Sara Curran is Professor of Sociology, Professor of Public Policy & Governance, and Professor of International Studies at University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. She is currently the Director of UW’s Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology and Editor of the Social Institutions, Organizations, and Relations section of UC Press’s journal Global Perspectives. Hagen Schulz-Forberg is Associate Professor for Global and European History in Aarhus University’s School of Culture and Society, and Editor of Global Perspectives’ Politics, Governance, and the Law section. Together, they write on Global Perspectives and the International Studies Association’s 2021 Annual Convention, which this year is organized around the theme “Globalization, Regionalism and Nationalism: Contending Forces in World Politics.”

Global Perspectives as New Epistemic Platform for Social Science Investigations in Disruptive Times

In response to the International Studies Association’s annual theme–Globalization, Regionalism, and Nationalism: Contending Forces in World Politics–we offer an approach for adjudicating knowledge building that meets the conference’s conceptual and empirical challenge. We argue for the distinct employment of the term global, as opposed to the term globalization, to direct a research agenda. The latter being a process and the former a perspective that modifies phenomena. Why global? The term global has quickly become a widely accepted modifier to describe phenomena and processes that appear to touch many parts of the globe. Imposing such a modifier allows for elaborations and explanations that are de-centering, variably encompassing, and diverse but shared. ‘Global’ has proven an invaluable lens on seeing the world, providing a perspective in these times. It offers productive opportunities, if somewhat destabilizing and frustrating ones, that have yielded scholarly proposals upending epistemologies, as well as practical observations, both of which suggest radical re-framings or re-conceptualizations of ‘taken for granted’ social institutions, organizations, and relationships that describe world politics.

The term global, as opposed to its twentieth century predecessor ‘international’, invites scholars and practitioners to adopt a lens that sees a far more complex and multi-layered set of world-spanning ties between a multitude of actors and organizations, who are not necessarily anchored by a nation-state. Similarly, global viewpoints acknowledge increasingly meaningful world-spanning sites of contestation about core social, economic, political and cultural concepts as well as a new global divide between those who thrive on increased connectivity and those who meet an increasing amount of obstacles that keep them out of the patterns of global flows in which goods, currencies, people, images, information, energy, and bytes circulate. Globalization is an open system, which profits those who are able to enter the flows and manage the various social preconditions to participate–digital literacy, increased mobility, flexibility in a knowledge economy, etc.–and it is an increasingly insurmountable border regime for those left outside new forms of social, political and economic organisation; new tensions and sites of social and political change emerge which cannot be addressed adequately by the nation-state and which undermines the legitimacy of its political class. Instead of assuming the nation or national as an essential category or natural endpoint at one level of social order, adopting a global modifier liberates social scientific inquiries and invites conceptual and empirical investigations into the relevance and varying import of the nation or nation-state.

With a global framing an articulation of a new paradigmatic framework is accomplished, which moves beyond the linearities of ‘isms (international or universal). Conrad’s (2016) recasting of world history to global history offers an important articulation about ‘global’ as a crucial paradigmatic shift, bringing together different pasts into one frame and rendering visible connections not previously observed or imagined.

A global paradigm requires new research tools but not just in terms of standard scholarly quips around mixed methods approaches or interdisciplinary integrations. It is a far more difficult and challenging agenda

These fruitful renderings of a new paradigm require substantial and crucial theoretical and empirical efforts to better elaborate and explain past, current and emergent phenomena of politics, law, and governance. A global paradigm requires new research tools but not just in terms of standard scholarly quips around mixed methods approaches or interdisciplinary integrations. It is a far more difficult and challenging agenda. At least three items on this agenda come to mind immediately: addressing methodological nationalism, which remains an issue, despite remarkable advances in some fields (Chernillo 2006; Zurn 2013; Sassen 2019); continuing to overcome the normative flavour of epistemology, by going to the roots of knowledge construction especially within the social sciences (Buroway 2009; Darien-Smith 2019; Sousa Santos 2014); recognizing and incorporating complexity as an approach rather than boiling things down to dualisms (Urry 2003; Steger and James 2019). 

Making headway around the contending forces of globalization, regionalism and nationalism as they relate to world politics, requires adopting the three preceding approaches. We contend that doing so will reveal the otherwise taken for granted forms of power and the institutional, organizational, and relational mechanisms that shape the distributions of power that adjudicate the forces of globalization, regionalism, and nationalism. We invite ISA scholars to adopt this new global paradigm–a global perspective–and join us by contributing your conceptual and empirical insights to one or more of Global Perspectives’ sections. 


Buroway, M. (2009). The Global Turn: Lessons from Southern Labor Scholars and Their Labor Movements. Work and Occupations 36(2), 87-95.

Chernilo, D. (2006). Methodological Nationalism and Its Critiques. In Delanty, G., & Kumar, K. (Eds.). The SAGE Handbook of Nations and Nationalism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Pp. 129-140.

Conrad, S. (2016). What is global history?. Princeton University Press.

Darian-Smith, E. (2019). Globalizing Education in Times of Hyper-Nationalism, Rising Authoritarianism, and Shrinking Worldviews. New Global Studies.

Sassen, S. (2019). Researching the Localizations of the Global. In Juergensmeyer, M., S. Sassen, M. B Steger (Eds). The Oxford Handbook of Global Studies. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 73-92.

Sousa Santos, B de. (2014). Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide. New York, NY: Routledge.

Steger, M. B., & James, P. (2019). Globalization Matters: Engaging the Global in Unsettled Times. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Urry, J. (2003). Global Complexity. New York, NY: Polity Press.

Zürn, M. (2013). Globalization and global governance. Handbook of international relations, 2, 401-25.

About Global Perspectives

Global Perspectives is a peer-reviewed, transdisciplinary journal seeking to advance social science research and debates in a globalizing world, specifically in terms of concepts, theories, methodologies, and evidence bases. The journal is devoted to the study of global patterns and developments across a wide range of topics and fields, among them trade and markets, security and sustainability, communication and media, justice and law, governance and regulation, culture and value systems, identities, environmental interfaces, technology-society interfaces, shifting geographies and migration.

Editor-in-Chief: Helmut K. Anheier, Hertie School and Luskin School of Public Affairs, UCLA