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Book reviews

years ago. The reason they do not is because of the exchange of feedback, in
other words the use of reputation systems. Lest we imagine these are an
invention of the Internet age, they are at pains to point out that trade has
always involved such systems as Weber himself noted. Snijders and Weesie
consider how close we can get to the decision-making process of the buyer
through the traditional research focus on the auction site, eBay, given that the
data which is readily available reveals little of this process.
Part 3 includes five chapters on assessing trust and reputation online. Cook
et al assess determinants of trustworthiness by means of an empirical study
using an online survey distributed to undergraduates. Other chapters in this
section consider how trust is rebuilt after negative feedback, how social
control on the Internet (eg banning members who misbehave from auction
sites) is exercised, how users cope with uncertainty and how cooperation may
take place even when formal trust mechanisms are not available.
Overall the scope of the book is extensive and the approach detailed if
mainly limited to empirical studies of students. How far Internet researchers
will find this book useful will depend on which research paradigm they use.
There are a number of major nettles yet to be grasped, not least a richer
picture of the influence of culture. If you value laboratory experiments, a
quantitative approach resting on a functionalist point of view then this book
will be of considerable value. However if you want to know what all kinds of
users think about trust in the online world and how trust is made and main-
tained therein you would need to look elsewhere.

University of Salford Alison Adam

The Sociology of Globalization


Luke Martell, Cambridge, Polity, 2010, £18.99, 336pp.

Globalization: A Basic Text


George Ritzer, Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, £24.99, 592pp. sore_1951 707..726

Globalization has replaced all other topics – structuralism, post-structuralism,


postmodernism, gender, inequality and so forth – as the all-embracing para-
digm of modern sociology, and spinning off a battery of new concepts around
mobilities, glocalization, globalophilia, mondialization and many more.
Despite the idea that we are in post-social condition, perhaps in no other area
of research in the social sciences has sociology been so dominant in the field.
Between them, these two large volumes tell the student just about everything
he or she would want to know about the topic – or almost.
George Ritzer has been, since the first edition of The McDonaldization of
Society in 1993 to the pessimistic The Globalization of Nothing in 2003, a major
player in the study of cultural globalization. Ritzer made McDonaldization the
principal example of the growth of cultural homogeneity, along with its many

© 2010 The Authors. The Sociological Review © 2010 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review 707
Book reviews

(American) imitations. He also resisted the counter argument that glocaliza-


tion (the resistance of the local to the global, and the diverse and subsequent
combinations of the local and the global) in for example Golden Arches East
(Watson, 1997), was an equally important trend of modern culture. Ritzer has
subsequently been at the centre of one – or possibly the major – issue in
cultural sociology, namely whether there is an inexorable trend towards cul-
tural uniformity and standardization, only to be followed closely by political
conformity. Ritzer’s overall message remains pessimistic.
In this ‘ basic text’ he pursues his idea of ‘grobalization’ which he defines as
‘the imperialistic ambitions of nation-states, corporations, organizations, and
the like, and their desire, indeed need, to impose themselves on various geo-
graphic areas throughout the world’ (p. 267). To this master trend, there are
various sub-processes – capitalism, Americanization and McDonaldization –
which shape the world we inhabit. The outcomes are largely negative, giving
rise to ‘nothing’, that is, empty forms and ‘non-things’ that circulate the globe
rendering our world a flow of non-people offering non-services. For Ritzer, this
non-world is the logical conclusion of Max Weber’s ‘night of icy darkness’
proclaimed prophetically in the lecture on ‘politics as a vocation’, because it is
easier for global corporations to make and promote nothing (commodities
that are identical in packaging and with no distinctive contents for global
consumers) than to deliver something. The shopping mall is an excellent
example of the growth imperative of economic globalization producing the
same experience of nothing whether one is shopping in London, Moscow or
Tokyo. Karl Marx joins hands with Weber as the framework for understanding
the global rationalization of institutions and the alienation of consciousness.
The argument against global cultural homogenization has come from soci-
ologists such as Roland Robertson and Richard Giulianotti who, considering
the globalization of sport, observe that America is not globally dominant and
that soccer rather than baseball has become the world sport. For Ritzer, such
arguments cut no ice when compared to the overwhelming forces behind
grobalization or the fetishism of growth. While Ritzer’s general thesis presents
a bleak picture of our future, he fully recognizes and debates alternatives to
and resistance against globalization – the emergence of global civil society,
human-rights groups, slow-food outlets, and anti-global politics, but he also
notes correctly that even anti-globalization movements are instances of glo-
balization. They could not exist without the Internet and an emerging global
consciousness about the environmental crisis. In short, grobalization rules.
Martell’s volume provides an equally comprehensive and valuable over-
view of globalization, but with less sense of an overarching thesis or narrative.
His main concern is to argue that sociologists should pay as much attention
to economics and politics as culture in the study of globalization. In support
of inter-disciplinary research, his textbook has important chapters on war,
poverty, the decline of American power, migration and democracy. Both
authors pay attention to the intellectual history of the notion of globalization
and Martell also gives welcome attention to the impact of global evangelical

708 © 2010 The Authors. The Sociological Review © 2010 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review
Book reviews

religions (primarily Christianity and Islam) on the spread of global ideas and
processes. If Martell has an integrating theme to pull together what is other-
wise an overwhelming array of issues, it is the question of global inequality.
However, his analysis is in the end as pessimistic as Ritzer’s critical theory of
culture.
Both of these books aspire, largely successfully, to be textbooks aimed at
the mass market of undergraduate courses on globalization in Britain and the
United States. Both volumes are complete with inserts, diagrams, summary
statements, literature review, annotated lists for further reading, charts and
definitions. Both are clearly written and are consequently superb teaching
devices, but from the perspective of research scholars they are of less interest,
and problematically both textbooks were written before the credit crisis of
2008–2009 and its ongoing aftermath. Unsurprisingly neither author contem-
plates the prospect of post-globalization, or the financialization of capitalism,
or a long downturn in economic growth or the securitization of the state that
might be increasingly necessary after the end of middle-class prosperity and
the expansion of the global underclass. Both textbooks do however address
the issue of China’s economic ascendancy, but neither discusses what is pos-
sibly the key text in the field, namely Doug Guthrie’s China and Globalization
(2009).
Perhaps the key political and ethical issue then is whether the rise of various
forms of global consciousness – human rights, environmentalism and cosmo-
politanism – can offset the otherwise bleak picture of the globalization of
nothing – the world-wide dystopia of consumerism – and the intensification of
global inequality that will be the inevitable outcome of the current crisis. What
comes after globalization may be either the emergence of a feral society
(urban decay, water wars, over-population and pandemics) or the construction
of new social bonds around a shared cosmopolitan ethic, or both. Ritzer and
Martell provide excellent analyses of our social plight, but offer little by way of
an explicit ethical analysis. Does the current interest in the ‘cosmopolitan
imagination’ (Delanty, 2009) perhaps provide both an empirical and moral
understanding of globalization? Perhaps post-grobalization might help us hold
a cosmopolitan dialogue about something rather than nothing.

The Graduate Center, the City University of New York Bryan S. Turner

References

Delanty, Gerard, (2009), The Cosmopolitan Imagination. The Renewal of Critical Social Theory,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Guthrie, Doug, (2009), China and Globalization, New York: Routledge (revised edition).
Ritzer, George, (1993), The McDonalization of Society, Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press.
Ritzer, George, (2003), The Globalization of Nothing, London: Sage.
Watson, James (ed.), (1997), Golden Arches East. McDonalds in East Asia, Stanford: Stanford
University Press.

© 2010 The Authors. The Sociological Review © 2010 The Editorial Board of The Sociological Review 709