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Charles Lemert and Anthony Elliott, Deadly Worlds: The Emotional Costs of Globalization.

Charles Lemert and Anthony Elliott, Deadly Worlds: The Emotional Costs of Globalization. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. $19.95 paperback.

Much of the social science literature on globalization has focused narrowly on economic aspects and on the way international trade, the flow of finance capital, the activities of multinational corporations and currency speculation have fostered far more frequent exchanges and a growing interdependence between the world's nation states. Although this focus predominates, social science literature has been criticized for neglecting the other dimensions of globalization such as communications, population movements and the diffusion of culture. Fortunately, a more comprehensive approach to globalization has emerged and many facets of the processes accompanying globalization have now been explored.

One of these concerns the way globalization has affected individual attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Some writers have emphasized the way a global consciousness has emerged among people all over the world and how their everyday lives are affected and changed by international events. Lemert and Elliott develop this theme by examining the links between globalization and individualism. They point out that the term individualism was popularized by de Tocqueville in the 1840s to characterize popular lifestyles in the United States. Since then, individualism has featured prominently in social science analysis and, as the authors point out, three different interpretations of individualism have emerged. The first reflects the idea that individual identity has been shaped and manipulated by capitalism, consumerism and the media. The second emphasizes the alienated and isolated dimensions of individual existence, while the third views individualism in a more proactive, reflexive way, stressing the role of individual agency in negotiating the uncertainties and risks of contemporary life. It is this latter view of individualism that is most closely associated with globalization discourse. The forces of gobalization are volatile, contingent and ambiguous and it is only through reflexively negotiating this deadly world that individuals can survive. The book draws on case studies to illustrate the way that the new individualism is finding expression in the contemporary world. The authors end the book by suggesting that the insights of psychoanalytic theory can nurture and support effective individual reflexivity and foster an ability to cope with globalization's challenges.

Although the book's thesis will no doubt be disputed, the authors have drawn together and synthesized a huge body of social science literature that has accumulated on the subject of individualism over last two centuries and they offer an extremely scholarly analysis of recent trends. The book is an enjoyable and informative read which provides powerful insights into the way that human beings today are responding to the complexities and challenges of a globalizing world. Although specialized and somewhat challenging for undergraduates, it is highly recommended.
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Title Annotation:Book Notes
Publication:Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2007
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