

How is the individual influenced by the Globalization process? Is the Global risk society more “risky” than former modern societies or does the difference lie in the society’s cognition of riskiness increasingly process?

As Habermas pointed out, it is nice to live in a welfare state. But under which conditions had the welfare state been built? The lifestyles were different and so were the interactions between nations. As in competition the stronger, faster, better one won. Like in nature the conditions were unfair. But as humanity also created ethics, love, consciousness and many, many other immaterial goods, it is very unfair to simply not get in touch with other states’ non-welfare system, which obviously has something in common with the welfare other states are able to afford. Some nations could afford their overage of products for very good prices, while others had to buy the products of need for prices they in fact couldn’t pay.

“In the mixed economies of the West, states had a considerable portion of domestic product at their disposal, and could therefore use transfer payments, subsidies, and effective policies in the areas of infrastructure, employment and social security. They were able to exert a definite influence on the overall conditions of production and distribution with the goal of maintaining growth, stable prices, and full employment.” (Habermas 2001).

But in the Globalization process the borders of nations and with them the power to their social regulations are loosing strength. At this point it’s helpful to understand BECKs determination between “Globality” and “Globalization”. He proposes a reflexive theory of the global.

“Globality: refers to the collision of economic, cultural and political forms in ‘world society’ Globalization: denotes the processes through which sovereign national states are criss-crossed and undermined by transnational actors with varying prospects of power, orientations, identities and networks” (BECK 2000).

By using these terms the complicacy of dealing with the intangibility of Globalization processes’ products and results do clearly appear.

“Globalization is to be understood as multi-causal, multi-dimensional process, one driven by the interplay of a number of different spheres rather than by a single developmental logic.” (Beck 2000).

This concludes the frightening feelings of the individual. Nothing seems to be secure, everything is in the change, is on the run, does not seem to be overviewed or even understand in its hole dimension. Of course, also there are a very lot of possibilities to explore one self’s personally development. But on the other hand it’s more easily to feel overdriven by the mass of options.

BAUMANNs viewpoint of Globalization underlines this difficulty between different societies.

“What appears as Globalization for some means localization for others; signaling a new freedom for some, upon many others it descends as an uninvited and cruel fate.” (Baumann 1998).

He compares Universalization, which he defines as ‘order-making’ on a universal scale and Globalization, which for him is another word for ‘new-world disorder’. “No-one seems now to be in control of the world and as a result, we are all forced to lead out lives in the shadow of uncertainty, insecurity, unsafety.” (BAUMANN 1998).

Power to the people – consumer’s political power

Individuality strengthens the people’s place in and their consciousness of the society they are living in. And as it was said before, in our western societies, almost everyone is free to decide where and how he or she wants to create their lifestyle. Once an individual feels embedded in a society, changes of impacts might shift its state of mind, or at least generate fear. In some societies this even produces exclusion, which can cause a chain of social diseases. HYBÁSKOVÁ speaks about the way to terrorism.

“Exclusion leads to frustration, anger, and extremism. The step towards terror is clear.” (Hybášková n.d.).

But what about personally decided exclusion? There is a political power of individually consumers’ choice. This is first of all a consciousness of integrity, will and believe. By creating a lifestyle, which is sustainable for one-self, but also not so costly for other people, societies and in some cases even for nations, the individually will and decision sometimes lead to social forms, which grow and build a mass of people with same thoughts and feelings. This mass can produce a powerful movement with consequences which are definitely be positively estimated.

“The irony is that (eco-) politics through consumer boycotts strengthens the significance of consumption practices – not only does it become the symbolic mediator of social and cultural relationships, but also political ones. The commodity, whether consumed or not, would become the totwm of the power ratio between consumer and producer, and the commodity would become the site of resolution of moral disputes and dilemmas.” (CONNOLLY & PROTHERO 2008).


In the era of Globalization processes the education of people’s consciousness has to be highlighted, in individual and social spheres as well. Only through learning facts about the system’s setting the people get able to clearly make their own decisions in which way or depths they want to take part in negative or positive sides of the process’ global impacts.

It’s impossible not to take part in the Globalization process, because everyone consumes, and it’s hardly possible to completely live autarkic. So it’s a pity that some people still just don’t want to reflex the ongoing processes around their life-circles.

The question everyone should more or less be able to answer, or at least should be willing to, is how can the individual take part on the process without increasing too much negative results. People should get aware of the power they have as every one of them is a consumer.

For example, to refuse the need of meat or the use of less meat helps to minimize the climate change as well as this behave sets a clearly spoken “NO” to the conventionally produced meat and the very bad mood the animals are treated in cause of the mass production. If the decision not to consume any meat might seem too hard to take, the individuum could make a better choice by buying meat from regional farms without mass production but with biological and ecological production.

As this small example shows, there is always a choice to take. And being embedded in a society which has the gift to live in the highest sphere of MASLOWs pyramide which is called “Self-actualization” it is a shame to simply regret to get aware of it.

The individuum has as a fact the possibility to express itself the way he or she likes to. Even the way of live is mostly free to be developed in a very individually way. But on the other hand the sense of responsibility should be developed as well and in a moderate form. Especially in rich (classes of) societies this case sometimes seems to the more unbalanced the richer the (class of) society is.

To create societies which can grow and live peacefully and efficiently together, one first step to get this sustainable development at stage is to start balancing the consumers' choices and their senses of responsibility.

“The question is not only how to live but the right way to live.” (Connolly & Prothero 2008)

This appeal is not only including the choice of consumption, but also the question how to deal with the responsibility, which was raised earlier in the text. It seems to be "just normal" that winners of the Globalization process - like the western states - have the right to rule the political instruments in relation to their own benefits. And at first watch the individual choice of consume or even lifestyle seems to have very little impact to the disproportionated circumstances the nations are embedded in the global system.

Of course, the "lonely man" can change or underline very little. But by networking and the use of modern communication systems these people can grow easily and fast up to a group. The modification as a group of society comes near and a kind of lobby will be generated soon. This consumption of information and the handling of it contains very much of power - even if it is subliminally laid. But imagine a big group of consumers which boycotts special products which do not confirm their code of (consumers') ethics? Can this group not easily be called a class, a special part of society soon? Does the discission to consume some products while boycotting others does not have impact to many spheres of their lifestyles? This IS in fact an ongoing process - and there are some others ongoing, too, which do not have positive impacts - but this development of consumers, who make their choices very deliberately, does also play a certain role in the educational way the individuals are connected to each other in this stage of evolution of human social systems where information is so easily and so very fast shared in between.

Reference List

  • Baumann, Zygmunt (1998). Globalization. The Human Consequences. Cambridge.
  • Beck, Ulrich (2000). What is Globalization? Cambridge.
  • Connolly, John & Prothero, Andrea (2008). Green Consumption. Life-politics, risk and Contradictions. Journal of Consumer Culture. Vol. 8 No. 1
  • Gane, Nicholas (2001). Chasing the ‘Runaway World’: The Politics of recent Globalization theories. Acta Sociologica. Vol. 44. No. 3
  • Habermas, Jürgen (2001). The Postnational Constellation. Political Essays. Cambridge.
  • Kwiek, Marek (2007). The Future ot the Welfare State and Democracy: the Effects of Globalization from a European Perspective. Published in: Czerwinska-Schupp, E. (2007). Values and Norms in the Age of Globalization. Frankfurt and New York
Creative Commons Author: Julia Wolter. This article was published under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. How to cite the article: Julia Wolter. (16. 05. 2022). Society and Globalization. VCSEWiki. Retrieved 09:11 16. 05. 2022) from: <>.