Anxieties of the Global

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Grassroots Globalization and the Research Imagination

Arjun Appadurai

Anxieties of the Global

G lobalization is certainly a source of anxiety in the U.S. academic world. And the sources of this anxiety are many: Social scientists (especially economists) worry about whether markets and deregulation produce greater wealth at the price of increased inequality. Political scientists worry that their field might vanish along with their favorite object, the nation-state, if globaliza­tion truly creates a “world without borders.” Cultural theorists, especially cultural Marxists, worry that in spite of its conformity with everything they already knew about capital, there may be some embarrassing new possibilities for equity hid-den in its workings. Historians, ever worried about the problem of the new, real­ize that globalization may not be a member of the familiar archive of large-scale historical shifts. And everyone in the academy is anxious to avoid seeming to be a mere publicist of the gigantic corporate machineries that celebrate globaliza­tion. Product differentiation is as important for (and within) the academy as it is for the corporations academics love to hate.

Outside the academy there are quite different worries about globalization that include such questions as: What does globalization mean for labor markets and

This essay draws on two previous publications by the author: “The Research Ethic and the Spirit of Internationalism,” Items (Social Science Research Council, New York) (December 1997) 51(4), part I; and “Globalization and the Research Imagination,” International Social Science Jour­nal (Blackwell/UNESCO) (June 1999) 160: 229–38. The author is grateful to the Open Society Institute (New York) as well as to the Ford Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and

Public Culture 12(1): 1–19

Copyright © 2000 by Duke University Press


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