The Particular


From Fellow Rachel Harvey: My entry point is “The Particular.”  The concept is borrowed from Dennis Wrong (The Persistence of the Particular) and refers to the irreducible specificity of all sociocultural processes in terms of, at the very least, their spatio-temporal location.

Objects and dynamics associated with globalization are not exempt from this condition.

Image via John P. (Flickr)

Key Terms

The Particular: The irreducible specificity of all sociocultural processes in terms of, at the very least, their time-space location

Methodological Nationalism: The assumption that the nation-state is the necessary unit of analysis

Globalization: The uneven, and not necessarily continuous or uniform, increasing ecological, social, institutional, and cultural connectedness of the world.

Global in the Particular: Individual sociocultural processes, to varying degrees and intensities, mediate and are transformed by transnational linkages

Particular in the Global: Spatially and temporally specific dynamics play critical roles in the emergence and functioning of the global.  This goes beyond mediating or being transformed by globalization.  The particular becomes global in scope.

Global Particular: The concealment of the particulars producing and reproducing what appear to be self-evidently, placeless, and homogenizing global dynamics.

Discussion Questions

1) What assumptions about global sociocultural phenomena are required in order for hyperglobalist conceptions to be accurate?

2) Do non-hyperglobalist approaches employ a different notion of global sociocultural phenomena?

3) Do the three different perspectives employ varying stances in relation to theory?  What role does their approach to the particular play in this?

4) Are there global phenomena that do not apart to fit within the analytical vantage points presented in the chapter?  If so, why?

5) Is it possible for a phenomenon to only be a global in the particular?  If so, what conditions need to be met?  How does this relate to power?

6) What types of power produce global particulars and the particular in the global?  What types of social, institutional, spatial, and cultural conditions might be necessary to produce each of these?

Supplemental Readings

Abbott, A. (2001). Chaos of Disciplines. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Agnew, J. (1994). “The Territorial Trap: The Geographical Assumptions of International Relations Theory.” Review of International Political Economy, 1,  53-80.

Chernilo, D. (2006). Social Theory’s Methodological Nationalism: Myth and Reality. European Journal of Social Theory 9(1):5-22.

Harvey, D.L. and Reed, M. (1996). Social Sciences as the Study of Complex Systems in L. Douglas Kiel and Euel Elliott (Eds.) Chaos Theory in the Social Sciences (295-323). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Hay, C. and Marsh, D. (2000). Introduction: Demystifying Globalization in C. Hay and D. Marsh (Eds.) Demystifying Globalization (1-17). New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, Inc.

Hodgson, G.M. (2001). How Economics Forgot History: The Problem of Historical Specificity in Social Science. New York, NY: Routledge.

Nussbaum, M.C. (1990). Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Sassen, S. (2006). Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Walton, J. (1992). Making the Theoretical Case in C.C. Ragin and H.S. Becker (Eds.) What is a Case? Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry (159-172). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Wrong, D.H. (2005). The Persistence of the Particular. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Useful News Sources


1) Students do a literature review of research on a global phenomenon. They will identify whether different perspectives on that topic align with the three analytical vantage points (global particular; global in the particular; particular in the global).  The paper will also examine how the different moments impact, enhance, and limit the different theorizations of the specific global dynamic being examined.

2) Students select a “global particular” to be the focus of a research paper. This might be a very specific concept such as a single human right or a broader category like “global finance.”  In the paper students should discuss why the phenomenon selected qualifies as a global particular. This will entail both identifying the central particulars, and discussing the dynamics concealing them.

3) Students select a research topic and investigate its relationship to globalization. They will identify and explain whether the phenomenon in question aligns with any of the three vantage points.  Through this exploration, the students will engage in an analysis and critique of the approach proposed in the chapter.  Is it useful?  What problems does it present?

4) Students use the class readings to write an analysis of the “persistence of the particular in the global” framework. In the paper, the strengths and weaknesses of the perspective in relation to discerning and understanding globalization will be discussed.