chapter  1
25 Pages

A world of difference

Social change is now proceeding so rapidly that if a social scientist had proposed as recently as 15 years ago to write a book about globalization they would have had to overcome a wall of stony and bemused incomprehension. But now, just as postmodernism was the concept of the 1980s, globalization may be the concept, the key idea by which we understand the transition of human society into the third millennium. Curiously ‘globalization’ is far less controversial than ‘postmodernism’ (see Smart 1993). With the exception of the ‘civilization analysts’ who we shall mention elsewhere in this book most social scientists seem to accept that such a process is under way. Such controversies as there are appear to surround the issue of whether old Marxist or functionalist theories can be adapted to explain globalization or whether we need to construct novel arguments. This may be because theories of social change have almost always implied the universalization of the processes that they explain. The concept has therefore found instant appeal across a range of intellectual interests. It remains for social science

to connect the concept with its own vital theoretical traditions. This short book seeks to contribute to this task.