Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Dispatches from the American Sociological Association meeting.

In the last session on the last day of the meeting they brought out the big guns. Ulrich Beck had been invited to come from Germany for his first ASA to give a thematic address (fancy session in the big ballroom). Saskia Sassen and Myra Marx Feree, no lightweights, gave the responses.

Beck is best known for arguing that we now live in "risk societies" in which we anticipate catastrophes, such as global warming and terrorism. Now he is developing the notion that globalization is turning the various risk societies of the world into a larger, transnational unit. He does not think humanity is realizing the high-brow ideal of cosmopolitanism. Rather, he thinks there are many low-level processes that are producing a practical cosmopolitanization.

This is an interesting idea, especially because it leads to more practical kinds of empirical sociological study than the search for cosmopolitans does.

After the back and forth with the panelists and the audience, it became clear that Beck had the ongoing experience of creating a transnational Europe out of the many formerly feuding nations as his model of practical cosmopolitanization. I think he is right about Europe. I don't know how well it translates to anywhere else yet.

Still, worth staying to the end for.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And even the European example is finicky at best. A chief complaint the EU had when we visited in Strasbourg was how they couldn't seem to get Europeans to relate to being European, rather than French, German, British, etc.