Beyond the Laws of Gravity: Exploring the Glocalization of Activism and Empowerment

Dr. Peter Bloom (College of Business, Economics and Law, Swansea University, UK)

SAC Room / Room 110, Cairnes Building (Ground Floor, St. Anthony's), NUI Galway 13:00 :: 18th September 2012

"It has been said that arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity", Kofi Annan

This seminar seeks to examine how employee empowerment and activist discourses are shaping contemporary identity and public policy. Recent scholarship reveals the ironic function of ‘empowerment’ values like autonomy for strengthening managerial power and reinforcing capitalist values of profit and productivity (Hales 1993; Willmott 1993). Less explored is the global/local dynamic impacting the acceptance and power of such ‘empowerment myths’ (Harley 1999). More precisely, how can these ‘progressive’ employment discourese be understood as global ‘brands’ uniquely oriented to meet local conditions? How does the appeal of ‘flexibilty’, ‘employability’, ‘work-life balance’ serve to legitimise international companies and policies within diverse national and regional contexts? How are social movements and employee resistance being shaped by this ‘global’ view of empowerment?

These questions reflect the need for re-thinking current conceptions of ‘glocalisation’. Rather than simply examining it in terms of corporations or capitalist trends, this project proposes it as also indicative of a broader ideological phenemonen. In this regard, economic and organizational discourses are increasingly seen, at least in rhetoric if not fact, as being ‘global’ in character. However, the international context remains a collection of quite diverse and stratified local contexts. Required then is an investigation of (1) how these global discoures are collectively shaping individual identities and desires internationally across different contexts and (2) how these global discourses are evolving and molded to reflect the political and cultural particularities of diverse national and regional contexts.

This research represents a potentially innovative and inter-disciplinary scholary perspective for understanding the relation of business, public policy and society. Most notably, it provides a critical scholarly lens for theoretically and empirically understanding the influence of ‘global’ discoures locally. These ideals can serve to overdetermine individual and collective identity, creating simoultaneously shared global and local identifications. At the broader social level, it can illuminate the ways these ‘empowerment’ ideals support certain policies and values at the expense of others as well shape the aspirations and activist struggles of margenalized groups . Hence, by better understanding the 'glocalization' of activism and empowerment it becomes possible to move beyond the current 'laws of gravity' defining contemporary globalization both internationally and nationally.

Biography: Dr. Peter Bloom is permanent lecturer in the College of Business, Economics and Law at Swansea University. In 2009, he was awarded a doctorate in Ideology and Discourse Analysis at University of Essex for my thesis, Creating the “Chinese Market”: The CCP and the Discursive Construction of an Authoritarian Capitalism through a Maoist Governing Paradigm, 2002-2008, which was funded through the Overseas Research Awards scheme. Since this time he has established a growing publication record in top international journals, within the fields of organization studies and the social sciences more generally. Currently his research interests focuses on identity, ideology and social change in the context of contemporary globalization.

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