ICS Seminar Series - Manfred B. Steger

Date: Thursday, 24 September 2020
Time: 11.30am–1pm
Venue: The seminar will be hosted online via Zoom. Please RSVP to e.blight@westernsydney.edu.au by 23 September 5:00pm, to receive the Zoom details.

Globalization and the Great Unsettling: The Production of the Unhappy Consciousness

Presenter: Professor Manfred B. Steger


This presentation explores the complex and subtle dynamics involved in the production and representation of the global-local nexus in current everyday life. Its socio-historical context is the destabilization of the early twenty-first century globalization system starting with the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, continuing with the populist explosion in the mid-2010s, and climaxing in the 2020 Global Coronavirus Pandemic. The main argument of the presentation comes in three parts. First, rather than mischaracterizing the current dynamics as the “end of globalization,” they should be seen as the latest and most intense phase of the “Great Unsettling”—shorthand for the intensifying dynamics of instability, disintegration, insecurity, dislocation, relativism, inequality, and ecological degradation. Although the magnitude of the current challenge is threatening familiar lifeworlds, it cannot be reduced to “deglobalization” in general. Second, the presentation links the discussion of the Great Unsettling to various globalization processes, especially the changing speed and intensity of global spatial mobilities that impact the local. To facilitate a better understanding of the complexities involved in these dynamics, we introduce a new typology of globalization based on four integrative and differentiating formations. Third, the presentation explores the dynamics of the Great Unsettling not merely on the level of material-objective globalizing processes, but also on the subjective plane of human consciousness. In particular, it examines the production of an “unhappy consciousness” torn between the new enjoyment of global digital mobility and the old visceral attachments to local fixity.


Manfred B. Steger is Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawai’i-Mānoa and Global Professorial Fellow at Western Sydney University. He has served as a consultant on globalization for the US State Department and as an advisor to the US Public Broadcasting Services’ TV series, Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism. He is the author or editor of twenty-seven books and numerous journal articles on globalization and social and political theory, including: The Rise of the Global Imaginary (Oxford University Press, 2008), and Globalization Matters: Engaging the Global in Unsettled Times (with Paul James; Cambridge University Press, 2019).