Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Globalization and Social Change

Ally Scotton

As the cultures and peoples of the world become more interconnected and corporations have a growing influence on many of the world’s countries, the need for a critical examination of our interactions on a global scale magnifies. What forms of oppression and injustice are being fostered by corporate globalization? In what ways are local identities and diversity being traded for hegemony, monoculture, and assimilation? What forms of globalization, if any, foster democracy and social justice, preservation of human rights, and sustainability? What sort of society would maximize democratic involvement and minimize social stratification? How would such a society be organized, and how would power be distributed? How does the state of globalization reflect the power relations present within a society, and how does it affect or reinforce them? What role does government and social organization play in all of this?

I am designing my major to address issues revolving around globalization, social structure, and the nature of social change. I want to examine several aspects of globalization, including effects on local cultures and identities, labor and workers, and the environment. I intend to examine the structure and effects of current institutions of global economics, such as the World Trade Organization and World Bank. In addition to studying private systems of power, I plan to study social revolutions, social movements, and collective behaviors as avenues for social change.

In order to better understand international effects and politics of globalization and economic trends in the modern world, I will need to take a variety of courses from several disciplines related to globalization and social dynamics. I will draw from history, sociology, anthropology, sustainable development, and political science to explore power dynamics, problems, and social change in our dynamic world.

The Political Science/ Anthropology course titled “Globalization” will be helpful to my understanding of the processes surrounding global change. In exploring globalization, effects on indigenous and agrarian populations, and collective behaviors of resistance, the issues of equality and power distribution will arise. To address the various problems of inequality and their consequences, I will take the Sociology course “Social Stratification.” In this course I will study the distribution of wealth, power, and privilege, and relate those studies to the current economic and political system in place in the U.S., and its spread to the global scene. A course which I have already taken, “Principles of Sustainable Development”, has been central to my understanding of historical, conceptual, and theoretical foundations of sustainability in relation to global issues of equity, wealth and poverty, and environments.

The effects of globalization and economic pressures are felt around the world, and resistances and uprisings are happening as a result. Because the focus of my course of study revolves around issues of equity, democracy, power relations, and the nature of revolutions and social change, I will need to take courses addressing each of these topics. One course I will take is the History course “Comparative Revolutions.” This will develop analytical skills in comparative history, and aid in my basic understanding of the socio-economic and political forces contributing to modern revolutions and social upheavals. In order to understand the forces that impact society, and the nature of revolutions, I will take the Sociology course “Collective Behavior and Social Change.” This will give me an in-depth look at tactics, strategies, causes, and effects of social changes and upheavals. The questions of when, how, and by whom change is affected will be explored in this class.

During the past five centuries, indigenous communities throughout Latin America have lost control of historic lands and have been forced into various forms of slavery and/or virtual slavery. Many uprisings have taken place during this time in response to neoliberalism and globalization, including the Zapatista uprising in Mexico. The New York Times has called the Zapatista uprising the first "post-modern" revolution. I am particularly interested in learning from this ongoing struggle, and will thus focus my attention on Latin America.

In order to form a background on which to understand the current cultures, politics, identities, and institutions present within Latin America, I plan to take the course "History of Latin America." Subsequently, I plan to take the History course “Indigenous Resistance in Modern Latin America.” This course will give me an in-depth look at the social and political movements of indigenous and agrarian populations in response to forces of globalization, from an outside, academic perspective. The Anthropology course "The Politics of Ethnicity" will illuminate a framework within which to understand the effects of globalization on culture, politics, and identities within agrarian and indigenous populations. How do people construct their identities during times of social upheaval, violence, and resistance? What medims are available for understanding the dynamic cultural and political forces at play within border zones? How can a balance be found between solidarity and academic critique?

I will also take the Anthropology course “Agrarian Studies and Rural Development” to better understand and analyze rural populations in the context of global economic and political influence. Because I will be focusing on Latin American populations, I will need a cultural understanding of these populations, and thus and understanding of, and ideally a proficiency in, the Spanish language. I am taking four Spanish language courses to prepare me for studying abroad in Latin America. Spending time abroad will give me a better understanding of the culture, politics, and environment, as well as solidify and put into practice the base of Spanish that I will have accumulated. While abroad, I specifically intend to take cultural courses, as well as language courses to increase my language proficiency. I plan to work directly within indigenous social movements in Latin America, in order to gain experience in community building and organizing as foundations of effective social change. This opportunity will give me the chance to integrate theory and practice.

From these areas of study, each related to my topic, I can gain a better understanding of globalization from various perspectives. I will develop anthropological, cultural, historical, sociological, and political understandings of the issues surrounding my study, and will consequently be equipped with analytical, comparative, and problem-solving skills to address these issues.

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