An interview with Robert Holton, editor of the Ashgate series Global Connections

Global Connections builds on the multi-dimensional and continuously expanding interest in Globalization. The main objective of the series is to focus on ‘connectedness’ and provide readable case studies across a broad range of areas such as social and cultural life, economic, political and technological activities.

An interview with Global Connections’ series editor Robert Holton has recently been added to the Sociology pages of the Ashgate website, and is reproduced here:

An Interview with Robert Holton

Bob Holton

What encouraged you to enter academia?

I entered academia as a student in the second half of the 1960’s in a period of great social unrest throughout the Western world. Like many other people I wanted to contribute to desirable forms of social change, but came to realize that this needed further thought, analysis, and research. Better understanding of the social world would be necessary to achieve effective change, and this, together with intellectual curiosity, led me to seek a career in research and teaching.

What made you (decide to) initiate this series?

The series is intended to fill what I see as two major gaps in the study of globalization.

Firstly. while there are plenty of general surveys and general theories of globalization, I detect a lack of publications offering in-depth work capable of digging beneath generalities and orthodoxies. I particularly wanted to encourage and showcase work that confronted general theories with evidence, or which developed new and original lines of theoretical discussion from outside of the mainstream.

Secondly I wanted to encourage the publication of more sociological and inter-disciplinary work, to correct an excessive economistic focus on markets and states alone. Like a number of analysts I see globalization as a multi-dimensional set of (often conflicting) processes, involving culture as much as politics and the economy. And beyond this I saw a great need to publish work that analysed global-local or macro-micro connections, able to illuminate the way globalization can be re-shaped, re-made, criticised, resisted and possibly reversed?

What are your academic background and research interests?

I started out as a social historian and gravitated over the years into sociology. Having initially been interested in capitalism and its consequences for labour, I subsequently broadened this interest to look at social change historically and in the contemporary world.

My research interests, against this background continue to centre on the historical sociology of globalization, and (more recently) cosmopolitanism, as a possible way of re-shaping current configurations. This project includes theoretical work on the possible reversibility of globalization, as well as empirical research into areas like global social networks, and cricket.

Very briefly where do you see your discipline going in the future?

Sociology, will, I think, continue to exhibit the characteristics of a discipline to which, as Max Weber put it, eternal youth is granted. Rather than becoming old and arthritic, it will continue to incorporate new trends and social possibilities, but will continue to lack a stable agreed core of established wisdom. In the light of this I remain ambivalent about the sociological project.

What has been the highlight of your academic career so far?

Writing four books on globalization, and supervising post-graduates studying global topics.

What achievements would you like to emulate within your field?

I would like my writing to be read more widely in different languages across the world, so as to make the widest impact on thought and action. One person who has achieved this is the Australian sociologist John Braithwaite in his work on globalization and regulation. This is both influential in scholarship and public policy. I aspire to do the same.

What book has most influenced your own work?

Probably Max Weber’s Economy and Society, which remains an inspiring contribution to a multi-dimensional non-reductionist historical sociology.

What do you find particularly interesting about your role as a series editor?

It is an exciting way of feeling the pulse of new ideas and scholarship, as well as a way of assisting scholars to publish in an environment which is not necessarily conducive to work of this kind. The Ashgate series is especially exciting, in this way, precisely because it does seek to identify and bring to fruition book-length work of this kind.

Any advice for people wanting to publish in your series?

The series is very open in terms of topic, approach, and intellectual idiom. There is no prescriptive definition of ‘global connections’ or ‘globalization’, or narrow disciplinary or theoretical orientation. This doesn’t mean ‘anything goes’. What I am looking for is fresh and lively work on social processes that cross-borders and link people, institutions, and processes across space, including new theoretical perspectives on how such processes might be understood. Themes have already included gender, cosmopolitanism, and decolonizing European sociology, but we are not limited thereby. Research to do with the environment, business, technology, the arts, cities, labour movements, households and/or religion, together with all currents of social theory, would equally fit. In addition work on the limits to globalization, and on de-globalization would also be welcome.

What was the last book you read?

A novel called Netherland by Joseph O’Neill. Written by an Irish barrister in and about New York using the narrative voice of a Dutch financial analyst, this evokes some of the hopes and fears of populations living in the underside of a global city. Its sense of global connections is built around the world of cricket in New York played by post-colonial migrants, as well as the transatlantic family relations between the narrator, and his wife and child back in London. The work is possibly more eloquent than much of the sociology of global cities and global migration, in depicting aspects of civil society that take heed of, yet move us well beyond a model of global domination versus local resistance.

Robert Holton is Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Trinity College, Dublin

Further information about Ashgate’s sociology publishing

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