As well as addressing general themes and broader issues identified in the 'Scope and Concerns', the 2008 Global Studies conference will also focus specifically on the United States in this crucial Presidential election year.

Special Theme, 2008 Conference: Can The United States Correct itself?

The 2008 elections in the United States are a particularly momentous election in which the direction of the country is at issue. Many Americans and people across the world ask whether the United States can correct its course. This conference is devoted to probing this serious question.

Two major problems facing the United States stand out. One is rising social inequality. Median wages have barely risen since the 1970s, although worker productivity has risen considerably. The income gains of the past decades have disproportionately accrued to the top ten percent of income earners and among those the top one percent in particular. Rising social inequality is gradually hardening into a social pattern that affects health care, schooling (tuition rates for college education are rapidly rising) and that is summed up as the shrinking middle class. With this come social pathologies such as 47 million Americans without health insurance and 2.2 million Americans incarcerated. This is the pattern of a multi-speed economy.

The second major American problem is its role as world power and the unaccountable fashion in which it exercises this role, unaccountable domestically and internationally. American economic and financial resources increasingly fall short of its military and security ambitions at a time of massively rising external debt, trade deficits and tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest Americans. The United States cannot have both butter and guns.

These problems are compounded by several trends and circumstances. The United States is undergoing a transition from a manufacturing to a service economy and navigating this requires an interventionist government. National institutions that privilege corporate rather than national interests and a prevailing and deeply entrenched laissez faire approach make this situation deeply problematic.

An American bubble that sustains a habitus of hegemony and military force that is increasingly out of step with changing realities and the growing legitimacy crisis of American leadership. Underlying and compounding both problems is an institutionally entrenched political and economic concentration of power at the top, an ‘iron triangle’ of government, congress, judiciary, lobbyists and media.

General Themes

Theme 1: Economy

  • Global markets in an era of neoliberalism
  • Patterns of global investment
  • Logics of accumulation
  • Engines of growth in the developing world
  • The international division of labour
  • Trade, current account balances
  • Global financial flows and institutions
  • Inequality - patterns and trends

Theme 2: Power

  • Imperialism and neo-colonialism
  • ‘Soft power’ and the structures of hegemony
  • Social movements
  • New global axes
  • Flashpoints of social conflict
  • Welfare in a global context

Theme 3: Culture

  • Nationalisms and post nationalisms
  • Diaspora
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Cultural imperialism
  • Hybridization

Theme 4: Environment

  • Resources
  • Agriculture
  • Climate change
  • Limits to growth?