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Globalization and Inequalities

Globalization and Inequalities
Complexity and Contested Modernities

  • Sylvia Walby - Royal Holloway, University of London, UK, City University of London, UK, City, University of London, UK, Lancaster University, UK

August 2009 | 520 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

How has globalization changed social inequality? In this groundbreaking book, Globalization and Inequalities, Sylvia Walby examines the many changing forms of social inequality and their intersectionalities at both country and global levels. She shows how the contest between different modernities and conceptions of progress shape the present and future.

The book re-thinks the nature of economy, polity, civil society and violence. It places globalization and inequalities at the center of an innovative new understanding of modernity and progress and demonstrates the power of these theoretical reformulations in practice, drawing on global data and in-depth analysis of the U.S. and EU.

Walby analyzes the tensions between the different forces that are shaping global futures. She examines the regulation and deregulation of employment and welfare; domestic and public gender regimes; secular and religious polities; path dependent trajectories and global political waves; and global inequalities and human rights.

Globalization and Inequalities is essential reading for undergraduate and graduate students and academics of sociology, social theory, gender studies and politics and international relations, geography, economics and law.

1. Introduction: Progress and modernities
What is Progress?
More money or longer life?

Progress as a contested project

Economic development


Human Rights

Human development, well-being and capabilities

Competing projects: neoliberalism and social democracy

Contesting conceptions of progress

Multiple Complex Inequalities
Multiple and intersecting inequalities

Complex inequalities: difference, inequality and progress

Modernity? Postmodernity? Not yet Modern? Varieties of Modernity?
Modernity or postmodernity?

Late, second or liquid modernity?

Multiple modernities?

Not yet modern?

Varieties of modernity

Defining modernity

Globalization as the erosion of distinctive and separate societies

Resistant to globalization

Already global

Coevolution of global processes with trajectories of development

Implications of globalization for social theory

Complexity Theory
2. Theorising multiple social systems
Multiple Inequalities and Intersectionality
Regimes and Domains
System and Its Environment: Over-Lapping, Non-Saturating, Non-Nested Systems
Societalisation not Societies
Emergence and Projects
Bodies, Technologies and the Social
Path Dependency
Co-evolution of Complex Adaptive Systems in Changing Fitness Landscapes
3. Economies
Redefining the Economy
Domestic Labour as Labour
State Welfare as part of the Economy
What are Economic Inequalities? What is Progress in the Economy?
From Pre-Modern to Modern: The Second Great Transformation
Global Processes and Economic Inequalities
What global processes?

Country Processes

Varieties of Political Economy
Varieties of employment relations

Varieties of Welfare Provision

Critical turning points into varieties of political economy

4. Polities
Reconceptualising Types of Polities



Organised religions



Global political institutions

Polities Overlap and do not Politically Saturate a Territory
Democracy and modernity

Redefining democracy

The development of democracy

5. Violence
Developing the Ontology of Violence
Modernity and Violence
Path Dependency in Trajections of Violence
6. Civil societies
Theorising Civil Society
Modernity and Civil Society
Civil Society Projects
Global Civil Societies and Waves
Examples of waves

7. Regimes of complex inequality
Beyond Class Regimes
Gender Regimes
Ethnic Regimes
Further Regimes of Complex Inequalities

Sexual orientation

Intersecting Regimes of Complex Inequality
8. Varieties of modernity
Neoliberal and Social Democratic Varieties of Modernity
Path Dependency at the Economy/Polity Nexus?
Welfare provision

Conclusions on welfare

Employment regulation


Conclusions on political economy

Path Dependency at the Violence Nexus
Modernity and path dependency


Development, inequality and violence

Gendered violence

Path dependency of the violence nexus in OECD countries

Violence, economic inequality and the polity/economy nexus

Conclusions on violence

Gender Regime
Public and domestic gender regimes

Development and the public gender regime

Domestic and public gender regimes and gender inequality

Varieties of public gender regimes

Democracy and Inequality
9. Measuring progress
Economic Development
Economic inequality

Global economic inequality

Beyond the household

Economic inequalities and flows

Economic inequalities in summary

Inequalities in non-economic domains


Human Rights
Human Development, Well-Being and Capabilities
Key Indicator Sets: What Indicators; What Underlying Concepts of Progress?
Extending the Frameworks and Indicators of Progress: Where do Environmental
Sustainability and Violence Fit?
Environmental sustainability


Achievement of Visions of Progress: Comparing Neoliberalism and Social Democracy
Economic development: neoliberalism vs. social democracy

Equality: neoliberalism vs. social democracy

Human rights: neoliberalism vs. social democracy

Human development, well-being and capabilities: neoliberalism vs. social democracy

Trade offs or complementary?

10. Comparative paths through modernity: neoliberalism and social democracy
Political Economy
Gender Transformations: The Emergence of Employed Women as the New Champions of Social Democracy
Employed women as the new champions of social democracy

Dampeners and Catalysts of Economic Growth: War and Gender Regime

11. Contested futures
Financial and Economic Crisis 2007-9
Contesting Hegemons and the Future of the World
12. Conclusions
The Challenge of Complex Inequalities and Globalization to Social Theory

In this wide-ranging book, Sylvia Walby deploys her vast knowledge and wealth of research to break from inherited paradigms and to tackle the major challenges of globalization.

Michael Burawoy
University of California, Berkeley

What an important book this is! By using the tools complexity theory offers, Walby dismantles the conservative versions of systems theory and provides a new way of approaching the dynamics of intersectional change. Her view of system environment interactions with both stabilizing and destabilizing feedback loops is itself theoretically rich. Walby then uses this model to generate significant insights into the contested nature of modernity and the diverse ways that social democratic and liberal states have constructed equality and inequality. Her theoretical model will prove to be an essential resource for researchers concerned with understanding and steering social change.

Myra Marx Ferree
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Though as critical about the feminist critiques of social theory as she is about social theory itself, in this landmark work Sylvia Walby does not stop at outlining the mistakes in both. Aside from unpacking the conflations that hinder our understanding of the social and political world, she presents an intricate, comprehensive new social theory and explains its major premises and innovations carefully and precisely. She focuses on the dynamics and complexities of social relations, integrating in these dynamics the role of complex inequalities (class, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation). Then, as a grand dessert, the book not only delivers a convincing first empirical test to Walby's new theory, but also dares to take a normative position, all without resorting to hegemony... Enabling innovative understandings of age-old complexities through brand-new empirical and normative questions and answers, this book will and should affect all research in social sciences.

Mieke Verloo
Radboud University Nijmegen and IWM Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna

Having read her book, one can't help but see what was thought to be clear in new ways. Globalization and Inequalities is an impressive example of creativity realized on the one hand and a provocation to further creativity on the other... A major accomplishment.

Devorah Kalekin-Fishman
International Sociology Review of Books

An ambitious and complex book, in which Walby proposes solutions for some enduring problems in sociological theory; in particular, problems in theorizing large complex systems, such as whole societies.

Joan Acker
Work, Employment & Society

This book is complex, stimulating and insightful and should be read by any scholar who is interested in multiple inequalities on a global scale. It can, at times, seem a little overwhelming, but this is a reflection of its complexity. The book makes an enormous contribution not only to the intersectionality debate, but also encourages the reader to question whether we are yet ‘fully modern’ and what counts as ‘progress’. As Walby argues, we are not yet modern when most states have not yet fully criminalized and delegitimized violence against women and minorities.

Susan Durbin
Work, Employment & Society

A tour de force that spans social theory and empirical research, seeks to persuade readers of the explanatory powers of complexity theory for the global era and places gender firmly at the centre of the analysis... Sylvia Walby’s impressive study of complex inequalities in our globalized world offers not only a new set of concepts, propositions and empirical evidence, but a vision of the future based on a commitment to equality and justice. For that, we are in her debt.

Val Moghadam
Work, Employment & Society

Walby’s book offers both an original theory and a discussion of indicators and findings on the basis of which the theory could become fruitful for empirical research.

Anja Weiß
University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

This text adds a layered depth of information in the Human Rights discipline. The author provides insight from various vantage points that promotes great thought provoking conversation .

Dr Charles Thomas
Communication Dept, Duquesne University
January 22, 2014

Excellent integration of the structural elements of globalization with discussions of inequality.

Ms Yvette Young
Sociology Dept, University of Utah
December 27, 2011

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