Globalization as a socio-symbolic process


The issue of globalization has been addressed from different theoretical perspectives (Berry 2008, Martell 2010). The neoclassical approach (Ohmae 1993, Wolf 2005), who first defined the concept and is currently dominant, tended to propose a structural vision, identifying the concept with the material transformations of the economy in a global sense.

Different approaches – mostly neo-gramscian – highlighted instead the ideational nature of the phenomenon, understood as a process of interpretation of the transformations under way, at the economic, political and cultural level (Hay 1998 Hay and Watson 1998, Cameron and Palan 2004, Mittelmann 2004, Antoniades 2007, Shaw 1997, Steger 2002).

The hypothesis I mean to explore is that it could be more useful to analyze the globalization as a representation more than a fact, through a psychoanalytic perspective, aimed at highlighting the role of emotional and unconscious processes in the interpretation and construction of social reality, on the basis of the theory of collusion (Carli 1990, 1995; Grasso and Salvatore 1997).

Globalization as an hegemonic discourse

As part of the broader literature on globalization (Martell 2010), some perspectives of research have been taken into consideration that have focused on the ideational nature of globalization, as a process of interpretation of the current global changes at economic, political and social level (Hay 1998, Hay and Watson 1998, Cameron and Palan 2004, Mittelmann 2004, Antoniades 2007, Shaw 1997, Steger 2002).

From this analysis an image of globalization as an ideologically founded – in neoliberal sense – hegemonic discourse emerged, which is promoted by the global elites, in order to legitimize and maintain their power by influencing the collective imaginary and the policy action globally.

Theoretical assumptions of a discoursive analysis of globalization as ideology

This kind of approach to the study of globalization as an hegemonic process of social construction of reality is based on several theoretical models:

  • the ideational perspective to the study of globalization (Hay 1998, Cameron and Palan 2004, Mittelmann 2004, Antoniades 2007), which focuses on the ideological and discursive nature of globalization
  • the interpretative approach to the analysis of public policies (Fischer and Forrester 1993, Dryzek 1990, Yanow 1996), which highlights the role of cultural dimensions (ideas, values ​​and beliefs) in these processes, defining them as discursive practices designed to interpret the problems under policy, directing policy making
  • the socio-constructivist models, highlighting the role of socio-cultural factors in motivating social action (Berger and Luckmann 1966, D’Andrade and Strauss 1992, Farr and Moscovici, 1984, Geertz 1973, Holland and Quinn 1987, Salvatore 2006)
  • the psychoanalytic theories based on the construct of affective symbolization (Carli 1990, Fornari 1981, Matte Blanco 1981, Grasso and Salvatore 1997), highlighting the role of the unconscious dimensions in the process of symbolization of reality orienting social action.
  • the different perspectives of discourse analysis, of sociolinguistic, statistical and analytic matrix (Carli and Paniccia 2002, Bolasco and Cipriani 1995, Fairclough 2006, Lancia 2004, Salvatore 2004, Van Dijk 2008), which highlight the discursive nature of social processes.


This kind of approach to the study of globalization is based on the following assumptions:

  • globalization constitutes a representation of the changes taking place globally and not the transformation itself
  • this representation influences social behavior and therefore public policies
  • this representation has a dual nature, rational/conscious and emotional/unconscious, and the second plays a central role influencing its social effects
  • detection of such affective components allows to identify possible prospects for social and economic development according to a logic of greater equity, democracy, sustainability and quality of life


This kind of analysis of globalization issue aims to achieve the following objectives:

  • detect the characteristics of the cultural models of globalization in the global and local elites
  • highlight their affective dimensions
  • identify possible lines of development for their improvement in a more sustainable way


This kind of analysis of globalization can be realized according to the psychosocial methodology of the emotional text analysis (ETA) (Carli and Paniccia 2002), which allows to detect the affective symbolization of social reality.

This methodology is based on the construct of collusion (Carli 1990, 1995), which develops the Freud’s concept of affective symbolization (Fornari 1981 Matte Blanco 1981) in a social perspective and is proposed as a basic factor of the social tie.


Antoniades, A. (2007) ‘Examining Facets of the Hegemonic: The Globalization Discourse in Greece and Ireland’ in Review of International Political Economy 14(2), pp306-32.

Cameron, A. & Palan, R. (2004) The Imagined Economies of Globalization (London: Sage

Carli, R. (1990). Il processo di collusione nelle rappresentazioni sociali, Rivista di Psicologia Clinica, 3, 282-296,

Carli, R. (1995). Il rapporto Individuo/Contesto, Psicologia Clinica, 1 (1), 5-20.

Carli, R. e Paniccia, R. M. (2002), L’analisi emozionale del testo. Uno strumento psicologico per leggere testi e discorsi. Milano: Franco Angeli

Dryzek J.S. (1990), Discursive Democracy Politics, Policy and Political Science, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge

Fischer, F & Forester J. (eds.) (1993). The Argumentative Turn in Policy Analysis and Planning. Durham: Duke University Press

Fornari, F. (1981). Simbolo e codice: dal processo psicoanalitico all’analisi istituzionale. Feltrinelli: Milano Grasso, M. e Salvatore S. (1997). Pensiero e decisionalità. Milano: Franco Angeli

Hay, C. (1998) ‘Globalisation, Welfare Retrenchment and “the Logic of No Alternative”: Why Second-Best Won’t Do’ in Journal of Social Policy 27(4), pp525-32.

Hay, C. & Watson, M (1998) ‘The Discourse of Globalisation and the Logic of No Alternative: Rendering the Contingent Necessary in the Downsizing of New Labour’s Aspirations for Government’ in A. Dobson & J. Stanyer (eds.) Contemporary Political Studies, Vol. 2 (Nottingham: PSA), pp812-822.

Lancia, F. (2004). Strumenti per l’analisi dei testi. Introduzione all’uso di T-LAB. Milano: Franco Angeli Martell, L. (2010). Sociologia della globalizzazione. Torino: Einaudi

Matte Blanco, I. (1981). L’inconscio come insiemi infiniti. Saggio sulla bi-logica. Torino: Einaudi Mittelman, J. H. (2004) Whither Globalisation? The Vortex of Knowledge and Ideology (London: Routledge).

Ohmae, K (1993) The Borderless World: Power and Strategy in the Global Marketplace (London: HarperCollins).

Shaw, M. (1994) Global Society and International Relations (Cambridge: Polity).

Steger, M. B. (2002) Globalism: The New Market Ideology (Oxford: Bowman and Littlefield). Wolf, M. (2005) Why Globalization Works (New Haven: Yale

Yanow, D. (1996). How Does a Policy Mean? Interpreting Policy and Organizational Actions, Georgetown University Press: Washington


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