Chapter 10. Global Society

Chapter 10 Resources and Activities

Key Terms

absolute poverty: The state where one is barely able, or unable, to afford basic necessities.

agency: the ability to define one’s goals and act on them; used as a variable to measure inequality

anti-globalization movement: A global countermovement based on principles of environmental sustainability, food sovereignty, labour rights, and democratic accountability that challenges the corporate model of globalization.

bifurcated labour system: A labour market divided into a core of relatively stable, well-paid jobs and a periphery of casual, precarious, and low-cost labour.

capital flight: The movement (flight) of capital from one nation to another, via jobs and resources.

chattel slavery: A form of slavery in which one person owns another.

containerization: The transformation in the transportation and trade of goods brought about by the use of container ships.

colonialism: A form of domination in which a state or state sponsored group exercises direct control over the territory and inhabitants of another society

Columbian Exchange:  The widespread exchange of plants, animals, foods, human populations, communicable diseases, and culture between the Eastern and Western hemispheres beginning in the 16th century.

core nations: Dominant capitalist countries.

cosmopolitanism: A social condition or setting of social and cultural diversity in which a multiplicity of ideas, traditions and customs intermingle.

debt accumulation: The buildup of external debt, wherein countries borrow money from other nations to fund their expansion or growth goals.

debt bondage: When people pledge themselves as servants in exchange for money for passage and are subsequently paid too little to regain their freedom.

decolonization: The process whereby former colonies attain formal political self-determination and independence from colonial powers.

deindustrialization: The loss of industrial production, usually to peripheral and semi-peripheral nations where the costs are lower.

dependency theory: Theory stating that global inequity is due to the exploitation of peripheral and semi-peripheral nations by core nations.

de-traditionalization: The process whereby day-to-day life is increasingly less informed by traditions or the ways of life passed down in local cultural and ecological contexts.

disembedding: The process in which day to day life is no longer completely embedded in local, micro-level interactions but becomes coordinated and organized on a global basis.

expert system: Advanced systems of knowledge and practice required to run the complex institutional arrangements and technological systems of contemporary societies.

exploitative colonialism:  A form of colonialism in which the focus is on the extraction of wealth (rather than settlement). See settler colonialism.

expressive individualism: A form of identity formation defined by the drive to find one’s “self” and to express one’s unique individuality, even in the face of resistance.

first wave of globalization: 19th century-1914.

first world: A term from the Cold War era that is used to describe industrialized capitalist democracies.

fourth world: A term that describes stigmatized minority groups who have no voice or representation on the world stage.

global assembly lines: A practice where products are designed, manufactured, and assembled in different international locations.

global capitalism: The extension of the capitalist mode of production to the entire world.

global capitalism theory: Analytical framework that the development of global capitalism takes place less in the context of national economies and more in the context of global flows of capital investment in an increasingly integrated world market.

global commodity chains: Internationally integrated economic links that connect workers and corporations around the world for the purpose of manufacture, distribution, and marketing.

global feminization of poverty: A global pattern in which women increasingly bear a disproportionate percentage of the burden of poverty.

global inequality: The concentration of resources in core nations and in the hands of a wealthy minority.

global level of analysis: The study of structures and processes that extend beyond the boundaries of states or specific societies.

global stratification: The unequal distribution of resources between countries.

globalization: The processes of increasing integration and interconnection which incorporate people across the world into a single world society.

gross domestic product (GDP): the market value of all goods and services produced within a country in a given time period.

gross national income (GNI): The income of a nation calculated based on domestic goods and services produced, plus income earned by citizens and corporations headquartered in that country.

late modernity: Features that define the common culture of global society.

metropolis-hinterland relationship: The relationship between core and peripheral countries in which resources of the hinterlands are shipped to the metropolises to be converted into manufactured goods and then shipped back to the hinterlands for consumption.

modernization theory: A theory that low-income countries can improve their global economic standing by industrialization of infrastructure and a shift in cultural attitudes toward work.

multinational corporation: A corporation whose ownership and operations span multiple nation-states.

neo-colonialism: The continued socio-economic and political dominance of external political and economic agents in former colonies.

neo-liberalism: A set of policies in which the state reduces its role in providing public services, regulating industry, redistributing wealth, and protecting the commons while advocating the use of free market mechanisms to regulate society.

new tribalism:  The emergence of group identities that provide individuals with a means of distinguishing themselves from others in the context of global diversity and cosmopolitanism.

peonage: A system where an employer compels a worker to pay off a debt with work.

peripheral nations: Nations on the fringes of the global economy, dominated by core nations, with very little industrialization.

primitive accumulation: the initial stage of capitalist accumulation in which people are separated from a territory and its resources, and subjected to forms of unfree labour, expropriation of land and destruction of self-determining communities.

reflexivity:  A stance of contemporary individuality and institutional life that involves (a) continuous monitoring of activities and performance to assess effectiveness and future risks, and (b) a readiness to modify understandings and practices in response to new information.

relative poverty: The state of poverty where one is unable to live the lifestyle of the average person in the country.

risk/trust dilemma: A characteristic trade off in late modern society between trust in expert systems to manage collective risks and threats, and the recognition of the fallibility of expert systems.

risk management: Interventions designed to reduce the likelihood of undesirable events occurring based on an assessment of probabilities of risk.

second wave of globalization: 1945-1989

second world: A term from the Cold War era that describes nations with moderate economies and standards of living.

semi-peripheral nations: In-between nations, not powerful enough to dictate policy but acting as a major source of raw materials and providing an expanding middle class marketplace.

settler colonialism: A form of colonialism focused on permanent settlement and corresponding displacement of Indigenous Peoples and societies.

sovereign state system: The system by which the world is divided up into separate and indivisible sovereign territories or states.

sovereignty: The political form in which a single, central, supreme lawmaking authority governs within a clearly demarcated territory.

subjective poverty: A state of poverty subjectively present when one’s actual income does not meet one’s expectations.

surplus humanity:  Sectors of the global labour market who are of no direct use to capitalism and obliged to sustain themselves precariously in informal sectors of the economy.

Terra Nullius: The principle that territory and economic resources that are not being effectively utilized by an indigenous population could legitimately be expropriated and developed by a superior invading nation.

third industrial revolution: The spread of automation, computation, instantaneous communication, and digitization through the use of electronics, computers and internet.

third wave of globalization: 1989–present.

third world: A term from the Cold War era that refers to poor, non-industrialized countries.

transnational capitalist class:  A network of owners of capital who are distributed around the world and focused on international markets, rather than their home markets, for investment and capital accumulation.

underground economy: An unregulated economy of labour and goods that operates outside of governance, regulatory systems, or human protections.

world systems theory: Analytical framework which conceptualizes a single world-system operating as a global division of labour, divided between multiple states, which redistributes surplus value from the periphery to the core.

xenophobia: An irrational fear and even hatred of foreigners and foreign goods.

Section Summary

10.1 Trade, Colonialism and the Origins of Global Society

Globalization refers to processes of increasing integration and interconnection which incorporate people across the world into a single global society. Climate change, disease pandemics and global capitalism are examples of the ways in which people around the world are caught up in the same global scale processes. While trade has occurred between different distant locations for millennia, it was not until the development of colonialism that a single global society began to emerge. Three waves of globalization from the 19th century British Empire to the post-Second World War development of global institutions, to the contemporary post-Cold War period have intensified the process of global integration and created new and unprecedented capabilities, issues, and social dynamics.

10.2 Global Wealth and Poverty

Stratification refers to the gaps in access to resources both between countries and within countries. While economic equality is of great concern, so is social equality, like the discrimination stemming from race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and/or sexual orientation. When looking at the world’s poor, sociologists first have to define the difference between relative poverty and absolute poverty.  While those in relative poverty might not have enough to live at their country’s standard of living, those in absolute poverty do not have, or barely have, basic necessities such as food. Global poverty has numerous negative consequences, from increased crime rates to a detrimental impact on physical and mental health.

Different explanations of global inequality focus on modernization theory, dependency theory and global capitalism theory. Modernization theory posits that countries go through evolutionary stages and that industrialization and improved technology are the keys to forward movement. Dependency theory sees global inequality as the result of core nations creating a cycle of dependence by exploiting resources and labour in peripheral and semi-peripheral countries. Globalization theory argues that the division between the wealthy and the poor is now organized in the context of a single, integrated global economy rather than between core and peripheral countries.

10.3 Contemporary Global Society

Global society has effects on day-to-day life beyond economic integration and displacement. To varying degrees, people around the world experience a new global reality characterized by de-traditionalization, disembedding from local time and space, organization through global expert systems, cosmopolitanism, homogenization, expressive individualism, new tribalism, and new forms of risk/trust dynamics. The relationship between the local and the global is complexly intertwined in many distinct aspects of daily life.


Quiz: Global Society

10.1 Trade, Colonialism and the Origins of Global Society

  1. Globalization is a process that:
    1. Creates a sense of global simultaneity and closeness.
    2. Makes borders markedly less relevant to everyday behaviour.
    3. Makes many people feel that they are in the grip of forces over which they have no control.
    4. All of the above.
  2. A system in which materials are sourced and products designed and manufactured in different geographical locations distributed around the globe is:
    1. Global assembly lines.
    2. Global commodity chains.
    3. Containerization.
    4. Just-in-time production and distribution.
  3. Truly global trade kicked off in                 .
    1. The Mississippian culture (ca. 500–1400 BCE)
    2. The development of the Silk Road trade between China and Europe (1st century BCE–5th century CE)
    3. The Spice Route trade of Islamic merchants (7th–15th centuries)
    4. The Age of Colonization (15th–18th centuries)
  4. The enormous widespread transfer of plants, animals, foods, human populations (including slaves), communicable diseases (like smallpox), and culture between the Eastern and Western hemispheres is referred to as:
    1. The Age of Discovery.
    2. The Columbian Exchange.
    3. Primitive Accumulation.
    4. Exploitive Colonialism.
  5. Colonialism was initially based on:
    1. Primitive Accumulation.
    2. The principle of Terra Nullius.
    3. Resource extraction.
    4. All of the above.
  6. The second wave of globalization refers to:
    1. The period after WWII when international organizations like the UN were founded.
    2. The establishment of the Belt and Road trade routes between East and West.
    3. The collapse of time and space into a single global village.
    4. The introduction of new technologies such as computerization, the internet and digital technology.
  7. Neo-colonialism refers to:
    1. The process whereby former colonies attained formal political self-determination and independence from colonial powers.
    2. The continued socio-economic and political dominance of colonial powers in former colonies in matters of domestic policy, resource extraction and labour exploitation.
    3. Colonization through permanent European settlement and displacement of Indigenous Peoples.
    4. Global dominance through a fluid, ad hoc network of international agreements, supra-national agencies, and transnational corporations.

10.2 Global Wealth and Poverty

  1. Maya is a 12-year-old girl living in Thailand. She is homeless and often does not know where she will sleep or when she will eat. We might say that Maya lives in                  poverty.
    1. Subjective
    2. Absolute
    3. Relative
    4. Global
  2. Mike, a college student, rents a studio apartment. He cannot afford a television and lives on cheap groceries like dried beans and ramen noodles. Since he does not have a regular job, he does not own a car. Mike is living in                 .
    1. Global poverty
    2. Absolute poverty
    3. Subjective poverty
    4. Relative poverty
  3. If a sociologist says that nations evolve toward more advanced technology and more complex industry as their citizens learn cultural values that celebrate hard work and success, she is using                  to study the global economy.
    1. Modernization theory
    2. Dependency theory
    3. Global capitalism theory
    4. Anthony Gidden’s late modernity theory
  4. Dependency theorists explain global inequality and global stratification by focusing on the way that                 .
    1. Bifurcated labour systems spread to all regions of the globe.
    2. All nations participate in a single world market.
    3. The “big fish” eat the “little fish.”
    4. Core nations exploit peripheral nations.
  5. One flaw in dependency theory is the unwillingness to recognize                 .
    1. That previously low-income nations such as China have successfully developed their economies and can no longer be classified as dependent on core nations.
    2. That previously advanced nations such as China have been economically and militarily overpowered by colonial nations.
    3. That countries such as China are growing more dependent on exploiting peripheral regions of core nations.
    4. That countries such as China do not necessarily adopt the cultural values of core nations in their development.
  6. If a sociologist points out that transnational corporate interests dominate the global economy, in part through state policies that advance global trade agreements that favour the ability of capital to invest in low-wage regions, they are a                 .
    1. Dependency theorist
    2. Global Capitalism theorist
    3. Modernization theorist
    4. Reactionist

10.3 Contemporary Global Society

  1. A common aspect of late modernity is the process of disembedding in which                 .
    1. People have to get out of bed at night to answer phone calls.
    2. Day to day life is coordinated at a global level and restructured “across indefinite spans of time and space.”
    3. Day to day life is no longer informed by local traditions or ways of life passed down in local cultural and ecological contexts.
    4. Semi-peripheral nations hit the “take off” stage of development.
  2. To sum up, there are four main processes that drive globalization including (a) interconnected processes of global capitalism, (b) the development of international organizations like the UN, (c) new communications and transportation technologies, and (d)                 .
    1. The formation of a new type of networked Empire.
    2. Conflict between the U.S. and China over global hegemony.
    3. The division of the world into discrete sovereign territories.
    4. Slum cities and surplus humanity.
  3. The late modern emphasis on having to invent oneself is referred to                 .
    1. Cosmopolitan citizenship
    2. Liberal individualism
    3. Tribal identification
    4. Expressive individualism
  4. The difference between existential and contingent risks is:
    1. The threat of global catastrophe and the threat of complex, interdependent systems breaking down.
    2. Making a personal leap of faith that does not work out and making a personal leap of faith based on uncertain information.
    3. The unpredictable consequences of human intervention into nature and the creation of institutionalized risk environments.
    4. All of the above.

[Quiz answers at end of chapter]

Short Answer

10.1 Trade, Colonialism and the Origins of Global Society

  1. Describe the historical stages of the long process by which “the global system has been and continues to be made.” How do Robertson’s five “phases” compare to the expansion of distant trade routes, the Age of Colonization and the three waves of globalization described later in the section?
  2. At what point did globalization truly become established? What criteria are used to determine this?
  3. Define colonialism. Contrast settler colonialism with exploitative colonialism.
  4. In what ways is the sovereign state system a key component of globalization?
  5. Describe the historical relationship between colonialism and globalization, including the processes of decolonization and neo-colonialism. How has globalization has been uneven in its effects?

10.2 Global Wealth and Poverty

  1. What are three indicators used to measure global economic inequality?
  2. Give an example of the feminization of poverty in core nations. How is it the same or different in peripheral nations?
  3. Consider the concept of relative poverty. Does it make sense that a person is still in poverty even if they have a home and are able to have regular meals? How would the threshold between relative poverty and relative affluence be defined in your own community?
  4. Compare and contrast modernization theory, dependency theory, and globalization theory. Which do you think is more useful for explaining global inequality? Explain, using examples.
  5. There is much criticism that modernization theory is Eurocentric. Do you think dependency theory and globalization theory are also biased? Why or why not?

10.3 Contemporary Global Society

  1. Define “expert systems” and describe the ways that they coordinate routine activities of daily life. Why are these described as disembedding? Inversely, what would an embedded way of life be like?
  2. Why did McLuhan describe global society as a global village? Describe the four key processes that drive globalization. Which seems most relevant to McLuhan’s concept?
  3. Expressive individualism and new tribalism seem like opposites. What aspect of global society in late modernity provides their common underlying condition?
  4. Do you personally find existential risks like climate change, pandemics, or nuclear war threatening? How do you manage the trust/risk dynamic of global life?

Further Research

10.1 Trade, Colonialism and the Origins of Global Society

See Concordia University’s “Colonialism in Canada” website for a selected list of books, articles and films on the Indigenous experience with colonialism in Canada.

10.2 Global Wealth and Poverty

For more information about global affairs, check the Munk School of Global Affairs website.

Go to Naomi Klein‘s website for more information about the anti-globalization movement.

10.3 Contemporary Global Society

For a summary of the concepts of modernity, late modernity and postmodernity in video format see the tutor2u video: Theoretical Debates in Sociology: Modernity and Late Modernity.


10.0 Introduction to Global Inequality

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Solutions to Section Quiz

1 D, | 2 A, | 3 D, | 4 B, | 5 D, | 6 A, | 7 B, | 8 B, | 9 D, | 10 A, | 11 D, | 12 A, | 13 B, | 14 B, | 15 C, | 16, D, | 17, A | [Return to Quiz]


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