Contested Concepts, Contested Experiences
Edited by Wilfred Dolfsma and Charlie Dannreuther
Chapter 2: Globalization, social capital and inequality: an introduction
Charlie Dannreuther and Wilfred Dolfsma INTRODUCTION1 The concept of ‘globalization’ has lost some of its authority in the social sciences. Despite its strong start at the beginning of the last decade, globalization (the process) has been shown to have failed the poorer parts of the world’s population, while globalization (the concept) has been interpreted to mean so much that it means very little while it has failed as a scientific concept because of its poor theoretical foundations and ideological associations. While globalization persists as a core assumption for so many involved in policy making, it has also, as Desai’s chapter illustrates, faced opposition from many different directions: from large swathes of the electorate to militant fundamentalists. Even if this process may have exposed them to new economic opportunities, globalization is now widely perceived as separating citizens from the decisions that affect their lives. Polanyi made the point that you can’t have a market economy without a market society.2 Imposing laissez faire economic principles - what we would now recognize as deregulation, privatization, or describe more generically as globalization - on to passive societies does not an economy make. Society has to embrace the economy into its heart - into the very institutions that constitute it - in a ‘double movement’. Polanyi’s story about the incorporation of capitalism into English society in the 17th century not only raised the importance of pre-capitalist forms of social organization into the understanding of economic activity, but also highlighted the inherently contested, and so political,...
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