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Not to be confused with Universalism or Universalisability.

In social work practice universalization[1] is a supportive intervention used by the therapist to reassure and encourage his/her client. Universalization places the client’s experience in the context of other individuals who are experiencing the same, or similar challenges, and seeks to help the client grasp that his/her feelings and experiences are not uncommon given the circumstances. The therapist or social worker using this supportive intervention intends to "normalize" the client's experience of his/her emotions and reactions to the presenting challenge. By normalising the client’s experience the therapist is attempting to help avert the client's natural feelings of being alone or not understood.

For example, a therapist working with a 21-year-old client who is experiencing rejection from her family and friends after admitting that she is a lesbian will use universalization. The therapist will explain that many other young adults who have revealed their sexual orientation undergo the same rejection and scrutiny from peers and parents. The therapist will follow this up by telling her that her emotional response to the rejection is likewise normal and not at all uncommon given the circumstances.

Universalization (cultural studies)[edit]

Lorna Jean Edmonds and WE (Ted) Hewitt introduced a definition of universalization as an incipient concept describing the next phase of human development, marking the transition from trans-national to interplanetary relations and much more aggressive exploitation of opportunities that lie beyond the confines of Earth. As both a process and an end state, universalization implies an increasingly pervasive, abiding and singular human focus not only on global issues per se but on social, technological, economic and cultural challenges and opportunities extending into our solar system, our galaxy, and well beyond, where cooperation supersedes conflict negotiation.[2] Its origins are associated with the incipient expansion of social, economic, and political relationships that have emerged in the wake of globalization and that increasingly define the planet and its place within the broader universe.

For many, the concept was inspired by Kwame Anthony Appiah's work on cosmopolitanism, and particularly his emphasis on the need to develop a transcendent, collaborative model of human interaction that looks beyond the limited confines of current human relationships.[3] Underlying principles and activities associated with universalization have also been discussed in a number of works dealing with prospective human exploitation of natural resources in space.[4][5][6]

Evidence of the transition from globalisation to the century of "universalization" is provided by the exponential growth in outer space activity across all sectors of human endeavour, including exploration (global investments by national governments and consortia of $65 billion annually),[7] governance (the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, the International Association for Space Safety), commerce (aerospace industries such as Boeing, Teledyne, MDA), resource exploitation (Moon Express), Tourism (Virgin Galactic, XCOR), communications (satellites, probes, inter-planetary internet), education (the International Space University, Singularity University, International Institute of Space Commerce), research (observatories at Hawaii, Chile, the Square Kilometer Array, Hubble), and settlement (Mars One).

A different interpretation of "universalization" has been proposed by Gregory Paul Meyjes. Questioning the various processes (economic, political, cultural) by which globalization or globalisation [8] has favored rapid Anglo-cultural dominance at the expense of a more gradual, participatory emergence of a world civilization, Meyjes argues for cultural policies that support "ecological" relations between local ethnocultural traditions, to protect cultural specificity in the short term and to allow as great a variety of groups as possible to voluntarily and organically contribute to the whole. At the global level, Meyjes thus proposes universalization[9] to denote a process of (largely) non-imposed socio-cultural exchange between state-level and sub-state-level groups and "nations" – i.e. a transnational process that informs the gradual emergence of a universal civilization.[10]


  1. ^ Mattaini, M.A., Lowery C.T., & Meyer C.H. (Eds.) (1998). The Foundations of Social Work Practice (2nd ed.). Washington: NASW Press. 
  2. ^ Edmonds, Lorna Jean and WE (Ted) Hewitt, "The 21st Century and the Advent of Universalization" in Ram Jakhu, Kuan-Wei Chen & Yaw Nyampong, ads, Monograph Series III: Global Space Governance (Montreal: McGill Centre for Research in Air and Space Law, 2015) 119
  3. ^ Appiah, Kwame (2006). Cosmopolitanism. New York: W. W. Norton. 
  4. ^ De Man, Philip (November 2010). "The Exploitation of Outer Space and Celestial Bodies". Leuven Center for Global Governance Studies. Working Paper Number 54. 
  5. ^ Tennen, Leslie I. (2010). "Towards a New Regime for Exploitation of Outer Space Mineral Resources". Nebraska Law Review (88). 
  6. ^ Robles, Stephen (November 2013). "Commercialization, law and governance in outer space". The International. 
  7. ^ Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (2014). The Space Economy at a Glance 2011. Paris: OECD. 
  8. ^ Robertson, Roland (1990). Featherstone, Mike, ed. Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization and Modernity. London (U.K.): Sage. 
  9. ^ Meyjes, Gregory Paul P. (1999). "Language and Universalization: a 'Linguistic Ecology' Reading of Bahá'í Writ". The Journal of Bahá’í Studies. Volume IX (1). Ottawa: Association for Bahá’í Studies. pp. 51–63. 
  10. ^ Edmonds, Lorna Jean (LJ); Hewitt, WE (Ted) (2015). "The 21st Century Advent of Universalization". Monograph Series III: Global Space Governance, McGill Centre for Research in Air and Space Law. 119.