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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Globalization - on the Road to a New World System?

November 25, 1999 / 6.30 P.M.

Erwin K. Scheuch (Professor emeritus, University of Cologne)

Globalization is the collective label for many international changes currently under way. In the Media, the economic effects are emphasized with a tendency to portray the consequences as the result of irresistable forces. However, the internationalization is more limited than usually maintained. The dominant tendency is the regionalization of economic activities. True “globalization” exists, however, in financial speculation with “virtual” commodities called “derivatives” and in currency trading. These developments threaten the welfare state systems of Europe as well as the stability of economic relations in Japan.
From the perspective of sociology, however, the economy is still embedded in highly differentiated social systems, subject to social controls. Shareholder value as a norm governing the performance of firms is not the prerequisite for optimum performance of firms but merely a norm benefiting one class of actors against others. Globalization and shareholder value are norms of the US variety of a modern system, translated into economic norms for the world.
The presentation will review the true extent of globalization in economic affairs, the spread of the consumer goods culture, and the internationalization of media. Globalization and various fundamentalisms will be juxtaposed. The emerging world order has the character of a “hybrid culture” for which some social scientists coined the neologism “glocalization”.
Prof. Scheuch is president of the Cologne Association for Social Research which organizes Europe’s oldest and largest social science data archive, the Central Archive for Empirical Social Research (“Zentralarchiv”). He is also vice president of the oldest international association in sociology, the Institut International de Sociologie. As professor emeritus he teaches at the University of Cologne, where he was full professor for 35 years. Earlier, he taught at Harvard University and at various other institutions on several continents.