The program on culture, capitalism, and global change

The Global Culture Project

“Whenever I reflect on the problems of today’s world…I always end up confronting the moral question: what action is responsible or acceptable? The moral order, our conscience and human rights—these are the most important issues at the beginning of the millennium.”

—Vaclav Havel, “Our Moral Footprint”

Globalization has put into bold relief the many competing visions of meaning and moral order—the “many globalizations”—that today could constitute our world. Competing parochialisms and cosmopolitanisms both cooperate and clash as the processes of globalization unfold. In the process, people have become increasingly conscious of the world as a single, but embattled place. Indeed, under the conditions of globalization, the ontology of the world itself has become a philosophical, political, and ethical problem. For all the disruptions and dislocations that come in globalization’s wake, numerous relocations and reinstitutionalizations, however nascent, are also emerging which take the planetary scope of human life today as a foundational social fact. Animating these emergent “world pictures” (and the world projects they inspire) are various social imaginaries that structure people’s frameworks for making sense of the world. These imaginaries shape how humans struggle to answer many of the deepest cultural questions globalization raises: Who counts as human? What are the moral sources upon which people draw as they confront the world’s greatest diversity of identities? What provides individuals and groups with enough security to live a meaningful life? What grounds their trust in the authorities upon which they must place their trust? What are the moral purposes of economic life and the limits to its reach? What constitutes legitimate authority and power in an era of multiple, overlapping, and sometimes competing sovereignties? Finally, they suggest what might underwrite humanity’s discordant quest for the “good” world.

The Global Culture Project seeks to examine and assess the moral and institutional dimensions of contemporary global change. The project will pursue this mission by initiating scholarship along two primary research tracks. The first is the empirical study of global institutions, movements, and agents, in order to examine the emergent moral and ethical dimensions of global culture and social change. The second is a comparative-historical study of global culture’s institutions and their moral and ethical dimensions in order to discern: (a) the animating sources and tensions operative within global culture; (b) existing forms of external resistance; and (c) the potential rise of competing global cultures. A vital, but subsidiary goal of this research is to identify resources for creating a language and ethic of “citizenship” suitable to the challenges, burdens, and opportunities of global change.

View a list of project accomplishments >>

selected project accomplishments

Thomas Cushman, ed. Routledge International Handbook of Human Rights. Joshua J. Yates, “The Humanitarian-Human Rights Nexus: A Global Culture Perspective,” (pgs. 524–532), and Murray Milner, “Human Rights as Status Relations: A Sociological Approach to Understanding Human Rights” (pgs. 164–179). New York: Rutledge, 2011.

In collaboration with The Hedgehog Review:

Current Initiatives

Who We Are

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture is an interdisciplinary research center and intellectual community at the University of Virginia committed to understanding contemporary cultural change and its individual and social consequences, training young scholars, and providing intellectual leadership in service to the public good.

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