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This post is provided by guest blogger André Förster who studies the Masters program “Sociology and empirical social Research” at the University of Cologne. Alongside his studies, he works as a student assistant at gesis – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences in Cologne.
Mark R. Beissinger, 2002: Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
In this important book Mark R. Beissinger, director of the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) and former professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison sets out to explain how the collapse of the Soviet State became viewed from the impossible to the inevitable within only a few years. While many studies refer to the inherent logic of the communist system as the main reason for its disintegration, Beissinger highlights the importance of nationalist events that took place during the years 1987 to 1991. Based on rich quantitative and qualitative data, the author argues that the tidal impact of these demonstration and protest events and their cross-country influence shaped a phase of history, in which institutions were changed not as the result of an inherent logic, but rather through the whole process itself.
Beissinger’s book offers a very productive combination of transnational and comparative sociological analysis. In the following review, I will focus on the second and fifth chapter of the book, in which Beissinger explains how the transnational glasnost tide of nationalism evolved and why some movements of nationalism succeded while others failed. On the basis of Beissinger’s analysis I will show that the development and the success of nationalist movements can be explained from a transnational perspective, whereas the failure of movements can rather be explained from a comparative view. Read the rest of this entry »
Last semester I taught a class on “Comparative and transnational analysis of contemporary societies” for master’s and doctoral students at the University of Cologne. The aim of the course was to familiarize students with key approaches in comparative-historical social and political analysis, major critiques, and alternative approaches of world society and transnational analysis. We started with the now well-known critique that comparative-historical analysis often falls victim to “methodological nationalism” because it all too frequently assumes society to be bounded by the nation-state. In consequence, comparative-historical analysis often ignores cross-border social relations and horizons of actions, emerging from increasing cross-border flows of people, goods and cultures, transnational and global organizations, networks and communities, as well as transnational institution building.
We started with the sociological classics of whom many considered the comparative method as a key heuristic of social and political analysis. From that we moved on to post-World War II sociological analysis, world systems theory and the world society approach. Empirical illustrations covered issues such as state building, social classes and inequality, migration and diaspora communities, transnational movements, cross-border policy networks and the Europeanisation of welfare institutions.
Interestingly enough, we discovered that even within transnational analysis focusing on networks, diffusion or multi-level interactions, the comparative method does still have an important role to play. Going back to the classics, we found intriguing combinations of comparison and diffusion analysis in Tocqueville’s and Weber’s work. More contemporary critical approaches, such as world systems theory and world society theory, continue to use country comparison as a reference point. This led us to the conclusion that the comparative method is still very valuable but needs to be adapted and combined with other methodological approaches such as network analysis, process tracing or sequence analysis to encompass the transnational and global realities of contemporary societies. Read the rest of this entry »
Research on racism has mostly focused on territorial states and its politics, claims a recent call for papers just published by Gerhard Wolf in the forum of H-Soz-Kult. However, the phenomenon itself is clearly not bound to territorial borders.
A two day workshop at the University of Sussex titled “Everyday Racism in Transnational Perspective” attempts to widen the scientific angle of vision on the radical construction of race. Suggested topics of workshop contributions include, inter alia, racism and the marketplace, pop culture, religion, family or education.
The workshop takes place from October 31 to November 1, 2013. Deadline for applications is April 30.
Scholars engaged in this topic may also be interested in an older post about the Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies’ call for papers on fascism as a transnational concern – although the two phenomena are distinct.
I have always found it difficult to understand how nationalists can identify with each other across borders. But of course the oxymoron of “transnational fascism” is not just empty rhetoric, but real. Just recently, for example, German media reported on the Greek party Chrysi Avgi’s contact with German right-wing groups like the National Democratic Party (NPD) of Germany – for articles in German click here or here.
The open access Journal of Comparative Fascist Studies has issued a call for papers on fascism as a transnational phenomenon. Both theoretical and empirical contributions are welcomed. The editor-in-chief Madelon de Keizer is a historian, but the call explicitly invites social and political scientists to contribute to the volume to be published in October. The deadline is June 1, 2013.
You use it whenever you need it. You want it to be clean. You sit down, you stand, or you squat. You use paper, or maybe water. You flush… and whatever your business there may have been, it disappears. You leave, you wash your hands. So simple… you take it for granted.
If you’re lucky.
Any traveler to another continent soon learns that the toilet is a highly cultural thing. Sanitation is a cultural practice. Sometimes even a trip from one country to another is enough to cause mild shock and awe – for instance, how every German holiday-maker in France feels when they (re-)discover the French squat toilet. Or how a French traveler feels when discovering the German “Flachspüler“. Or the Irish, when voting on the Lisbon Treaty. Toilets are deeply culturally embedded, so much that Slavoj Žižek has a special theory about their differences and their effects on national mindsets, politics, and philosophical traditions.
Many believe that global markets are a new phenomenon. But that is not the case. Not only had the late 19th century already reached a level of global trade and financial flows which approached that of today, but there have been long distance trading circuits across jurisdictions and continents which date back as far as medieval times. In the 12th and 13th century, the Italian city states of Venice and Genoa maintained long distance trading networks that reached as far as North Africa and Central Asia, providing the basis for ‘global’ markets for luxury goods, such as spices and silk. In the North, the Hanseatic League formed a federation of trading cities along the coastlines of the Northern and Baltic Sea generating cross-border markets for bulk goods such as fish, salt, grain and wood.
These markets were transnational in the sense of their interconnecting economic actors from multiple political jurisdictions (i.e. kingdoms and city states) across the world into a multilayered system of rules and regulations which governed their exchange relationships.
Economic historians have produced a rich literature on these markets which is also instructive for economic sociologist studying the governance of contemporary ‘global’ markets. In a recently published article I combine both approaches to analyse how key coordination problems were resolved in medieval long-distance trading systems.
Governance across borders or transnational governance looks at rule making, standard setting and institution building across borders. Empirically one can see the rise of a variety of patterns of regulatory governance. But transnational regulations are only one aspect of a whole field of transnational phenomena. Social life has always crossed, connected or transformed borders and boundaries. Social processes have been transborder even before the spread of the nation-state system, as well as states also got shaped transnationally. Hirst and Thompson for example analyse different historical forms of transnational markets and long before the rise of the nation state.
Other transnational processes include transnational social movements, migration, communities, citizenship but also religion or various cultural practices (see for example Olgas entry on transnational ideas and local culture). In Europe, progress has been made specifically in regards to transnational phenomena within the European union, on debates about a European governance, public sphere or a collective identity (see for example also the new European Journal of Transnational Studies ) .
So far, there is no real discipline of transnational studies, but only a fragmented body of scholarship across sub-fields of sociology and other social science disciplines. To get into dialogue with and to learn from the insights of some of these studies, some general questions on transnationalism should be raised here, in a new series on transnational studies: What does it imply to analyze the global, national, local through transnational lenses for different approaches? Which phenomena are identified as transnational, how and why? How are the phenomena analyzed, how are flows or identities that cross certain spaces captured? How do transnational theories or theory building interact with traditional theories? And finally, what do all these different perspectives, including the governance research have in common, where are the biggest differences and what can we learn from each other? These are only some of the questions, which I think are important to discuss in order to be able to better understand transboundary social processes.