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Framing Globalization: The Battle for Definitions of a Contested Issue


  • Peer C. Fiss
  • Paul M. Hirsch


"Globalization" is a contested term that has quickly moved to the center of discourse addressing power and political culture in the developing world economy. As the recent (1999) demonstrations at the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle showed, the term is now part of a larger contest over boundaries and acceptable limits in the ongoing social construction of a reconstituted world economic system. The outcome of this contest, over which discourses and symbols succeed in blocking or legitimating the meanings accorded the term "globalization," will profoundly influence the restructuring of the global economy. This has clear implications for this year's American Sociological Association theme of domination and liberation in the 21st century. This paper traces the rise and developing uses of the term "globalization" in public discourse since it first appeared in the mid-1980s. Computer-assisted text analysis is used to show how the term has been used and portrayed in two media-related datasets: press releases from organizations seeking publicity or support for their use and interpretation of the term; and changing coverage by three major newspapers: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. The study links the claims made by organizational and governmental actors about the nature of globalization with the presentation of these issues in the news media. The interpretations accorded, and different utilizations of the term "globalization" are followed and shown from the begin-nings of this "discourse contest" in the mid-1980s through 1998.

Suggested Citation

  • Peer C. Fiss & Paul M. Hirsch, "undated". "Framing Globalization: The Battle for Definitions of a Contested Issue," IPR working papers 00-10, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:nwuipr:00-10

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