Editorial: A Short History of Global Dialogue

Global Dialogue began in 2010 as an eight-page newsletter. It began in four languages – English, French, Spanish and Chinese – and was produced with a simple Microsoft program, involving the work of four people. Seven years later it has become a full-fledged magazine with four issues a year, each some 40 pages long, published in seventeen languages. Each issue involves the collaboration of over 100 people across the globe. The 31 issues published so far contain some 550 articles written by authors from 69 countries. From the beginning we have tried to make articles accessible to all, both for ease of translation and as a principle of dissemination. Sociology, after all, has important messages – indeed ever-more important messages – for a world careening toward multiple disasters.

While the newfangled technologies at our disposal can accelerate those disasters, they also offer us new opportunities. Digital media made Global Dialogue possible but, let it be emphasized, not without the human labor of so many. Even though the ISA was only able to offer a token sum for their devotion, young sociologists, guided by senior colleagues, seized the opportunity to translate Global Dialogue into their languages, especially those marginalized in processes of globalization. Their enthusiastic collaboration has been one of the most exhilarating things to behold.

Early on our graphic designer, August Bagà (aka Arbu), proposed to give Global Dialogue an exciting visual appearance. He teamed up with Lola Busuttil, fluent in the ISA’s three languages, to become the managing editors. Lola oversees the whole operation, making sure that each issue in each language follows the highest standards. Their partnership has resulted in a beautiful and meticulous magazine, made accessible to all by Gustavo Taniguti, who designed and maintained the Global Dialogue website.

While I was Vice-President and then President of the ISA I had the privilege of getting to know sociologists from all corners of the world. Those contacts sustained the contents of the magazine. When the task of editing the articles into accessible format was proving too much I asked Gay Seidman to help me. Before becoming a distinguished sociologist she had been a journalist and editor. She generously volunteered to undertake the often very challenging task of turning “sociologese” into simple but elegant English. She was caring in her attention to the authors, efficient and effective in her execution, and an invaluable consultant throughout. Before Gay applied her fine art, a team of graduate students at Berkeley would translate non-English submissions into English.

There are so many others to thank, but top of the list must be Robert Rojek who, early on, spontaneously offered SAGE funding with no strings attached. From the beginning Izabela Barlinska, ISA’s organizational genius and devoted caretaker, has been Global Dialogue’s champion. Throughout these seven years I have received the endorsement of the ISA’s Executive Committee without which the whole enterprise would never have been possible. After I ceased to be president, Margaret Abraham and Vineeta Sinha enthusiastically supported the continuation of Global Dialogue. Now we have two fantastic new editors, Brigitte Aulenbacher and Klaus Dörre, who will carry Global Dialogue to new heights. Don’t hesitate to write to them with new ideas and suggestions as to the contents and direction of Global Dialogue.

In reading the pages of Global Dialogue one sees the ebb and flow of global history. We began in 2010 with the fallout of the 2008 global recession, and the rise of optimistic social movements – Occupy, Arab Spring, Indignados, and piqueteros alongside labor, environmental, feminist and other social justice movements. But starting in 2013, clouds began to gather on the horizon and we witnessed a reactionary, anti-democratic swing. We adopted Karl Polanyi as our prophet. We relearned what Polanyi’s The Great Transformation had taught us long ago: that the counter-movements to unleashing markets were as likely to be fascist as socialist, as likely to be authoritarian as democratic. We have still much to learn from his analysis of the contradictions between capitalism and democracy. Thus, it is especially appropriate that my last issue opens with a conversation with Kari Polanyi Levitt who relates the life and world that informed her father’s genius.

Throughout these seven years I’ve tried to create symposia on a broad swath of national sociologies but I never dwelt on the US as such. In my last issue as editor of Global Dialogue, however, I’ve called on seven friends and colleagues to reflect upon the rise of Trumpism through the lens of their individual interests. They have put the US in the context of a historic and global swing to the right. One of the features of this reactionary era is to place sociology itself on the defensive – not just against neoliberalism but increasingly against rising authoritarianism. Social scientists in Argentina, led by Juan Piovani, have mounted a national defense of sociology, conducting studies that demonstrate its professional, policy, critical and public dimensions. Here five articles represent their vision. The project is only in its beginning but other national sociologies should take note.

Nor, finally, should we ever forget our predecessors – sociologists who fought against authoritarianism, such as the famous Marxist and Islamic thinker, Ali Shariati, who died in 1977, just two years before the Iranian Revolution he prefigured. His ideas continue to haunt that revolution as to what it could have been, as to what it might be. We are badly in need of such prophets today who can inspire a sociology that balances determinism and utopia. Global Dialogue is one place where we can collectively identify and envision new possibilities as well as warn against the destruction of our little planet.

> Global Dialogue can be found in 17 languages at the ISA website.

> Submissions should be sent to Brigitte Aulenbacher and Klaus Dörre.

, United States, Volume 7, Issue 4

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