Globalization and Inequalities: Complexity and Contested Modernities


How has globalization changed social inequality? In this groundbreaking book, Globalization and Inequalities, Sylvia Walby examines the many changing forms of social inequality and their intersectionalities at both country and global levels. She shows how the contest between different modernities and conceptions of progress shape the present and future.

Globalization and Inequalities is essential reading for undergraduate and postgraduate students and academics of sociology, ...

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How has globalization changed social inequality? In this groundbreaking book, Globalization and Inequalities, Sylvia Walby examines the many changing forms of social inequality and their intersectionalities at both country and global levels. She shows how the contest between different modernities and conceptions of progress shape the present and future.

Globalization and Inequalities is essential reading for undergraduate and postgraduate students and academics of sociology, social theory, gender studies and politics and international relations, geography, economics and law.

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Editorial Reviews

Joan Acker

An ambitious and complex book, in which Walby proposes solutions for some enduring problems in sociological theory; in particular, problems in theorizing large complex systems, such as whole societies.

Susan Durbin

This book is complex, stimulating and insightful and should be read by any scholar who is interested in multiple inequalities on a global scale. It can, at times, seem a little overwhelming, but this is a reflection of its complexity. The book makes an enormous contribution not only to the intersectionality debate, but also encourages the reader to question whether we are yet ‘fully modern’ and what counts as ‘progress’. As Walby argues, we are not yet modern when most states have not yet fully criminalized and delegitimized violence against women and minorities.

Val Moghadam

A tour de force that spans social theory and empirical research, seeks to persuade readers of the explanatory powers of complexity theory for the global era and places gender firmly at the centre of the analysis... Sylvia Walby’s impressive study of complex inequalities in our globalized world offers not only a new set of concepts, propositions and empirical evidence, but a vision of the future based on a commitment to equality and justice. For that, we are in her debt.

Michael Burawoy
In this wide-ranging book, Sylvia Walby deploys her vast knowledge and wealth of research to break from inherited paradigms and to tackle the major challenges of globalization.
Myra Marx Ferree
What an important book this is! By using the tools complexity theory offers, Walby dismantles the conservative versions of systems theory and provides a new way of approaching the dynamics of intersectional change. Her view of system environment interactions with both stabilizing and destabilizing feedback loops is itself theoretically rich. Walby then uses this model to generate significant insights into the contested nature of modernity and the diverse ways that social democratic and liberal states have constructed equality and inequality. Her theoretical model will prove to be an essential resource for researchers concerned with understanding and steering social change.
Mieke Verloo

Though as critical about the feminist critiques of social theory as she is about social theory itself, in this landmark work Sylvia Walby does not stop at outlining the mistakes in both. Aside from unpacking the conflations that hinder our understanding of the social and political world, she presents an intricate, comprehensive new social theory and explains its major premises and innovations carefully and precisely. She focuses on the dynamics and complexities of social relations, integrating in these dynamics the role of complex inequalities (class, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation). Then, as a grand dessert, the book not only delivers a convincing first empirical test to Walby's new theory, but also dares to take a normative position, all without resorting to hegemony... Enabling innovative understandings of age-old complexities through brand-new empirical and normative questions and answers, this book will and should affect all research in social sciences.

Devorah Kalekin-Fishman
Having read her book, one can't help but see what was thought to be clear in new ways. Globalization and Inequalities is an impressive example of creativity realized on the one hand and a provocation to further creativity on the other... A major accomplishment.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803985179
  • Publisher: SAGE Publications
  • Publication date: 8/22/2009
  • Pages: 520
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Sylvia Walby is Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University.
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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Progress and modernities
What is Progress?
More money or longer life?
Progress as a contested project
Economic development
Human Rights
Human development, well-being and capabilities
Competing projects: neoliberalism and social democracy
Contesting conceptions of progress
Multiple Complex Inequalities
Multiple and intersecting inequalities
Complex inequalities: difference, inequality and progress
Modernity? Postmodernity? Not yet Modern? Varieties of Modernity?
Modernity or postmodernity?
Late, second or liquid modernity?
Multiple modernities?
Not yet modern?
Varieties of modernity
Defining modernity
Globalization as the erosion of distinctive and separate societies
Resistant to globalization
Already global
Coevolution of global processes with trajectories of development
Implications of globalization for social theory
Complexity Theory
The Book
2. Theorising multiple social systems
Multiple Inequalities and Intersectionality
Regimes and Domains
System and Its Environment: Over-Lapping, Non-Saturating, Non-Nested Systems
Societalisation not Societies
Emergence and Projects
Bodies, Technologies and the Social
Path Dependency
Co-evolution of Complex Adaptive Systems in Changing Fitness Landscapes
3. Economies
Redefining the Economy
Domestic Labour as Labour
State Welfare as part of the Economy
What are Economic Inequalities? What is Progress in the Economy?
From Pre-Modern to Modern: The Second Great Transformation
Global Processes and Economic Inequalities
What global processes?
Country Processes
Varieties of Political Economy
Varieties of employment relations
Varieties of Welfare Provision
Critical turning points into varieties of political economy
4. Polities
Reconceptualising Types of Polities
Organised religions
Global political institutions
Polities Overlap and do not Politically Saturate a Territory
Democracy and modernity
Redefining democracy
The development of democracy
5. Violence
Developing the Ontology of Violence
Modernity and Violence
Path Dependency in Trajections of Violence
6. Civil societies
Theorising Civil Society
Modernity and Civil Society
Civil Society Projects
Global Civil Societies and Waves
Examples of waves
7. Regimes of complex inequality
Beyond Class Regimes
Gender Regimes
Ethnic Regimes
Further Regimes of Complex Inequalities
Sexual orientation
Intersecting Regimes of Complex Inequality
8. Varieties of modernity
Neoliberal and Social Democratic Varieties of Modernity
Path Dependency at the Economy/Polity Nexus?
Welfare provision
Conclusions on welfare
Employment regulation
Conclusions on political economy
Path Dependency at the Violence Nexus
Modernity and path dependency
Development, inequality and violence
Gendered violence
Path dependency of the violence nexus in OECD countries
Violence, economic inequality and the polity/economy nexus
Conclusions on violence
Gender Regime
Public and domestic gender regimes
Development and the public gender regime
Domestic and public gender regimes and gender inequality
Varieties of public gender regimes
Democracy and Inequality
9. Measuring progress
Economic Development
Economic inequality
Global economic inequality
Beyond the household
Economic inequalities and flows
Economic inequalities in summary
Inequalities in non-economic domains
Human Rights
Human Development, Well-Being and Capabilities
Key Indicator Sets: What Indicators; What Underlying Concepts of Progress?
Extending the Frameworks and Indicators of Progress: Where do Environmental
Sustainability and Violence Fit?
Environmental sustainability
Achievement of Visions of Progress: Comparing Neoliberalism and Social Democracy
Economic development: neoliberalism vs. social democracy
Equality: neoliberalism vs. social democracy
Human rights: neoliberalism vs. social democracy
Human development, well-being and capabilities: neoliberalism vs. social democracy
Trade offs or complementary?
10. Comparative paths through modernity: neoliberalism and social democracy
Political Economy
Gender Transformations: The Emergence of Employed Women as the New Champions of Social Democracy
Employed women as the new champions of social democracy
Dampeners and Catalysts of Economic Growth: War and Gender Regime
11. Contested futures
Financial and Economic Crisis 2007-9
Contesting Hegemons and the Future of the World
12. Conclusions
The Challenge of Complex Inequalities and Globalization to Social Theory
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