GLOBAL DIVISION

The Global Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems promotes interdisciplinary empirical understanding of the way global and transnational processes both intensify and mitigate existing social problems, as well as contribute to the generation of new ones.  We include a strong emphasis on globalization, by which we mean more than simply the institutional expansion of markets around the world, past and present.  We view economic globalization as fundamentally embedded in society, politics, law, and morality, while acknowledging diverse degrees and combinations of its embeddedness, and a wide array of existing and potential institutional means for organizing and regulating its uneven spatial and temporal development. Social problems researchers may therefore examine how globalization impacts (or is impacted by) a host of phenomena -- including, but not limited to, social relations, cultural practices, institutions of governance, market arrangements, political processes, identity formation, historical memory, discursive representation, technological innovations, patterns of human mobility, environmental transformation, demographic shifts, dynamics of conflict, collective action, and social movements.

Globalizing the study of social problems requires a transformational shift in perspective and in methodology.  As sociologist Ulrich Beck cautioned us in Power in a Global Age (2007), methodological nationalism—a taken for granted acceptance of the nation-state and its boundaries that obscures transnational processes --is insufficient for understanding social problems that are generated by contemporary globalization.  Moreover, methodological nationalism reflects an exploitative mode of knowledge production that legitimates global inequalities and blinds us to the transnational relationships by which powerful and rich nation-states have achieved wealth, security, and rule of law relative to poorer nation-states.  By constraining our field of vision to an exclusively national (including its exteriorized “international”) outlook and presumed corresponding “domestic” issues, we marginalize the poor in other nation-states and blind the relatively privileged to global inequalities and their connection to them.  We also marginalize the poor within nation-states by blinding them to any important sources of transnational solidarity and agency that might address local, national, international, and transnational obstacles generating and perpetuating inequality and poverty.  Thus, a central aim of the Global Division is to promote scholarship on globalization that squarely situates analyses of social problems within a transnational context of understanding. 

Taking seriously our commitment to the principles that markets are fundamentally embedded in social relations and that understanding contemporary social problems requires attention to transnational processes, we also critically explore universalizing views of globalization and try to draw public attention to processes that provide room for greater democratic participation from civil society – particularly social and political movements that enrich, rather than erode, the fundamental resources of civil society that make sustainable local and transnational movements possible.  We strive to make the Global Division a vibrant resource for scholars and activists seeking to identify visions and practices that are successfully shaping such “alternative” globalizations.

Reflecting the broader ideals of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, members of the Global Division are generally committed to producing scholarship, educational materials, and other forms of knowledge that promote principles of equity, equality, social justice, sustainability, and cultural recognition that foster human agency.  They also devote themselves to the practical challenges of “public scholarship” -- that is, producing and presenting research that deliberately engages audiences beyond the boundaries of their respective disciplines.  Such audiences may include not only scholars and students outside their fields, but also policy-makers, think-tanks, media organizations, corporations, law enforcement officials, military institutions, courts, regulatory agencies, financial institutions, healthcare organizations, schools, childcare providers, social workers, lobbyists, attorneys, NGOs, and social activists. 

Toward these ends, our Division is engaged in five broad areas of activity within the Society for the Study of Social Problems: 

(1) We organize thematic sessions and co-sponsor annual conference sessions within our professional association that promote global and transnational perspectives and inquiry and encourage scholars to transcend methodological nationalism across the various divisions of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. 

(2) We foster innovative student scholarship by sponsoring an annual competitive award for the best graduate paper.  The goal is to encourage critical scholarship in the areas of global or transnational studies and social problems.

(3) Since 2007, we have sponsored the Global Division Outstanding Book Award to recognize cutting edge research.  Given the massive growth of interest and research in the areas of global studies and social problems over the last decade, the award is intended to recognize published work of exceptional quality in these areas and to encourage further critical scholarship about them.

(4) We provide an ongoing institutional forum and professional network of exchange among scholars and activists who are working to understand globalization and create identities, relationships, practices, and institutional mechanisms that are contributing to currents of global development that are democratic, just, secure, and sustainable.

(5) We work to transnationalize our association by deliberately recruiting new members who live, work, and research social problems in the Global South. Our intention in doing so is to increase our awareness and understanding of the transnational impact local practices in the Global North, as well as the transnational impact of local practices in the Global South, and to democratize the production of activist-scholarship within newly forged transnational networks of research on social problems of mutual concern.

Division mission statement edited in November 2020 by Manjusha Nair, George Mason University, Global Division Chair, 2019-2021.