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university of tampere: faculty of social sciences: research: tcups - tampere research group for cultural and political sociology: research projects:
Faculty of Social SciencesTCuPS School of Social Sciences and Humanities University of Tampere
TCuPS - Tampere Research Group for Cultural and Political Sociology

The Moderns: A Study on the Governmentality of World Society

Site of research: School of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tampere

Project director: Academy Professor Pertti Alasuutari

Sponsor: Academy of Finland

Duration: 2009 - 2013


M.Sci Elina Mikola

Ph.D. Ali Qadir

M.Sci Jukka Syväterä

M.Sci Laura Valkeasuo


Project Brief 

Stemming from the Enlightenment, it has been common to conceive of society as a systemic whole that follows its own laws and complex dynamics, and in which more or less local transformations lead to evident social change (Alasuutari 2011). Recently, the emergence and popularity of the concept of globalization in the social sciences has meant a shift from a temporal toward a spatial metaphor in the way in which social change on a global scale is commonly conceptualized.

Globalization is often described as the “compression of the world and the intensification of the consciousness of the world as a whole” (Robertson 1992: 8). The globalization perspective has meant that social change is now often conceived as a consequence of a global spread of capital, people and ideas, and of increasing mutual interdependence caused by different kinds of cross-border flows. Such a perspective helps to better conceptualize social change on a global scale, wherein countries look more and more similar and change more and more similarly. One major approach to globalization, neoinstitutionalist world society theory, has analysed growing global isomorphism as being founded on world cultural models or scripts that are “enacted” by culturally constituted actors (Lechner 2009, Meyer 2007, Meyer et al. 1997, Meyer et al. 2009).

However, this perspective does not explain a simultaneous observation of the persistence of local consciousness, or “banal nationalism” (Billig 1995). According to these observations, various “flaggings” lead to nations being perceived as given, unique cultural and political entities following their own developmental paths, thus reinforcing the “national order of things” (Malkki 1995).

The aim of this project is to work toward a more complete understanding of the dynamics of global social change for the “modern” world. Building from constructionist ideas of modern society and inspired by Michel Foucault’s notion of “governmentality” (Foucault 1991, Lipschutz and Rowe 2005, Merlingen 2003), the project draws on the basic tools offered by neoinstitutionalist world society theory and previous research by the team (Alasuutari and Rasimus 2009, Rautalin and Alasuutari 2007). Increasingly, research under the project develops and utilizes the notion of domestication (Alasuutari 2009) to trace how global  trends are domesticated and coupled with banal nationalism. Domestication of global trends, it is found, often begins with cross-national comparisons and proceeds to domestic actors engaged in local field struggles, after which the models are naturalised as national. A wide range of geographical and thematic studies under the research projects explores this complex global-cum-domestic process of social change. More information on individual research studies can be found in the section “People”.



Alasuutari, Pertti (2009) "The Domestication of Worldwide Policy Models." Ethnologia Europea 39(1): 66-71.

--- (2011) "Modernization as a tacit concept used in governance." Journal of Political Power 4(2): 19.

Alasuutari, Pertti and Ari Rasimus (2009) "Use of the OECD in Justifying Policy Reforms: The Case of Finland." Journal of Power 2(1): 89–109.

Billig, Michael (1995) Banal Nationalism. London: Sage.

Foucault, Michel (1991) "Governmentality." Pp. 87-104 in The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, edited by Graham Burchell, Charles Gordon and Peter Miller. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lechner, Frank J. (2009) Globalization: The Making of World Society. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.

Lipschutz, Ronnie D. and James K. Rowe (2005) Globalization, Governmentality and Global Politics: Regulation for the Rest of Us? London: Routledge.

Malkki, Liisa H. (1995) "Refugees and Exile: From "Refugee Studies" to the National Order of Things." Annual Review of Anthropology 24: 495-523.

Merlingen, Michael (2003) "Governmentality: Towards a Foucauldian Framework for the Study of IGOs." Cooperation & Conflict 38(4): 361-84.

Meyer, John W. (2007) "Globalization: Theory and Trends." International Journal of Comparative Sociology 48(4): 261-73.

Meyer, John W., John Boli, George M. Thomas and Francisco O. Ramirez (1997) "World Society and the Nation-State." American Journal of Sociology 103(1): 144-81.

Meyer, John W., Georg Krücken and Gili S. Drori (eds.) (2009) World Society: The Writings of John W. Meyer. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rautalin, Marjaana and Pertti Alasuutari (2007) "The Curse of Success: The Impact of the OECD PISA Study on the Discourses of the Teaching Profession in Finland." European Educational Research Journal 7(4): 349-64.

Robertson, Roland (1992) Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture. London: Sage.

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