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Crossing borders – sociology, globalization and immobility

By Larry J. Ray


Globalization theorists frequently claim that the disembedding of social relations across various dimensions renders obsolete the former object of sociology, namely 'society'. The exceptional change to social life arising from globalization demands that sociality is viewed in more fluid and complex ways than in the past. A closer examination of classical concepts of the social would reveal more nuanced and multidimensional concepts. I suggest that globalization does not entail the stretching of social relations beyond recognition, but reconfigures spaces and identities according to powerful dynamics. Classical theory emphasizes the embeddedness of exchanges and flows in social and cultural relations. This will be exemplified with reference to migration, which both epitomizes globalizing tendencies and illustrates its limitations. Along with mobile subjects there are immobile subjects (racialized migrants) policed by actual and threatened violence, who have been underplayed in globalization theory. The paper concludes that concepts of the 'social' may need rethinking but central to this should be an understanding of the interlocking of mobility with the circulation of capital, commodities and cultural practices

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