Globalization Theory: A Post Mortem
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‘Globalization’ was the Zeitgeist of the 1990s. In the social sciences, it gave rise to the claim that deepening interconnectedness was fundamentally transforming the nature of human society, and was replacing the sovereign state system with a multi-layered, multilateral system of ‘global governance’. A decade later, however, these expectations appear already falsified by the course of world affairs. The idea of ‘globalization’ no longer captures the ‘spirit of the times’: the ‘age of globalization’ is unexpectedly over. Why has this happened? This article argues that ‘Globalization Theory’ always suffered from basic flaws: as a general social theory; as a historical sociological argument about the nature of modern international relations; and as a guide to the interpretation of empirical events. However, it also offers an alternative, ‘conjunctural analysis’ of the 1990s, in order both to explain the rise and fall of ‘globalization’ itself, and to illustrate the enduring potential for International Relations of those classical approaches which Globalization Theory had sought to displace.