This River I Think In: Global Social Thought and Flows of Information-Making

Dr. Scott Schaffer
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If one takes seriously the idea put forth in 20th century social theory that "the personal is political," as well as concomitant notions, then it would make sense that the site of production of intellectual products would impact on those products, as well as their movement across national and international boundaries. Those ideas and theories put forward by scholars in the North would, along with other cultural and intellectual goods, appear to flow more easily to the rest of the world, while those developed by Southern scholars would be more limited in their movement. The Global Social Thought project, as well as this paper, work to explore the ramifications of this hypothesis.

This paper will explore the possibilities for the development of a "global" social thought, as well as the ramifications of the development of this field of social theorizing. In essence, it puts forward the proposition that, in the face of ever-increasing processes of globalization, we must take greater account of those forms of sociological theory developed outside the normal global informational flows of theoretical ideas. Post-colonial social theorists would remind us that even in spite of the general pattern in post-colonial societies of the centre/periphery relationship between (former) colonizer and colonized, it is usually the particularities of a society that determines its path of development after decolonization. Yet at the same time, globalization and world-systems theorists claim that nearly every nook and cranny of the planet is being interpellated into Empire, and that those particularities will soon lose anything but commodity status.

Somewhere in between these two positions - both tainted by "first world" connections, both concerned with the position of "the periphery" but with no clear way to reconcile the two - lies the possibility for a global social theory, one that recognizes both the commonality of the pull of Empire and the particularities of the historical development of each society, and one that has the epistemological openness to deal with similarity and difference.

This paper will present preliminary work that has been done by the Global Social Thought project, arguing that there needs to be an accounting for geographic authenticity - the claim that there is a geographic and global contextuality to the production of social-theoretical ideas - and that we need to better understand the impact of the global positioning of theory production, reception, and transmission of these ideas. The trajectory of future work to be done by the GST Project will also be laid out.

Keywords: Global Social Theory, Post-colonial Theory, Transnational Flows, Knowledge Production
Stream: Knowledge, Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Scott Schaffer

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology/Anthropology, Millersville University of Pennsylvania

Scott Schaffer specializes in contemporary and global social theory. His book, Resisting Ethics, examines the ways in which understanding the practice of resistance can influence our understanding and development of a new social ethics. His current work involves the study of social theory produced outside the "global North," as well as the creation of "social development" as an international agenda.

Ref: H06P0096