Friday, September 9, 2011



Laleh Behbehanian & Michael Burawoy

When sociology began as a positivist enterprise in the 19th century the goal was to develop laws of society that were universal in character, that applied everywhere and through all time. Such were Durkheim’s theories of the division of labor, of suicide, and of religion; such were Weber’s categories, classification and ideal types; and such was Marx’s theory of capitalism. A global sociology, on the other hand, is the culminating phase of a reaction against universal sociology, introducing geographical space as central to the formation of knowledge. Global sociology directs attention to the particularity of many universal claims, but without dissolving everything into particularity, without abandoning the search for the universal.

We might say that global sociology is the third stage in the scaling up of sociological practice. In the first phase, sociology began as very much concerned with communities. In the US, the Chicago School was really about one city, Chicago, even if it claimed to be about the world. The second phase – and the chronology is not linear – was about the nation state. Here we get the classic studies of Weber and Durkheim, but also the research programs that drew on national data sets, focusing on national political systems and civil society of national dimensions. Again this unit of analysis was often not thematized but rather presented as the universal. The third phase is a global sociology, which while not discounting the local or the national, reaches for global forces, global connections, and global imaginations. The danger here is that global sociology once again becomes a universalization or extension of the experience of the North, in particular of the US. Global sociology, like community sociology and national sociology, must be continually on its guard against the particular masquerading as the universal.

While global sociology may be a novel enterprise in the Global North, it might be said that sociologists in the South have always had to take a global perspective, insofar as they have long been acutely aware of how their societies are shaped by forces emanating from the North, whether through forms of violent subjugation or the more subtle forms of hegemony. Paradoxically, Northern approaches – with their universalizing mission – have nonetheless often dominated Southern sociology, if only for the reason that leading sociologists in the South have largely been trained in the North. There is a profound imbalance, therefore, between, on the one hand, the sociologies of the North backed up by enormous academic capital and, on the other hand, emergent, indigenous sociologies of the South, bereft of material and intellectual resources. For the most part, this imbalance has led to a struggle on the terrain of Northern sociology rather than a frontal assault against its universalizing tendencies.

These are some of the dilemmas with which any global sociology must grapple, and which we sought to address in our experimental “Global Sociology Live!” course at the University of California, Berkeley. Most crucially, we aimed to include an internationally diverse array of scholars who contributed their varied perspectives to our discussions. Using video-conferencing and Skype we invited sociologists from different parts of the world – the Philippines, India, China, Colombia, South Africa, and Lebanon – as well as sociologists in the US studying different countries, to partake in a discussion of global capitalism and the counter-movements to which it has given rise. They each gave short 15 minute lectures, after which they engaged in a 45 minute discussion with our students, who themselves also came from a variety of different nations and backgrounds. Having studied and discussed the lecturer’s work prior to each lecture, the students were well prepared to ask informed questions and participate in a lively discussion. All of these sessions were recorded and posted on line at, making them available to global audiences with internet access. The lecturers are well-known sociologists who, while based in the South, were all trained in the North and speak fluent English. In this sense, we recognize that this project – rather than being counter-hegemonic – indeed took place on the contested terrain of global hegemony, seeking to develop a sociological understanding of global capitalism by exploring its instantiations in different parts of the world.

Sociology as the Standpoint of Civil Society?

What does it mean to develop a sociological understanding of global capitalism? In other words, what should we mean by global sociology? This requires answering the prior but difficult question: what is sociology? Here, too, there is the danger of false universalization, but we will have to take that risk. We have to start somewhere. We approach sociology as the study of the world from the standpoint of society, understood as civil society – the institutions, organizations, and movements that are neither part of the state nor the market. This does not mean that sociology only studies civil society and its components – family, parties, trade unions, churches, etc. -- but rather, that it studies the world from the standpoint of civil society. This immediately differentiates sociology from economics which studies the world from the standpoint of markets and from political science which studies the world from the standpoint of the state and political order. In a world where states and markets conspire to destroy society, sociology finds itself in a challenging position. It takes the standpoint of a civil society in which human survival is endangered by the destructiveness of unregulated markets and predatory states.

Now we should not think that civil society is a holistic romantic entity, defending all that is good! Civil society is a divided entity, traversed by all manner of exploitations, oppressions, and divisions that are likewise reflected in sociology. Just as civil society is Janus faced, supporting the state but also potentially challenging it, so the same can be said of sociology. Just as civil society overlaps with the economy and state, their borders often blurred, so too are the borders between sociology, economics and political science. And where civil society is primordial and gelatinous, so too is sociology. In countries where civil society does not exist, sociology cannot emerge except as an underground network, and where civil society is weak and fragmented, as in Russia today, so is sociology. Where civil society is bifurcated, as it was for example in Apartheid South Africa, sociology too is bifurcated. Moreover, in places where civil society is colonized by external forces, rather than an indigenous civil society, there is instead only a “mass society” of “bare life” comprised of individuals without formal organizational presence.

This vision of sociology as rooted in civil society derives from two theorists – Antonio Gramsci and Karl Polanyi – who observed the transition to advanced capitalism at the critical time of the1930s, and from the critical location of the semi-periphery. From this standpoint they developed grand vistas of the global order, acutely sensitive to its different parts. Gramsci saw civil society as providing new means for the dominant class of advanced capitalism to secure consent to its domination. However he did not examine where this civil society came from – it just happened to emerge toward the end of the 19th century in Europe, or what he called “the West.” Karl Polanyi, on the other hand, was more interested in its origins, arguing that civil society (he simply called it society) emerged as a reaction to the over-extension of the market, particularly the unregulated labor market. He largely focused on England, where industrial capitalism first took root and where reactions to the market took the form of cooperatives, trade unions, political parties, self-help organizations such as burial societies, as well as the factory and Chartist movements. Those reactions were built on the local organizing of society aspiring to the national level and seeking state regulation of the market. The next round of marketization, after World War I, was spurred on by open trade and exchange rates fixed by the gold standard. It led to the Great Depression and a subsequent counter-movement by states, impelled by the mobilization of civil society, to regulate their economies so as to insulate them from the ravages of international markets. State-society relations, as varied as the dictatorial regimes of Stalinism and Naziism and various forms of social democracy in Northern Europe or the New Deal in the US, set limits on the free play of markets. While Gramsci and Polanyi provide us with a conceptual framework for a sociology that studies the world from the standpoint of civil society, neither of them conceived of the possibility of a global civil society that could become the basis of a global sociology.

Global Capitalism as Neoliberalism

Polanyi did not expect another round of marketization, but this is just what happened in the 1970s with the rise of what we call neoliberalism. In this era state and economy collude in the promotion of a capitalism that involves, on the one hand, the deregulation of markets, privatization, and a broad offensive against labor, and on the other hand the expansion of markets to entities that were hitherto protected, in particular natural resources or the environment (water, air, land), associated with what David Harvey calls accumulation through dispossession.

This third wave of marketization, characterized in particular by the development of finance capital, has a new global character in that it operates outside the control of nation states. This surely is the lesson of the denouement of the 2008 financial crisis where, in contrast to the 1930s, the US state has done little to regulate finance capital. The power of finance capital makes its presence felt across nation states, but in different ways as David Harvey explains in his book, A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Thus in Latin America and Africa it manifests as the consequence of defaulting on loans which result in the imposition of harsh structural adjustment programs by the IMF. But markets play a very different role in post-Soviet Russia where they were introduced in an unregulated manner as compared to China where they are incubated under the direction of the party state. Despite these variations, third wave marketization assumes a global character. Thus, our project is to explore its global dynamics, as well as its various manifestations in specific local and national contexts in order to identify the possibilities of a global civil society.

Thus, we began our course with David Harvey who provided a framework for approaching neoliberalism as a global class project aimed at capital accumulation through forms of dispossession. We then examined how neoliberalism implants itself differently in different places. Michael Watts discussed the consequences of the oil boom in the Niger Delta which has devastated the surrounding communities and given rise to insurgent groups. The oil industry in Nigeria results in national political structures that are fragile and unstable as they are dependent on oil revenues rather than being based on the social ties of robust social institutions. Ananya Roy then talked about micro finance loans, designed as development from below. In the case of Bangladesh, we see an example of the success of these loans administered by the Grameen Bank, especially when considered in combination with other organizations that have provided social protection. But precisely because the “beneficiaries” are poor women who can be relied on to pay back their loans, finance capital reaps enormous profit. In other places, such as Egypt, micro-finance has been underwritten by USAID and shaped by geopolitical goals of stabilization, making it less effective as a strategy of economic development.

Whether it be the oil economy or micro-finance, global capitalism needs institutions that perform the regulatory function of the state at the international level. Walden Bello outlined the history and role of the IMF which orchestrates the world’s financial order, the World Bank which promotes specific development projects, and the World Trade Organizations which regulates international trade. These global institutions seek to prevent crises or contain them when they appear, but in doing so they impose austerity measures and harsh conditions on nations. In an apparent shift away from strict neoliberal policies, the World Bank has sought to develop strategies to reduce poverty and to support projects that are less environmentally destructive – yet in reality, market fundamentalism still holds sway. Arguing that these multilateral agencies cannot be reformed, Bello proposed that regions should develop their own regulatory instruments and follow the lead of China, for example, which makes loans that seem to impose fewer conditions upon borrowing nations.

Of course, no attempt to understand global capitalism today can omit China. Ching Kwan Lee talked to us about the ways that China does not conform so easily to the model of neoliberalism, if only because the Chinese state has been such a central actor. Yet in the final analysis she argued that cheap migrant labor and the hukou system that patrols it, has underpinned the staggering economic growth of China. Insofar as neoliberalism refers to an economy entirely dominated by the market, China is not neoliberal even if it has moved in that direction. But if, as Harvey argues, neoliberalism refers to an underlying project of strengthening and enriching a dominant class with the aid of the market, China indeed fits the neoliberal model.

The Global Logic of Nation States

Lee’s description of marketization in China brought the state to the forefront of our discussion. While it had become increasingly clear that states have in fact played a crucial role in imposing and managing the third wave of marketization, we then raised the question of whether states also sometimes operate according to their own logics of governance which can’t always be fully understood through the lens of neoliberalism or by reference to the economy. What are the logics of governance that characterize states, and particularly those seeking to extend their power beyond their national territorial boundaries?

Sari Hanafi described the manner in which the Israeli state attempts to govern the Palestinian population through what he calls “spacio-cide”, a strategy of rendering Palestinian spaces unlivable and reducing Palestinians to “bare life.” He argued that Israeli state practices are characterized by the imposition of a “state of exception” that enables it to manipulate legal frameworks in a manner that ultimately denies Palestinians any rights. Furthermore, he argued that the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions could be similarly understood as responses to being governed under “states of exception” which also reduced these populations to “bare life”. In these contexts the NGOs that compose civil society, largely funded and directed from abroad, often operate in line with state agendas. Hanafi, therefore, argued that any effective forms of resistance – as in the cases of Egypt and Tunisia – must come from outside civil society, through the informal connections and alliances of the subaltern.

Laleh Behbehanian shifted our focus from the Middle East to the counter-terrorism practices of the US state, which she argued invokes a “state of exception” that enables it to bypass the rule of law in its pursuit of “terrorists”. The US’ “War on Terror” is a global project that involves extensive cooperation and collusion with the intelligence and security agencies of many other states throughout the world. She suggested that we are witnessing the emergence of a global security apparatus, one in which other nations act as proxies for the US, enabling it to expand the power of its global reach. In contrast to Hanafi, Behbehanian emphasized that the only significant challenge launched against the US’ “War on Terror” has emerged from the institutions of civil society, through an international effort by journalists and NGOs concerned with human rights and civil liberty violations.

Counter-movements – Local, National, Global

Through these discussions, it became evident that insofar as sociology seeks to adopt the standpoint of civil society, it must be attentive to both the consequences of marketization in the age of global capital, as well as the increasingly global logics that shape the governance strategies of states. We then turned to the possibilities for counter-movements in the contemporary period, particularly those that might have global dimensions. Peter Evans began our discussion by presenting an optimistic panorama of what he calls “counter-hegemonic globalization.” He argued that neoliberalism inevitably fuels opposition by virtue of its destructive social and economic effects, and that generic globalization (the development of new means of communication and mobility) creates opportunities for globalizing this opposition by generating ties among subordinate classes in different nations. He argued that this would require a “braiding” together of broad social movements across national boundaries that would include labor, environmental, women’s and human rights organizations, and that these movements would have to operate at the multi-levels of the local, national and global scales. Evans characterized this approach as a form of Neo-Polanyian optimism. But has it any basis in reality? So we then turned to a number of scholars whose research focus on existing forms of social movements.

Edward Webster, for example, discussed the responses to down-sizing and new offensives against labor in the white goods industries in South Korea, South Africa and Australia. In the cases of South Korea and South Africa, rather than organized counter-movements, we find workers taking up defensive survival strategies and seeking new ways of sustaining themselves in the informal economy. Only in Orange, Australia were there signs of local organizing, involving collaboration with farmers to put pressure on the state to regulate capital and provide security for workers. While this is the sort of local national counter-movement found in reaction to the first and second waves of marketization, there were also some attempts to build alliances with workers from other white goods factories in the US and Sweden, but they came to naught. It turned out that different nodes in this potential labor chain had incompatible interests, based on their different relations to capital. When talking about the defense of global labor standards, Webster stressed the importance of nationally based labor struggles, which he viewed as the crucial foundation of horizontal transnational linkages that could become the basis for a global movement.

We then turned to Amita Baviskar who spoke about environmental movements in rural and urban India. She suggested that environmental struggles, over deforestation, the construction of dams, and land appropriations for special economic zones, have witnessed more success among the rural poor. In contrast, urbanbourgeois environmentalism” seeks to clean up the city by targeting and dispossessing migrant populations living in slums, and closing down enterprises that pollute the air, while at the same time pouring resources into road and bridge constructions to facilitate the movement of the greatest polluter of all – the automobile. In focusing on the class dynamics of these struggles, Baviskar shows how apparent counter-movements, such as environmentalism, may actually be the soft side of neoliberalism.

Cesar Rodriguez-Garavito then shared with us examples of struggles by indigenous communities in Latin America against the encroachment of global capital, and particularly extractive industries. He showed how these struggles are absorbed in a global socio-legal field that stretches from the communities themselves to include NGOs, the state, and global actors like transnational corporations, the United Nations and the ILO (International Labor Organization). While the terms of this global socio-legal field generally disadvantage indigenous communities, he argued that it nonetheless provided the best opportunity for these movements to contain, or at least delay, the devastation of their lands by attempting to hold the state and capital accountable to international legal conventions. Rather than searching for horizontal connections of a transnational “counter-hegemonic” character, Rodriguez pointed us to the absorption of actors in a vertical field where their struggles necessarily occur on the terms of a global hegemony.

Finally, Erik Wright proposed a different approach – one that looks for alternatives not in vertical global fields or horizontally linked transnational movements, but in emergent institutions that expand the power of civil society vis-à-vis the state and economy. Here the goal is to search for “real utopias” – actually existing institutions with a potential socialist or democratic character. He identified four such institutions: participatory budgeting, which advances the social vis-à-vis the local state; worker cooperatives, which advance the social vis-à-vis the economy; Wikipedia, which represents a direct collective self-organization of the economy; and unconditional basic income, which enables all manner of new forms of social empowerment. The project of “real utopias” is to take each case and examine its internal contradictions and conditions of possibility, and thus the possibilities for its dissemination. So for example, participatory budgeting, which initially emerges in Brazil, spreads throughout Latin America, and then comes to be discussed at the US World Social Forum, from where it is taken up by an Alderman in Chicago and becomes a model for other districts. The project of “real utopias” seeks to generalize locally based efforts, with the hope of making them globally accessible and thus nourishing a global imagination of alternative possibilities to the neoliberal order.

Global Sociology without a Global Civil Society?

In our search for a global civil society that might launch an effective counter-movement against the collusion of global capital and nation states, we found only fragments and failed attempts. At best, we can say that there may be an embryonic form of a global civil society that has yet to fully develop. But if sociology studies the world from the standpoint of civil society, and if there is in fact no real global civil society to speak of – then what does this mean for the possibility of a global sociology?

We concluded this course by identifying three possible approaches to developing a global sociology given the embryonic nature of global civil society. The first involves focusing on the forces, like global capital or states, which seek to fragment and contain civil society. Global sociology must identify those forces which obstruct the possibilities for developing a global civil society. A second approach would involve working with existing embryos, whether they be “real utopias” or ephemeral cross national alliances, and examining their conditions of existence, perpetuation, dissemination or destruction. Global sociology must work with the realities of a fragile civil society, seeking ways to develop and expand it. A final approach would involve sociology actively partaking in the construction of a global civil society. Rather than passively studying the world from the standpoint of civil society, the realities of the contemporary period necessitate a global sociology that actually contributes to building a global civil society. No longer standing outside of the world it studies, sociology develops a reflexivity about its role in constituting and shaping that world. Global sociology becomes a project of public sociology.

Hsueh Han Lu

The most original feature of this terror formation is its concatenation of biopower, the state of exception and the state of siege. Crucial to this concatenation is, once again, race.
—Achille Mbembe, Necropolitics

I am both the wound and knife, both the blow and the cheek, limbs and the rack, victim and the torturer. / I am my heart’s own vampire ...
—Charles Baudelaire, “L'Héautontimorouménos”

This short paper will examine preliminary materials for five theses situated in three conceptual categories : crisis, demos, terror/counter terror—categories visited with Professor Burawoy and Laleh Behbehanian throughout their seminar course, Global Sociology. While the structure of the paper builds from a somewhat unconventional scaffolding, it is bound by one larger claim: insofar that the “Janus faced”1 characterization of civil society is useful to differentiate civil society’s potential challenge (against the state and/or the economy) from its active collusion (with the state and/or the economy), the reverse is also true: the “Janus faced” characterization is reciprocally weak in its ability to conceptualize the potential challenge civil society qua civil society mounts as an already active collusion. That is to say, the terrain of potentially dynamic social, cultural, and political conflict provided by civil society is fundamental for the state and economy’s smooth reproduction—such potential conflict is ceremonial.2 Not a “blurring at its edges” with the modern state and economy, but instead a relationship of co-animating interdependence.3

As Burawoy and Behbehanian acknowledge in "Global Sociology: Reflections on an Experimental Course": "In our search for a global civil society that might launch an effective counter-movement against the collusion of global capital and nation states, we found only fragments and failed attempts.” Perhaps then, we do not situate ourselves in—that is to say, we do not invest our optimism into or attempt to build as sociologists4—a fugitive global civil society; but instead look towards those spaces that appear to reproduce and proliferate as quickly as neoliberal capital: fragmented spaces of bare life—precisely those bits of space and territory “comprised of individuals without formal organizational presence”5 as our trench and vantage point. This paper essentially attempts to spatialize and expand this claim through the above mentioned conceptual categories. The challenges to this claim are immediate: looking at “bare life” for instance from the point of view of civil society as we have in our seminar, it appears “inchoate, disorderly, arbitrary”6— indeed, these are words we have used to define "bare life" itself. And so—taking a cue from sociologist Saskia Sassen’s short article "The World’s Third Spaces"—this paper attempts to draw out a view from a space that is neither global nor national, but partial, fragmented, bare.

1.1 Crisis: Surplus Populations: Dispossession and War

Our first, most basic thesis is one in which we’ve referenced time and again throughout the course, restated here: (1.1) that capital rallies (the production and regulation of) surplus populations—that is to say, the result of (in Harvey’s words) “accumulation by dispossession” or (in Marx’s words) “primitive accumulation”—in short, the main event of a globalizing/expanding capitalism or, in general, “the economy”.

For instance we might begin by remembering that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 19947 was a collaboration between actors within the economy and the territorialized violence of the nation state (in NAFTA’s case the United States, Canada and Mexico). Perhaps in variance to Marx, we haven’t developed a position where the state is purely superstructural—conceivably this is the case in its initial emergence (and it is always scarred deeply by this initial emergence). But instead it’s a tricky position we have inhabited throughout the semester: we do not say that the state is an empty vessel within which either capital or civil society imposes itself—this position would appear to turn a blind eye to the question of the historical failure of national campaigns (anticolonial, socialist, or otherwise) and the reality of transnational capital—but we say instead that the state has its own logic, its own desire for reproduction and relevance in governance.

How then to understand NAFTA? On the one hand, for the economy, it is the smoothing of the space in which capital flows: the aligning of legitimated violence across territories to ensure the right of finance capital and commodities to move with ease; an alignment of violence to ensure the right to purchase that most useful commodity; a form of life as the object of labor power and to turn that object of labor power into further capital and further objects. Marx liked to say this was a congealing of life into dead capital and dead objects. Dead objects that flow from one territory to another. And while the de jure right of forms of life to do the same— that is to say, to follow those objects (and to follow not as labor power, but precisely as forms of life)—are denied. So on the other hand, in fact, the nation state mounts a “War on the Border” against these dispossessed populations. This war, like any war, is both a war of position and a war of maneuver. It uses many tactics: the state’s prison system8 bolstered by new Federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities; federal ICE forces posted along the US-Mexican borderlands; Norteño-Sureño regulation throughout California; the camp biopolitics of body regulation through documentation/non-documentation; docile service labor in the cities and docile farm labor in the countryside; the reemergence of Bracero-era narratives about misogynistic, irreparably violent, disease-carrying hordes; the regulation of remittances; the banning and defunding of Spanish language courses and Ethnic Studies in schools and universities; the emergence of white militias (the “Minute Men”) whose sporadic, fragmented, extra-state racialized violences serve to make the state’s apparatus of racialized violence appear legalistic and procedural—that is to say, neutral; ad nauseam. And so while capital produces surplus populations, it is—in the main—the state’s war that produces racialized surplus populations. This of course is not to imply that civil society could some how end racialization through encounters with the state and legal challenges—civil society and the state in fact participate in governance together, a claim which will be explored in the next section. It is instead to say that capital’s production of surplus populations is immediately racialized with the regulation of race war being the primary mechanism of the state’s “War on the Border.”

2.1 Demos: The Space of Governance and Difference

Democracy designates both the form through which power is legitimated and the manner in which it is exercised.
—Giorgio Agamben, Democracy in What State?

That a population is first dispossessed and then barred from a means of flourishing is the real “double movement” of capital and governance—this is a condition we have lamented throughout our course. The metaphor we might allow ourselves is one of distance—that is to say, a spatialized governance. Our second thesis claims simply (2.1) that the gap of dispossession between forms of life and objects is filled; the process/apparatus of maintaining and managing the exclusions of these populations from control over means to survive/flourish is called “politics” or “governance”—a terrain which has in modern history been dominated by a collaborative assemblage of the “nation state” and “civil society.” Further, this assemblage is situated within the distance between the surplus population and its means of flourishing; governance is an assemblage that functions as a moving barricade, a blockage, “politics”—and, in our case, democracy.

2.2 Demos: Concealment and Civil Society

Hence the turn to a universalistic rhetoric of human rights, dignity, sustainable ecological practices, environmental rights, and the like, as the basis for a unified oppositional politics.
—David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism

The distance between a surplus population and its means of flourishing differ in scale population by population—a distance which is then made into a redistributive economy of identities, the apparatus of difference-making, the broad and coarse fragmentation of race, and the fine fragmentation of individuation—identities and subjectivities through which civil society mobilizes (the citizen, the consumer, the person of color, the woman, etc.) and which the state imbues rights (that the individuated subject is a rights bearing individual, and in rarer moments—typically in reparation for a defined event of harm—a member of a class which bears rights). Our third thesis claims (2.2) that these disparities of distance are produced as externalities (to capital’s initial and main event of dispossession) that are then cycled through subjects. It’s at this moment that the apparatus of governance becomes more than a barricade, it penetrates the demos, it vitalizes and constitutes the population: while capital produces dispossession—that is to say, the initial distance—governance produces various disparities of dispossession (through a “micro-physics” of power, discipline, and control). What democratic governance produces and subsequently conceals is precisely these disparities of distance. To manage this, a rights discourse/democracy (a discipline/control deployed by the state certainly but also by civil society within its social movements9) appear to level differences between individuals— the difference for instance between racialized subjects. Which is to say that while we may all be dispossessed of the means of production vis-a-vis capital, some are re-enfranchised as consumptive subjects vis-a-vis governance. Just as extra-state militias make the state appear reasonable and neutral, race disparities are deployed precisely in order for the state and civil society to remedy.

And this compulsion to conceal partially succeeds: it is no longer, say, France 1848, where the symbol of nascent bourgeois democracy is the swift, painless leveling of the guillotine— partially because we do not know which class to guillotine. “Dispossession,” Harvey writes, “is fragmented and particular,” (178); rights, on the other hand, are levelers and total. When Harvey says a “unified oppositional politics,” he is looking for a unified oppositional subjectivity—and our lamentation for the fugitive “countermovement” is still for this antagonistic subjectivity. What this allows us to do—perhaps—is to consider that if difference is produced as an externality to the “double movement” of capital and the state, and if it is then surely concealed by the state and civil society, then perhaps thinking through the abolition of the state and civil society is just as tenable and meaningful as is thinking through the abolition of capital—especially in those spaces where the productive factory floor is largely removed.10

3.1 Terror and Counter Terror: Bare Life and State Deterritorialization

“Terrorism” retains part of the original double meaning of “territory,” in that it refers not only to violence, but to space too.
—Mark Neocleous, "Off the Map: On Violence and Cartography"

If our third thesis argues that governance is a collusion between civil society and the state to produce and conceal difference, our fourth thesis regards a liberatory countermovement’s strategy and tactic—and this is in part a response to Erik Olin Wright’s ambivalence towards the “ruptural” and deference to the “symbiotic”—which is to simply say (3.1) that the tactics and strategies of “countermovements” are determined by to what extent the population (believes it) is included in / excluded from the negotiation of governance or “politics.” So, for instance, Sari Hanafi writes:

"The uprooted body (bare life) it [spaciocide] creates is a body 'ready to blow.' The deracinated body is a subject without relationship to territory; it is a body in orbit, a satellite, the body becomes an uncontrollable and unsupervised object bound to exercise its revenge. Satellites are the objects 'in need' of control, but are difficult to control, and the result is 'ground zero(s),' be it the work of individual terrorists (World Trade Center), or state terrorism (Falujah or Jenin Refugee Camp); and ... we know Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine are interconnected in American and the Muslim cognitive geography."11

Of particular interest is Hanafi’s parenthetical mention of two sites: the Jenin Refugee Camp and Falujah. First, Jenin Refugee Camp is under the administration of the Palestine Authority—not a sovereign state but an administrative entity similar to a county government. Its borders, airspace, and, importantly, trade are controlled in fact by the Israeli state. Second, when referencing Falujah, Hanafi cites the 2005 Falujah Massacre during which the US and UK indiscriminately deployed white phosphorous bombs into civilian areas. So what interests us here is that while Hanafi makes the claim that the deterritorialized body is a “body in orbit,” a body “ready to blow,” here he also—without being explicit—makes the claim that a deterritorialized state is a state in orbit, a state ready to blow. It’s an argument worth bearing out: Hanafi is clear in that the Israeli state manages its population through biopolitics12 (that of admitting into “political life” one fragment of the population and reducing other fragments of the population to various states of “bare life”13—that is to say, through this act of politics the state produces terror in those reduced to bare life:

“Bio-politics renders possible the spaciocide and spaciocide creates deterritorialized bodies, for example, Palestinians without a place in this territory or refugees literally without land. Spaciocide leaves a body without space. This body, then, regains its subjectivity by blowing him or herself up together with an enemy who is also biologically and ethnically classified.”14

And again, certainly this is true: where exclusion from politics is total, the biological body is the only means by which one can struggle—“bare life”—perhaps, then, “suicide bombing” in Israel, or self immolation in Tunisia, or collective suicide by U’wa in Colombia or Apple/Foxconn factory workers in China. But here Hanafi also implies that a deterritorialized state is a state without space, and must reassume its agency through self-abolition. This is to say that two figures occur: first the political figure—the proceduralist, legal, ostensibly leveling but actually differentiating act of politics that produces terror in those reduced to bare life; and second the figure of state-terror itself, originating from the deterritorialized state—which itself produces more bare life, and thus more bodies without space. Thus there is a man from Leeds named Shezad Tanweer—who in 2005 weaponizes and detonates himself (killing seven others) on a London Underground train leaving Liverpool Street Station—and in the video communiqué he releases postmortem he directly cites the Falujah Massacre earlier in the year.15 This is to repose the possibility that Laleh Behbehanian opens for us, she:

"conceptualizes 'terrorism' as a new statist 'regime of truth,' one that produces the 'truth' of 'terror' by naming it as such. The emergence of terror as a new regime of truth involves two simultaneous developments: the carving out of a new field of state intervention referred to as 'counterterrorism' and the constitution of a new disciplinary subject known as the 'terrorist.'"16

So for Behbehanian the state makes itself relevant to a population (i.e. manages, regulates bodies and the relationships between them) by deploying “counter terrorism”—a “regime of truth” which itself produces the terrorist subject (and thus, eventually, individual subjectivity). The state through “counter terrorism” produces a subject it—and conveniently, only it—can “solve.” Like Hanafi, Behbehanian references Foucault to allow us to do something Harvey (for instance) could not allow us to do: by thinking precisely through the practice of domination and fragmentation as a mechanism of state reconsolidation in the-face-of/in-collaboration-with (either works here, so well that the difference ceases to matter) capitalist globalization, we see a deterritorializing of state power. A global “legitimate violence” without a given territory. This is the way the state makes itself relevant again. If civil society’s response to economic globalization is (was) a barely visible “movement of movements,” an “anti-globalization” movement in the 1990s and early 2000s, then the state’s response is deterritorialization. Thirty years of an attempted “exit” from the US state’s 1970s crisis in governance gives us a hyper “counter terrorism” in 2001.

3.2 Terror and Counter Terror: In Democracy, Guillotines for Everyone

This is modern democracy’s strength and, at the same time, its inner contradiction: modern democracy does not abolish sacred life but rather shatters it and disseminates it into every individual body, making it into what is at stake in political conflict.
—Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer.

Just as the production of bare life has two figures (one of which is state deterritorialization), state deterritorialization itself has two figures at work: first and more obviously, deterritorialization implies the state transcends its physical borders “just as” capitalist firms do; but, secondly, the state also escalates its production and management of subjectivities—that is to say, the state transcends past the border of the physical human body, and past, too, the “soul,” and focuses heavily on the relationships, connections, and networking between bodies (and this parallels Foucault’s reading of the history of state discipline in Discipline and Punish). We can perhaps see a response to this second figure—the state's management of connections and networks—in civil society via horizontal, rhizomatic network-based social movement organizing. Our fifth thesis argues (3.2) that the individuated, biological body is the material border of governance/capital’s primitive accumulation (value through identity production, governance through legal subjectivity, biopolitics, etc.)—a border that once transcended, power finds as its object relationships between bodies. Counter-terror is the management and production of these relationships on behalf of a state form that is both attempting to “make itself relevant” to a globalizing capital, but is also an attempt to remain on its own plane of coherence: as Behbehanian makes clear,17 the “War on Terror” is a tactical extension of the “War on the Border,” the “War on Drugs,” and the “War on Gangs.” And in so far that these prior wars produce and manage race, the “war on terror” is an act of race-production and management—that is to say, race war—in an ostensibly politically post-racial US. Counter terror appears precisely because of the first thesis (1.1); in the past three decades of producing surplus populations, race anxiety is high. Behbehanian charts for instance the National Entry-Exit Registration Scheme program whereby nearly 300,000 US residents were coercively registered, and 13,000 of whom were deported. To a degree, we are tongue tied— not into silence, but over our own words. We stutter and fumble and are dissatisfied when looking for and attempting to describe a “global civil society” precisely because democracy as it turns out is not the raising of human life to the divine—it is not the secularizing force that reminds us the basic point of the Young Hegelian, Ludwig Feuerbach: the sacred is an alienated projection of our own power. Global sociology’s divine, global force—even clutching our lists of “real utopias” and models of democratic and “ethical” capitalism—(in this pithy way) is still missing. With democracy, dispossession of the divine and global. Agamben writes:

"And the root of modern democracy’s secret biopolitical calling lies here: he who will appear later as the bearer of rights and, according to a curious oxymoron, as the new sovereign subject (subiectus superaneus, in other words, what is below and, at the same time, most elevated) can only be constituted as such through the repetition of the sovereign exception and the isolation of corpus, bare life, in himself. If it is true that law needs a body in order to be in force, and if one can speak, in this sense, of 'law’s desire to have a body,' democracy responds to this desire by compelling law to assume the care of this body."18

We do not solve this problem: that the production (and management) of race relations is a coarse fragmentation, the atomizing oblivion of individual bodies. Democracy in fact tells us that the sacred is political life itself, the remaining populations are congealed, dead objects, some of whom are deterritorialized19 (as capital is, as the state is) and animated in various stages of bare life—a death necessary for governance. In democracy, the political subject is sacred yet earnestly prostrates, submits, and consents to the sovereign power of the state (and this is ostensibly some kind of delegating of sovereignty, a public ceremony of transfer)—the political subject is deeply distant, fragmented, and removed from wielding sovereign power precisely by being animated by that power. There is a move (that both Sari Hanafi and Michel Foucault highlight) by sovereign power away from the territory (deterritorializing) and to the population, to the body. The social war of the 21st century is democratic in this way—producing and reproducing fragmentary life horizontally—each body a partial wound; each body a partial knife.

4.1 Theses

1.1 That capital rallies (the production and regulation of) surplus populations—that is to say, the result of (in Harvey’s words) “accumulation by dispossession” or (in Marx’s words) “primitive accumulation”—in short, the main event of a globalizing/expanding capitalism or, in general, “the economy.”

2.1 That the gap of dispossession between forms of life and objects is filled; the process/apparatus of maintaining and managing the exclusions of these populations from control over means to survive/flourish is called “politics” or “governance”—a terrain that has in modern history been dominated by a collaborative assemblage of the “nation state” and “civil society”;

2.2 That these disparities of distance are produced as externalities (to capital’s initial and main event of dispossession) that are then cycled through subjects;

3.1 That the tactics and strategies of “countermovements” are determined by to what extent the population (believes it) is included in/excluded from the negotiation of governance or “politics”;

3.2 That the individuated, biological body is the material border of governance/capital’s primitive accumulation (value through identity production, governance through legal subjectivity, biopolitics, etc.)—a border that once transcended, power finds as its object relationships between bodies.


1. Burawoy, Michael and Laleh Behbehanian, “Global Sociology: Reflections on an Experimental Course.” Accessed September 2, 2011.

2. The cautious optimism we might invest into the liberatory potential of civil society is an optimism invested into democracy itself—which then is a claim about citizenship and the nation state, or for Negri-ists among us (who also claim the nation state is obsolete) it is a claim about the liberatory (regulatory) potential of larger statist formations like the European Union or perhaps the United Nations. This optimism describes a reproductive mechanism like civil society as an innocuous “blurring” with the forces of the state and the economy.

3. This is not to claim that social movements self-consciously embedded in civil society have not ever increased a “human flourishing” taken in the very general—indeed, the flourishing of individual rights vis-a-vis the state and protected by the state has certainly occurred in the history of the modern nation state. And, indeed, the state has in the past responded in part to civil society and in part to its own threatened reproduction and growth by mounting incursions and regulations onto the economy. But it is instead to ask if—given the increasing weightlessness of present-day capital—the nature of governance, the nation state and of civil society have not been deeply scarred and altered by this 1970s “unexpected round of marketization."

4. These are among Burawoy and Behbehanian’s three concluding prescriptions in "Global Sociology: Reflections on an Experimental Course."

5. Burawoy and Behbehanian, ibid.

6. These are the words in which sociologist Saskia Sassen uses to describe what she calls the “new realities” of “proliferation of partial, often highly specialised, global assemblages of bits of territory, authority and rights” seen from the point of view of the nation state. Sassen, Saskia. "The World’s Third Spaces." Accessed September 3, 2011.

7. Being children of the US “counter globalization” movement, NAFTA holds a special place in our hearts.

8. By “governance,” as we explore in thesis 2.1, we mean a collaborative assemblage of the state and civil society.

9. This is to say that whatever categorical identity is mobilized by a social movement to achieve state-recognition within a rights-discourse (that is to say, state-recognized victimhood) seeks to conceal differences (of distance from “power”) between its membership. Thus, the boundless, never-ending quality of “intersectional politics” within New Left movements that examine “intersecting oppressions”—and so the joke of “Oppression Olympics” or “You and I may be both Asian in the US but I am poor and thus you must ___”. Which is to say that once “difference” is summoned, a “___” is also summoned (the double movement of producing and concealing), and that empty space represents democracy, the mechanism of leveling difference, the reparation. In fact this will never be satisfactory to either the wealthier Asian or the poorer Asian because they are dissatisfactory categorical identities to begin with. They have only succeeded in dissecting and divvying power between already vanquished, powerless subjectivities.

10. See Jasper Bernes” “The Double Barricade and the Glass Floor” in Reclamations Journal, 1:2. Accessed May 5, 2011. Bernes writes on the “hidden abode of production”: “The project of the “seizure of the means of production” finds itself blocked or faced with the absurd prospect of collectivizing Wal-Mart or Apple, workplaces so penetrated to their very core by the commodity-form that they solicit nothing less than total destruction or total transformation.” Walter Benjamin also may be of some help here, he creates a latent potential for liberatory violence within his language of sovereignty. Through the breaking of the state’s laws in daily practice against disciplines and control, one at least begins to merely approach imagining the abolition of state/sovereign power—a power that by essence is within the unapproachable scale of “society” or “history.” In “Critique of Violence” in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, (New York: Schocken Press, 1986), 299, Benjamin writes: “The critique of violence is the philosophy of its history—the “philosophy” of this history, because only the idea of its development makes possible a critical, discriminating, and decisive approach to its temporal data. A gaze directed only at what is close at hand can at most perceive a dialectical rising and falling in the lawmaking and law-preserving formations of violence. The law governing their oscillation rests on the circumstance that all law-preserving violence, in its duration, indirectly weakens the lawmaking violence represented by it, through the suppression of hostile counterviolence. This lasts until either new forces or those earlier suppressed triumph over the hitherto lawmaking violence and thus found a new law, destined in its turn to decay. On the breaking of this cycle maintained by mythical forms of law, on the suspension of law with all the forces on which it depends as they depend on it, finally therefore on the abolition of state power, a new historical epoch is founded. If the rule of myth is broken occasionally in the present age, the coming age is not so unimaginably remote that an attack on law is altogether futile.”

11. Sari Hanafi, “Spaciocide: Colonial Politics, Invisibility and Rezoning in Palestinian Territory.” Contemporary Arab Affairs, 2:1 (2009): 118-119.

12. Hanafi, “Spaciocide,” 114: “The sovereign power according to Agamben routinely distinguishes between those who are to be admitted to 'political life' and those who are to be excluded as the mute bearers of 'bare life.' It is a process of categorizing people and bodies in order to manage, control and keep them under surveillance and reducing them to a “bare life,” life which refers to the body’s mere 'vegetative' being, separated from the particular qualities, the social, political and historical attributes that constitute individual subjectivity. This is a new form of power which enables the colonial power to manage bodies according to colonial and humanitarian categories.”

13. Agamben writes in Homo Sacer (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press), 73: “This is modern democracy’s strength and, at the same time, its inner contradiction: modern democracy does not abolish sacred life but rather shatters it and disseminates it into every individual body, making it into what is at stake in political conflict.”

14. Hanafi, “Spaciocide,” 118.

15. For excerpts from a transcript of the communiqué, see BBC News, “7/7 Pair visited al-Qaeda Camp.” Accessed May 9, 2011.

16. Emphasis original. Laleh Behbehanian, “Logics of Pre-Emption: The Tactics of US Counterterrorism,” (draft: 2011), 6.

17. Behbehanian draws tactical links across these wars.

18. Agamben, Homo Sacer, 73.

19. Behbehanian, “Logics of Pre-emption,” (27): “Haggerty and Ericson argue that contemporary surveillance operates by 'abstracting human bodies from their territorial settings and separating them into a series of discrete flows.'”


Agamben, Giorgio. 1998. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Agamben, Giorgio. 2011. “Introductory Note to the Concept of Democracy” in Democracy in What State? edited by Amy Allen: 1-5. New York: Columbia University Press.

Baudelaire, Charles. 2008. “L'Héautontimorouménos” in Les Fleurs du Mal. New York: Oxford University Press USA.

Behbehanian, Laleh. 2011“Logics of Pre-Emption: The Tactics of US Counterterrorism” (draft).

Benjamin, Walter. 1986. “Critique of Violence” in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings. New York: Schocken Press.

Bernes, Jasper. 2010. “The Double Barricade and the Glass Floor.” Reclamations Journal 1(2). Accessed May 5, 2011.

Burawoy, Michael and Laleh Behbehanian. 2011. “Global Sociology: Reflections on an Experimental Course.” Accessed September 2, 2011.

British Broadcasting Corporation. “7/7 Pair visited al-Qaeda Camp.” Accessed May 9, 2011.

Foucault, Michel. 2003. “Society Must be Defended” in Lectures at the College de France. New York: Picador.

Foucault, Michel. 1995. Discipline and Punish. New York: Vintage Press.

Hanafi, Sari. 2009. “Spaciocide: Colonial Politics, Invisibility and Rezoning in Palestinian Territory.” Contemporary Arab Affairs 2(1):106-121.

Harvey, David. 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mbembe, Achille. 2003. “Necropolitics.” Public Culture 15 (1):11-40.

Neocleous, Mark. 2003. “Off the Map: On Violence and Cartography.” European Journal of Social Theory 6(4):409-425.

Sassen, Saskia. "The World’s Third Spaces." Accessed September 3, 2011.

Aaron Benavidez

For Behbehanian and Burawoy, the inauguration of a new-fangled global sociology first requires a definition of sociology. In contrast to economics (which studies the market) and political science (which studies the state), they define sociology as the study from “the standpoint of civil society” (Burawoy 2010:25). Global sociology would then study “a global civil society, knitting together communities, organizations and movements across national boundaries” (Burawoy 2010:25). Like its father, sociology proper, global sociology would ultimately study global political economy and global states to determine their effects on the possibility and vitality of a civil society with world-wide influence. In short, Behbehaninan and Burawoy propose a scheme for a global sociology that catapults Gramsci’s conceptual framework from a national Italian stage to a global theatre.

Who’s Afraid of Civil Society?

As significant and productive as a Gramscian framework may be for inspiring contestation from, within, and between institutions, where a war of position finds articulation and negotiation, Bebehanian and Burawoy’s confident reliance on Gramsci to address contemporary transnational processes and global social inequalities comes with a few problems that deserve some comment here.

First, Behbehanian and Burawoy’s definition of global sociology, relying on a Gramscian framework, is not formulated from an on-the-ground empirical imperative but through a theoretical, rhetorical, and reductionist gesture. Behbehanian and Burawoy reduce global sociology into two parts: sociology and global. Sociology is treated as the key linguistic foundation—a fundamental noun that takes as its constitution a definition of sociology fashioned from the discipline’s traditional inclination to halt a “sociological imagination” at state borders. This sociology that sees civil society as the supreme object of analysis, to be clear, issues from a methodological nationalism—which “assumes that the nation, state and society are the ‘natural’ social and political forms of the modern world”—that characterized Gramsci's work (Beck 10-11). What is more, the global in Bebehanian and Burawoy’s formulation simply denotes something beyond the nation-state. As a pure and stand-alone adjective, the global does not transform sociology—a stalwart and defensible noun. The global is simply a blown-up view from a standpoint of a civil society.

Second, the formulation of global sociology as requiring a world-scale civil society presupposes that a healthy society needs a set of global institutions and congealed social movements. This advancement of a global civil society—including, particularly, various NGOs from regions with more material means—necessitates a more critical discussion of the faults and failures of existing global civil society organizations in alleviating social inequalities and delivering various resources and community needs. Given the anthropological critique of the “mana from heaven” delivered by transnational civil society organizations, we cannot simply assert that global organizations always, only benevolently respond to globalized market and coercive state forces without being muscularly critical. Even more, the preference for a civil society as the object of analysis par excellence for the entire subfield of global sociology is alarmingly dissatisfying given that some communities do not have vibrant or even extant global or local civil societies. How does one study the Thabo Mbeki settlement outside central Johannesburg, where global civil society is thin, while still studying how transnational economic forces have determined a precarious community? Do we simply study the absence or impossibility of a global civil society and, thereby, assume that a blown-up civil society (likely funded by Western transnational organizations) is the panacea for global-turned-local troubles?

Third, the formulation of a global sociology from the standpoint of a global civil society potentially undercuts many feminist projects. Since sociologists rarely view the domestic sphere as part of the public sphere (despite the blurring of the public and private distinction by feminist scholars and sociologists of the family), the Gramsci-inspired definition of sociology harbors the insidious exclusion of the sociology of everyday life proposed by scholars like Dorothy Smith. Furthermore, since “girls and women around the world, especially in the Third World/South … bear the brunt of globalization,” a global sociology that turns its analytical gaze away from production and reproduction in the home (or with effects found most starkly in the home) effaces the communities most vulnerable to the onslaught of global economic restructuring (Mohanty 2002:514). Constructing a global sociology that does not explicitly extend feminist lessons dangerously brings us close to reproducing the masculinist assumption that the most significant global transformations and their egregious impacts occur outside the domestic sphere. To avoid this problematic and empirically inaccurate assumption, which so sharply excludes labor and life in the home, we must continue the search for a more flexible global sociology that either expands the meaning of “public” or explicitly incorporates the domestic sphere in an analysis of civil society.

A Global Sociology Revisited

A global sociology must respond to contemporary—not early 20th Century—global social problems in order to examine and find solutions to deleterious global forces. Ulrich Beck provides a robust and thick account of our world-wide current crises:

"Consider the following: global free trade and financializaton, corporate deterritorializatoon and transnationalized production, globalized labor use, competition and class conflicts, globalized policy consulting and formulation (coerced by the IMF, etc.), internet communication and cyberspace, globally orchestrated bioscientific manipulation of life forms (gradually including human bodies), global risks of all kinds (financial crisis, terrorism, AIDS, swine flu, SARS), transnational demographic realignments (the migration of labor, spouses, and children), cosmopolitized arts and entertainments, and, last but not least, globally financed and managed regional wars" (Beck 2010:11).

While Beck offers a significant list, he leaves out climate change—another global transformation with significant transnational effects. Nevertheless, his sundry and significant enumeration offers an important cornucopia of empirically based transformations and crises. These are the conditions and the accompanying effects about which a global sociology can formulate its object of analysis and its definition.

Given Beck’s global tableau of contemporary social problems, a newly minted global sociology should invert the reductionist relationship in Behbehanian and Burawoy’s definition. Rather than understand the noun, sociology, as fundamental while viewing the global as an adjective that simply attaches to the noun by enlarging its scope, a new definition of global sociology would privilege the global—the adjective as the transforming term. In other words, the global determines sociology rather than the sociology determining the global. This last point likely appears to be a rhetorical move to scholars skeptical of discourse and language, but the privileging of the global actually corresponds with the empirical list of contemporary problems that Beck enumerates. The importance of the adjective issues from concrete, on-the-ground social processes and problems rather than from a discursive ether or (even worse) from an infatuation with mere word play.

We would be well served to correct Behbehanian and Burawoy’s definition and privilege the following definition of global sociology: a subfield of the discipline that examines global flows and new global imaginings. This alternative conceptualization of global sociology can embrace the analysis of a global civil society since transnational actors working with and within global institutions are not outside various global flows—be they financial, discursive, material, symbolic, socio-biological, or corporeal. This definition of global sociology also offers room for other forms of global analysis that resist or cannot be cartographically represented on a map—what I call global imaginings. An analysis that seeks to unearth global imaginings invites and opens new possibilities for conceptualizing global processes that cannot be easily represented by traditional global maps (for instance, the virtual world of digital communications or the fictitious world of financialization). These global imaginings will require new representations that can only be delineated by reference to more complex spatial depictions of global processes and flows.

In Search of a Global Methodology

Therefore, global flows that may or may not be represented on a map would be the object of analysis for global sociology. Global sociology would study contemporary crises and their effects—be they in civil society or in other social fields or spaces. Given that global sociology would pursue transnational social currents and other global imaginings, the subfield will require a new methodology for complimenting and realizing these global inquiries. Already, contemporary scholars—who have studied global flows and problems with worldwide significance—have offered promising alternatives. They have inspired these three methodological tools for conducting and realizing a global sociology, particularly a transnational or metanational global sociology that searches for global flows and, thereby, moves beyond the clunky, 1950s international approach that simply compares nations or clusters of nations as a way of examining the global.

First, a global sociology presupposes a geographical sociologist—a scholar who is familiar with not only the importance of space but also the terms and tools already inaugurated and fostered by the discipline of geography. Second, since globalized political economy involves powerful clusters of social actors “from above” who are often linked to powerful institutions like the IMF and World Bank, a global sociology that studies political economy would need to have a rigorous and unambiguous approach to “studying up,” a rare, under-practiced, and under-discussed research strategy within the discipline. Third, an empirically rich global sociology that can promptly produce knowledge to address social inequalities will need to relinquish the tacit cult of individuality that characterizes sociology and academia more generally. A global sociology will necessitates a methodological practice involving collaborative network of multiple scholars who come from different world regions and who study the same object of analysis with the same set of research questions and in multiple geographical sites.

First, given that the subfield seeks to map global flows and other configurations of global processes, global sociology calls for a familiarity with the tools of cultural geography including but not limited to rich concepts like sites and situations, cultural landscapes, distribution, space-time compression, and the multiple typologies of diffusion. Even more, a global sociology will require not just a sociological imagination but also a geographical imagination that can connect local empirical findings to larger global flows and forces. Sari Hanafi has already offered a viable example of rethinking the relationship between space and social inequality. In “Spacio-cide: colonial politics, invisibility, and rezoning in Palestinian territory,” Hanafi argues that Israel is pursing a spacio-cidal project. Rather than directly exterminating a population, Israel’s policy targets Palestinian lands to make them uninhabitable—thereby producing conditions for a “bare life” that in the final hour encourages the “voluntary” removal of the Palestinian population (Hanafi 2009:107). He applies state governmentality (a term that analytically assembles “all the mechanisms and techniques that are used by the state to exercise ‘government’”) and states of exception (which refers to the power states exercise not just to delimit social order but to suspend that order for particular population at particular times) to highlight the mechanisms by which Israel renders a space so uninhabitable that it becomes a push factor that simultaneously obscures the coercion that precipitates migration in the first place (Hanafi 2010:152). Hanafi demonstrates the importance of both social and physical space to a promising global sociology.

Second, sociologists have various methodological tools for “studying down” or researching marginalized and vulnerable populations. However, sociology as a discipline has not comprehensively considered the position of the researcher when “studying up” or researching extraordinarily powerful individuals, organization, and institutions that have Goliathian influence in mobilizing or hindering global flows. While some researchers speak of “going stealth” to “capture data,” a global sociology will need many more techniques and positions for studying the powerful. Ananya Roy and Walden Bello present two possibilities. A self-professed “double agent,” Roy interviewed “those professionals who research and manage poverty—people like myself” in Poverty Capital (Roy 2010:38) Aiming “to uncover the dynamics of poverty capital and to chart the historical moment that is millennial development,” Roy’s research demonstrates a way to “study across” or “study laterally” (Roy 2010:40, 34). In describing her position in the field, Roy offers that she researched from: “the impossible space between the hubris of benevolence and the paralysis of cynicism … a space marked by doubleness: by both complicities and subversions, by the familiar and the strange” (Roy 2010:40). While some critics might argue that Roy’s position in the field means that she must play both sides of the fence, Roy offers one option for studying groups with extraordinary decision-making influence. Bello similarly provides an orientation for studying powerful groups and institutions. Rather than working as a double agent, Bello conducts research as a strident critic. Bello’s articles take the IMF and World Bank to task, ardently sounding the death knell of their demise (Bello and Guttal 2005:11). Bello avers that the IMF caused the Asian Crisis of 1997 as well as financial failures in Russia in 1998 and Argentina in 2002 (Bello 2006:2; Bello 2009:2). Bello also reveals that the WB’s poverty alleviation and environmentally sensitive aims are empty fictions, an exposure that now places the Bank in crisis. Bello’s research and the route he has taken to procure data—including uninvited entry into the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C and the extralegal borrowing of 3,000 pages of top-secret documents—presents a provocative alternative for a global sociologist without access to data and in the face of dominant multinational and transnational institutions.

Third, a global sociology will need to break free from the cult of individuality that assumes research should be an individualized project. If global sociology hopes to examine global flows or other global dynamics from multiple sites and in a timely manner (to more quickly address social inequality), then the subfield should work in teams of scholars who study the same set of research questions. The collaboration among Webster, Lambert, and Bezuidenhout (WLB) offers a viable and encouraging example. They conducted research among workers in the white goods industry in Ezakheni (in South Africa), Orange (in Australia), and Changwon (in South Korea), and found that neoliberalism “consciously manufactures insecurity” to extinguish collective contestation among civil society actors and movements (emphasis in the original; WLB 2008:17-18, vii). Despite limitations for contestation, they further propose that “spaces of hope” harnessing a networking strategy will produce a new liberatory subjectivity and an “attempt to protect society against the unbridled power of the multinational corporation” (WLB 2008:202-203, 156). While WLB do not thickly describe the research relationship and dynamics required to produce Grounding Globalization, their book exemplifies and inaugurates an approach for global sociology that generates knowledge from research teams. Even more, one might imagine that a global sociology project that involves multiple sociologists from many parts of the world—that is, from the periphery as well as from the metropole—would increase the likelihood that social theory from the “South” would enter and/or gain authority within the global sociological academy. In this way, a team model for crafting and carrying out global sociology would soften and perhaps even mollify the critique that “Northern” sociology enables a project of Western intellectual domination (Connell 2010).

Conclusion: Promises and Possibilities

Burawoy and Behbehanian’s invitation to formulate a new subfield called global sociology comes with overwhelming excitement but also a serious demand to critically reflect upon a best formulation for this “embryonic” field. This response expands the definition of global sociology beyond the limitations and problems that issue from a civil-society-centric definition. Instead, this response inaugurates a more empirically muscular definition: Global sociology is a subfield of sociology that maps global flows and new global imaginings. To promote this novel definition, global sociology would benefit from considering new methodological tools for studying complex and transnational global flows and dynamics. Thinking geographically, alternatives to “studying up,” and collaborative research teams are but a few possibilities for an emerging and encouraging global project.


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