The Commodification of Everything   /   Summer 2003   /    Articles

Toward a Richer Understanding of Global Commodification

Glocalization and Grobalization

George Ritzer and J. Michael Ryan

An avocado cheeseburger at a restaurant in Tokyo (2014). Via Wikimedia Commons.

While social theorists have long been interested in globalization, there has been an explosion of work on the topic in recent years.11x A number of leading social theorists have addressed the issue of globalization including Zygmunt Bauman, Globalization: The Human Consequences (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998); Ulrich Beck, What is Globalization? (Cambridge: Polity, 2000); Anthony Giddens, Runaway World: How Globalization is Reshaping our Lives (New York: Routledge, 2000); and Douglas Kellner, “Theorizing Globalization” Sociological Theory 20 (2002): 285–305. The flowering of such theories is a reflection of the fact that globalization is of great concern to, and of enormous significance for, much of the world’s population. They feel deeply about many things, including the fact that not only may they not be profiting economically from globalization, they may, in fact, be further disadvantaged by it. They may also balk about the external control exercised over their lives by international agencies (such as the IMF and World Bank) and other nations (especially the United States). Furthermore, there is a fear that indigenous culture is being undermined and overwhelmed by either a global culture or one associated with another nation (again, especially that of the United States). Of course, this opposition is not found everywhere. Developed nations that clearly gain from globalization are less likely to be opposed than less developed nations that feel disadvantaged by it.

The complexity of responses to globalization is matched by the complexity of globalization itself. Despite all the attention that the phenomenon of globalization attracts, the terms used to discuss it are still inadequate to the task of addressing its complex processes. This essay attempts to redress this inadequacy by exploring the concept of glocalization, developing a companion term—grobalization—and exploring the utility of these concepts for a more nuanced understanding of globalization, particularly as it relates to commodification

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