Globalization is the new master concept beloved of media commentators. But already there is great discontent among social scientists with the content and use of this concept. In the space of less than a decade globalization discourse and research has moved well past the stage of invocation of a ‘buzzword’, of obeisance to the power of the internet and global finance, or of predictions of the demise of the state. These are all features that can readily be discerned still in the press and among politicians and hyperglobalizing advertisers and finance‐sector ‘gurus’. These groups seem still to be locked into the first wave of globalization euphoria consequent upon the supposed ‘triumph’ of capitalist neoliberalism after the collapse of communism and the slightly later advent of the internet. Second and third waves of enquiry have since arisen in which scepticism about globalization (in the second) is giving way to more detailed empirical enquiry into the actual processes and transformations that might or might not be occurring. We need a new critical perspective that is able to place globalization as the latest form of an older discourse on modernity and capitalism and which is able to move well beyond the over simplification of the present. Through a critical realist perspective we can begin to develop a more empirically powerful criticism of geopolitics and political economy and begin to see the possibilities of local empowerment in the face of the rhetoric and politics of the hyperglobalizing project.