Established in 2010 by a grant from the Mellon Foundation, the Committee on Globalization and Social Change is a transdisciplinary working group committed to reflecting critically on the relationship between contemporary transformations typically associated with globalization and the political futures that may be opened or obstructed by them. The Committee is less interested in developing programmatic positions than in defining and exploring sets of questions about plural democracy, transnational solidarity, global justice, political subjectivity, and ethical responsibility that demand our attention in this moment of crisis and transition.

We have found it especially useful to think carefully about the adequacy of inherited concepts for grasping our rapidly changing present in order to determine whether they need to be revised in relation to the contemporary situation or whether aspects of globalization may be usefully illuminated by revisiting seemingly outmoded analytic categories. We are concerned with understanding globalization, social change, and political futures more fully from a variety of academic and non-academic perspectives. But we are equally concerned with exploring the impact of globalization on knowledge production and social theory themselves. Our attempt to engage the contemporary situation critically thus requires us to relate theories of global social processes to an understanding of social theory as itself global.

We begin with the observation that globalization, whether as a way of describing the world or a set of worldly events, is an uneven and contradictory phenomenon. Globalization thus entails a dynamic relation between alignments and fissures, powerful regulatory formations and undisciplined irregularities, traumatic upheavals and utopian imaginings, occluded pathways and emergent possibilities. Through globalization a new world is taking shape whose effects confront us but whose contours are still difficult to recognize, name, or explain. Have the political, economic, and social terms we use to analyze modernity been made obsolete by present-day global developments? How does globalization compel us to re-conceptualize political and historical connections in order to reveal the problems and potential of our present moment? Does globalization allow us to re-imagine old problems in transformative ways?]

The Committee is composed of a group of core faculty from the Graduate Center, a post-doctoral fellow, and annual faculty and graduate doctoral student fellows. Each year our activities, which include a weekly seminar for the Fellows and a variety of public lectures, roundtables, workshops, and symposia, revolve primarily around a specific theme. Past themes have included Emergence: Globalization and Social Change, and Solidarities: Politics and Ethics in a Global Age. The theme for 2012-2013 will be Globalization and Temporality.

Our aim is create a vital transdisciplinary space at the Graduate Center where faculty and graduate students from the whole CUNY system and from a variety of fields can think together through common problems and work together on collaborative projects. We also hope to build bridges between scholars and a range of public intellectuals, political actors, and artists beyond the university who are concerned with similar issues. Being at a large and distinguished public university in the heart of New York City positions us nicely to facilitate such dialogue between academic scholars and critical thinkers working outside of the university and in other parts of the world. The Committee thus seeks to build directly on CUNY’s long tradition of combining rigorous scholarship with public engagement in worldly affairs.

Meet Director Gary Wilder and the Faculty Committee.