Chapter 1

Globalization in Hard Times: Contention in the Academy and Beyond

ANTHONY MCGREW

INTRODUCTION

Globalization incites controversy. Both within and beyond the academy it provokes vociferous debate and contradictory responses. Within the academy opinion divides over the reality and significance of contemporary globalization but more especially with respect to its supposed revolutionary implications for the classical paradigms of the human sciences. In the wider public sphere globalization elicits sharply divergent responses and fuels radically different political projects, from the globaphobia of the extreme right to the globaphilia of neoliberals. On closer inspection, however, this apparent polarization of views dissolves into a far more complex and nuanced set of arguments which cut across orthodox ideological and disciplinary fault lines. Globalization has not imposed a ‘golden straitjacket’, to use Friedman’s phrase, on the academy nor upon social activism either. On the contrary it has provoked a radical resurgence, if not renaissance, of social and political theory not to mention popular mobilization and dissent. This chapter seeks to map the intellectual and political controversy surrounding the idea of globalization, explaining why it has become such a fiercely contested and detested idea amongst academics and activists alike.

In the first part of the chapter the discussion focuses upon what is at stake in the great globalization controversy and, by implication, ...

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