18th Karlsruhe Dialogues – Speakers

Global Inequalities and Citizenship. On the Inheritance of a Scarce Resource

Prof. Dr. Manuela Boatcă 


Prof. Dr. Manuela Boatcă began working at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2011, and has been a professor at the Latin American Institute and the Institute of Sociology there since January 2012, with a focus on the sociology of global inequalities. After successfully completing her Masters degree in English and German studies in 1997, she conducted research from 1998 to 2002 in the fields of feminist theory, sociolinguistics, and the sociology of language, as well as in theories of social change, before receiving her PhD in sociology summa cum laude in 2002. This was followed by academic activities at the Catholic University of Eichstätt, the Instituto Universitário de Pesquisas of Rio de Janeiro, and at the Latin American Institute at the FU Berlin. Boatcă’s research interests include world system analysis and comparative sociology, social change and inequality, as well as the global political economy. In addition to her work at the FU Berlin, since 2010 she has been the co-editor of the series Zentrum und Peripherie at Hampp Publishers and a consultant at the Austrian Ministry of Culture.


Her publications include: Des Fremden Freund, des Fremden Feind. Fremdverstehen in interdisziplinärer Perspektive (with Claudia Neudecker and Stefan Rinke, 2006); Decolonizing European Sociology. Transdisciplinary Approaches (with Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez and Sérgio Costa (eds.), 2010); and Global Inequalities. A Relational Perspective (forthcoming).





1. Does the world market society promote or prevent the achievement of global humanitarian living conditions?

The logic of the world market is diametrically opposed to the pursuit of global humanitarian living conditions. Saying that it prevents their achievement would therefore be an understatement. No logic that involves maximising the profits of a few can bring about the welfare of all, not even as a product of chance. The Oxfam report from January 2014 makes this point clear, on the basis of growing inequality: The 85 richest people in the world own as much as the poorest 3.5 billion people put together – half the world’s population. As far as we know, there has never been such extreme inequality in the history of humanity.


2. How much privacy is left between state surveillance and commercial profiling, and what is it worth to us?

State surveillance is only one part of the increasing surveillance through credit agencies, governmental and non-governmental institutions and corporations, insurance companies, and the media. We divulge a lot in a more or less conscious manner, e.g.: in social networks; by participating in the points programmes of airlines, stores, and restaurants; by using EC cards or credit cards; or by listing our postal code in retail purchases. Limiting or shutting down those activities that we are conscious of does not reverse the trend toward ‘transparent citizens’; it merely slows it down. At the very latest, we become transparent again when we shop online.


3. Does the world market society lead to new forms of human trafficking or is it possible that it can become an opportunity for the enforcement of international standards for decent labour conditions?

Neither, or both. The world market society is the generalisation of the tendency of turning everything into a commodity and making a profit off all of it. New forms of human trafficking are therefore merely old forms of commodification that do not stop at new boundaries (and that also no longer need to turn whole people into commodities, as they can commodify individual human organs and foetuses). Since the world market society depends on globally linked supply chains, the introduction of decent standards with regard to job security, a minimum working age, a minimum wage, the right to unionise, etc., in some places represents an opportunity to oblige other members of these multinationally linked chains to undergo external inspections. However, we cannot presently guarantee that the standards, in many places, will exist anywhere except on paper.