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No discussion on social change in the twenty-first century can take place without some reference to globalisation. It is but natural that in this book on social change and development, the terms globalisation and liberalisation have already appeared in your earlier chapters. Recall the section on globalisation, iberalisation, and rural society in chapter 4. Go back and read the section on the Indian government’s policy of liberalisation and its impact on Indian industries in chapter 5. It also came up when we discussed Vision Mumbai and the new visions for global cities in chapter 3. Other than your school books, you must have come across the term globalisation in newspapers, television programmes or even in everyday conversation.
Activity 1 will help you notice the various ways the term is used. But we still need to be clear about what exactly does the term means. In this chapter we seek to understand the meaning of globalisation, its different dimensions and their social consequences.
However, this does not mean that there can be only one definition of globalisation and only one way of understanding it. Indeed you will find that different subjects or academic disciplines may focus on different aspects of
globalisation. Economics may be dealing more with the economic dimensions such as capital flows. Political science may focus on the changing role of governments. However, the very process of globalisation is so far-reaching that disciplines have to increasingly borrow from each other to understand both the causes and consequences of globalisation. Let us see how sociology seeks to understand globalisation. You will recall our early discussions on the scope of sociology and the distinctive character of the sociological perspective. We go back a bit in order to focus on the significance of the sociological perspective to understand globalisation.
The scope of sociological study is extremely wide. It can focus its analysis of interactions between individuals such as that of a shopkeeper with a customer, between teachers and students, between two friends or family members. It can likewise focus on national issues such as unemployment or caste conflict or the effect of state policies on forest rights of the tribal population or rural indebtedness. Or examine global social processes such as: the impact of new flexible labour regulations on the working class; or that of the electronic media on the young; or the entry of foreign universities on the education system of the country. What defines the discipline of sociology is therefore not just what it studies (i.e. family or trade unions or villages) but how it studies a chosen field. (NCERT BOOK 1, Class XI 2005) You read the above paragraph carefully. You will realise that since sociology is not defined by what it studies but how it studies, it would be not quite right to state that sociology only studies the social or cultural consequences of globalisation. What it does is use the sociological imagination to make sense of the connections between the individual and society, the micro and the macro, the local and the global. How is the peasant affected in a remote village? How is s/he connected to global changes? How has it affected the chances of employment for the middle class? How has it affected the possibilities of big Indian corporations becoming transnational corporations? What does it mean to the neighbourhood grocer if the retail sector is opened up to big transnational companies? Why are there so many shopping malls in our cities and towns today?
How has it changed the way young people spend their leisure time? These are just few examples of the wide ranging and different kinds of changes that globalisation is bringing about. You will find many more instances whereby global developments are affecting the lives of people. And thereby affecting the way sociology has to study society. With the opening up of the market and removal of restrictions to the import of many products we have many more products from different corners of the world in our neighbourhood shops. Since April 1, 2001, all types of quantitative restrictions (QR) on imports were withdrawn. It is no surprise now to find a
Chinese pear, an Australian apple vying for attention in the local fruit stall. The neighbourhood store also has Australian orange juice and ready to fry chips in frozen packets. What we eat and drink at home with our family and friends slowly changes. The same set of policy changes affects consumers and producers differently. What may mean greater choices for the urban, affluent consumer may mean a crisis of livelihood for a farmer. These changes are personal because they affect individuals’ lives and lifestyles. They are obviously also linked to public policies adopted by the government and its agreement with the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Likewise macro policy changes have meant that instead of one television channel we have literally scores today. The dramatic changes in the media are perhaps the most visible effect of globalisation. We will be discussing this in greater detail in the next chapter. These are just few random examples but they may help you to appreciate the close interconnection that exists between your personal lives and the apparently remote policies of globalisation. As mentioned earlier the sociological imagination enables to make this connection between the micro and the macro, between the personal and public.
1. Choose any topic that is of interest to you and discuss how you think globalisation has affected it. You could choose cinema, work, marriage or any other topic.
2. What are the distinctive features of a globalised economy? Discuss.
3. Briefly discuss the impact of globalisation on culture?
4. What is glocalisation? Is it simply a market strategy adopted by multinational companies or is genuine cultural synthesis taking place? Discuss.
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