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A Basic Text

George Ritzer, Paul Dean

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A Basic Text

George Ritzer, Paul Dean

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About This Book

Updated to reflect recent global developments, the second edition of Globalization: A Basic Text presents an up-to-date introduction to major trends and topics relating to globalization studies.

  • Features updates and revisions in its accessible introduction to key theories and major topics in globalization
  • Includes an enhanced emphasis on issues relating to global governance, emerging technology, global flows of people, human trafficking, global justice movements, and global environmental sustainability
  • Utilizes a unique set of metaphors to introduce and explain the highly complex nature of globalization in an engaging and understandable manner
  • Offers an interdisciplinary approach to globalization by drawing from fields that include sociology, global political economy, political science, international relations, geography, and anthropology
  • Written by an internationally recognized and experienced author team<
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Globalization1 is increasingly omnipresent. We are living in a – or even the – “global age” (Albrow 1996). Globalization is clearly a very important change; it can even be argued (Bauman 2003) that it is the most important change in human history.2 This is reflected in many domains, but particularly in social relationships and social structures,3 especially those that are widely dispersed geographically. “In the era of globalization… shared humanity face[s] the most fateful of the many fateful steps” it has made in its long history (Bauman 2003: 156, italics added).
The following is the definition of globalization4 to be used in this book (note that all of the italicized terms will be discussed in this chapter):
globalization is a transplanetary process or set of processes involving increasing liquidity and the growing multidirectional flows of people, objects, places and information as well as the structures they encounter and create that are barriers to, or expedite, those flows …5
In contrast to many other definitions of globalization, this one does not assume that greater integration is an inevitable component of globalization. That is, globalization can bring with it greater integration (especially when things flow easily), but it can also serve to reduce the level of integration (when structures are erected that successfully block flows).


In spite of the focus in this book on globalization, there are many scholars who do not accept the idea that we live in a global age (see Chapter 2). Nevertheless, this book embraces, and operates from, a “globalist” perspective (Hirst and Thompson 1999) – globalization is a reality. In fact, globalization is of such great importance that the era in which we live should be labeled the “global age.”
Debates about globalization are one of the reasons that there is undoubtedly no topic today more difficult to get one’s head around, let alone to master, than globalization. However, of far greater importance are the sheer magnitude, diversity, and complexity of the process of globalization which involves almost everyone, everything, and every place and each in innumerable ways. (The concept of globality refers to the condition [in this case omnipresence] resulting from the process of globalization [Scholte 2004].)
For example, this book is being written by two Americans; our editor and copy-editor are in England; the development editor was in Canada; reviewers are from four continents; the book is printed in Singapore and distributed by the publisher throughout much of the world; and you might be reading it today on a plane en route from Vladivostok to Shanghai. Further, if it follows the pattern of many of our other books, it may well be translated into Russian, Chinese, and many other languages. This book is also available for Amazon’s wireless portable reading device, Kindle. This would make the book highly liquid since it would be possible for it to be downloaded anywhere in the world at any time.
Before proceeding to the next section, a note is needed on the use of metaphors (Brown 1989), which will occupy a prominent place in the ensuing discussion. A metaphor involves the use of one term to better help us understand another term. Thus in the next section, we will use the metaphor of a “solid” to describe epochs before the era of globalization.6 Similarly, the global world will be described as being “liquid.” The use of such metaphors is designed to give the reader a better and a more vivid sense of the global age and how it differs from prior epochs.



Prior to the current epoch of globalization (and as we will see, to most observers there was a previous global epoch [see Chapter 2], if not many previous epochs, of globalization), it could be argued that one of the things that characterized people, things, information, places, and much else was their greater solidity. That is, all of them tended to be hard or to harden (metaphorically, figuratively, not literally, of course) over time and therefore, among other things, to remain largely in place. As a result, people either did not go anywhere or they did not venture very far from where they were born and raised; their social relationships were restricted to those who were nearby. Much the same could be said of most objects (tools, food, and so on) which tended to be used where they were produced. The solidity of most material manifestations of information – stone tablets, newspapers, magazines, books, and so on – also made them at least somewhat difficult to move very far. Furthermore, since people didn’t move very far, neither did information. Places were not only quite solid and immoveable, but they tended to confront solid natural (mountains, rivers, oceans) and humanly constructed (walls, gates) barriers that made it difficult for people and things to exit or to enter.
Above all, solidity describes a world in which barriers exist and are erected to prevent the free movement of all sorts of things. It was the nation-state that was most likely to create these “solid” barriers (for example, walls [e.g. the Great Wall of China; the wall between Israel and the West Bank], border gates, and guards), and the state itself grew increasingly solid as it resisted change. For much of the twentieth century this was epitomized by the Soviet Union and its satellite states which sought to erect any number of barriers in order to keep all sorts of things out and in (especially a disaffected population). With the passage of time, the Soviet Union grew increasingly sclerotic. The best example of this solidity was the erection (beginning in 1961), and maintenance, of the Berlin Wall in order to keep East Berliners in and Western influences out. There was a more fluid relationship between East and West Berlin prior to the erection of the wall, but that fluidity was seen in the East as being disadvantageous, even dangerous. Once the Wall was erected, relations between West and East Berlin were virtually frozen in place – they solidified – and there was comparatively little movement of anything between them.
The Wall, to say nothing of East Germany and the Soviet Union, are long gone and with them many of the most extreme forms of solidity brought into existence by the Cold War. Nonetheless, solid structures remain – e.g. the nation-state and its border and customs controls – and there are ever-present calls for the creation of new, and new types, of solid structures. Thus, in many parts of Europe there are demands for more barriers to authorized and unauthorized immigration. This has reached an extreme in the US with concern over undocumented Mexican (and other Latin American) immigrants leading to the erection of an enormous fence between the two countries. Thus, solidity is far from dead in the contemporary world. It is very often the case that demands for new forms of solidity are the result of increased fluidity. However, a strong case can, and will, be made that it is fluidity that is more characteristic of today’s world, especially in terms of globalization.
Of course, people were never so solid that they were totally immobile or stuck completely in a given place (a few people were able to escape East Berlin in spite of the Wall and many would still be able to enter the US without documentation even if a fence on the Mexican border were to be completed), and this was especially true of the elite members of any society. Elites were (and are) better able to move about and that ability increased with advances in transportation technology. Commodities, especially those created for elites, also could almost always be moved and they, too, grew more moveable as technologies advanced. Information (because it was not solid, although it could be solidified in the form of, for example, a book) could always travel more easily than goods or people (it could be spread by word of mouth over great distances even if the originator of the information could not move very far; it moved even faster as more advanced communication technologies emerged [telegraph, telephone, the Internet]). And as other technologies developed (ships, automobiles, airplanes), people, especially those with the resources, were better able to leave places and get to others. They could even literally move places (or at least parts of them) as, for example, when...

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Citation styles for Globalization
APA 6 Citation
Ritzer, G., & Dean, P. (2014). Globalization (2nd ed.). Wiley. Retrieved from (Original work published 2014)
Chicago Citation
Ritzer, George, and Paul Dean. (2014) 2014. Globalization. 2nd ed. Wiley.
Harvard Citation
Ritzer, G. and Dean, P. (2014) Globalization. 2nd edn. Wiley. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Ritzer, George, and Paul Dean. Globalization. 2nd ed. Wiley, 2014. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.