Friday, November 11, 2005

The Globalization of Nothing

A sociologist views "nothing" as a social form that, is general, is centrally conceived, controlled, and comparatively devoid of distinctive substantive content. This definition carries no judgment about the desirability or undesirability of such a social form - it is not used here in a pejorative sense. However, it is now clear that there is "a general historical trend away from something and toward nothing." The five major subtypes of the Something-Nothing continuum are:
  1. Unique (one-of-a-kind: a gourmet meal)) vs. generic (interchangeable; a microwave meal cooked centrally or Disney's worlds)
  2. Local geographic ties (hand-made pottery) vs. non-place or lack of local ties (mass-produced pottery)
  3. Specific to the times (the VW Bug) vs. time-less (the Dodge Neon or the Kia)
  4. Humanized (small teaching college) vs. dehumanized (the Internet university)
  5. Enchanted (something with a magical quality) vs. disenchanted (anything mass-produced or McDonaldized).

The precursor polar types are Toennies's gemeinschaft (family, neighborhood, friendships) and gesellschaft (urban, national, and cosmopolitan relationships).

In contrast to the concept of glocalization (the interpenetration of the global and the local resulting in unique outcomes in different geographic areas), Ritzer coins the term grobalization which focuses on "the imperialistic ambitions of nations, corporations, organizations, and the like, and their desire, indeed need, to impose themselves on various geographic areas." Their main interest is in seeing their power and profits grow throughout the world. "Grobalization tends to be associated with the proliferation of nothing, while glocalization tends to be tied more to something." Both processes are under the broad heading of globalization, but they are rooted in competing visions of the contemporary world. Capitalism, McDonaldization, and Americanization are all grobalization processes. The choice of nothing is often the smart thing to do. There are many advantages associated with nothing, which is why so many choose it so often. But "as time goes by, there will be increasingly fewer opportunities to choose something." [NOTE: Awkward and sometimes dense, but original, and somewhat related to Rosenau's "fragmegrative dynamics", Dynamics Beyond Globalization.

Also See: McDonaldization: The Reader edited by George Ritzer (Pine Forge, 2002), and The Substance of Style which contrast sharply with Ritzer in substance and style.

The Globalization of Nothing
George Ritzer
Pine Forge Press (Sage Publications), Aug 2003, 259 pages, hard cover
Future Survey, October 2003

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