Using a sociology of knowledge framing, this essay highlights how and why the sociological imagination presented by leading European and American scholars showcased in this special issue offers a relatively hopeful assessment of recent transformations. It then questions the extent to which the same optimism prevails for scholars, and citizens, of the poorer, less advanced countries of the world. It not only suggests that many of the fundamental sociological transformations associated with the contemporary era, ranging from globalization of economy, the rise of internet technology, the decline of the nation state, and the rise of more cosmopolitan identities, are unevenly distributed around the world. It also argues that their political social, and economic impact will vary, depending on history and developmental context. The essay further suggests that precisely because of the statist and protectionist legacies of late development, many of the same transformations that bring positive gains in the advanced capitalist world, signal troubles ahead for the developing world and its future. The essay draws to a close with a more focused examination of the dark side of recent transformations, evident in such problems as unchecked violence and regional or ethnic fragmentation across major swathes of the global south. Such developments, the essay concludes, should sustain the call for a more "pluralist" sociological imagination for the new millennium, one that can take into account differences within and between various countries around the globe, while also advancing our normative understanding of what it would take to make "global society" possible.
This article asks whether democratization, under certain historical conditions, may relate to the deteriorating rule of law. Focusing on Mexico City, where police corruption is significant, this study argues that the institutionalized legacies of police power inherited from Mexico's one-party system have severely constrained its newly democratic state's efforts to reform the police. Mexico's democratic transition has created an environment of partisan competition that, combined with decentralization of the state and fragmentation of its coercive and administrative apparatus, exacerbates intrastate and bureaucratic conflicts. These factors prevent the government from reforming the police sufficiently to guarantee public security and earn citizen trust, even as the same factors reduce capacity, legitimacy, and citizen confidence in both the police and the democratically elected state. This article suggests that when democracy serves to undermine rather than strengthen the rule of law, more democracy can actually diminish democracy and its quality.
Studies of cities in global context have been around almost as long as scholars have been studying cities (Weber, 1927; Pirenne, 1936). Use of the concept ‘global city’ did not necessarily figure in the early writings on cities, but international market connections and trade linkages did. In many of these works, physical, social and economic changes in cities were tied to national and international political conditions — ranging from the demise of feudal or absolutist orders (Weber, 1958) to the rise of the modern nation‐state (Tilly, 1975; 1990) — as well as the appearance of the social relations of modernity (Durkheim, 1933; Simmel, 1950), which themselves were seen as materializing in cities and reinforcing capitalist development. Still, the concern with economic aspects of urbanization among those who studied cities had its own particular ‘geography’. In the United States, most early generations of urban scholars did not emphasize the economic dynamics of urban development to the same degree as did their counterparts in Europe, and they rarely examined cities in global context. This was particularly true during the 1940s and 1950s, when US sociologists became ethnocentrically focused on American urban problems relating to community and culture, neighborhood transformation, and social deviance or disorder. Yet it is precisely the fact that European and American urbanists initially approached the study of cities somewhat differently that helps explain the content, character and assumptions of subsequent research on global cities or cities in global context, both here and abroad.
It is hard to miss the explosion of writings on cities and globalization. Almost every city function or metropolitan agglomeration and its fragments is now being conceptualized as ‘global’ in some way (Crane and Daniere, 1996; Keil, 1996; Al‐Sayyad, 2000; Taylor and Walker, 2001; Scott, 2002), while the character and composition of world ‘citiness’ is itself a common — albeit contested — subject of study (Knox, 1995; Hall, 1996; Taylor 2000a; 2000b; Douglas, 2001). With the growing popularity of the global city paradigm (Sassen, 1991; 1996), even the most conventional topics long studied by urbanists, ranging from suburbs (Muller, 1997) and ‘midtowns’ (Ford, 1998) to real estate (Haila, 1999; 2000), architecture (Krause and Petro, 2003; King, 2004) and urban governance (Brenner, 1999; Yusuf and Wu, 2000) are now routinely examined in global context. Globalization has even begun to dominate the vocabulary of urban policy‐making and politics, with scholarly articles devoted to the study of how cities market themselves in global terms (Duffy, 1995; Whitson and Macintosh, 1996) or how politicians symbolically use globalization in city electoral campaigns (Machimura, 1998). It seems we are all globalized now. The title of David Clark’s recent book, Urban World/Global City, merely takes this logic to its most extreme, collapsing global cities and an urban world into each other as linguistic shorthand for the modern condition.
Perhaps the most commonly held assumption in the field of development is that middle classes are the bounty of economic modernization and growth. As countries gradually transcend their agrarian past and become urbanized and industrialized, so the logic goes, middle classes emerge and gain in number, complexity, cultural influence, social prominence, and political authority. Yet this is only half the story. Middle classes shape industrial and economic development, they are not merely its product; the particular ways in which middle classes shape themselves—and the ways historical conditions shape them—influence development trajectories in multiple ways. This is the story of South Korea's and Taiwan's economic successes and Argentina's and Mexico's relative failures through an examination of their rural middle classes and disciplinary capacities. Can disciplining continue in a context where globalization squeezes middle classes and frees capitalists from the state and social contracts in which they have been embedded?
Diane E. Davis and Arturo Alvarado. 2004. “Mexico City: The Challenge of Political Transition.” In Left in the City: Progressive and Participatory Local Governance in Latin America, edited by Benjamin Goldfrank and Daniel Chavez. London: Latin America Bureau.