*** This is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather a “starting point”. ***
World society theory, also called world polity theory, is a perspective on globalization developed by John W. Meyer and others working at Stanford University in the 1970s and 1980s. It is an application of sociological institutionalism to global issues.
Here is a brief summary:
Schofer Hironaka Frank Longhofer Blackwell World Society 7.6.10.pdf
John Meyer has an outstanding 2010 paper in the Annual Review of Sociology entitled “World Society, Institutional Theories, and the Actor.”
Probably the single best book on the subject is:
Krücken, Georg and Gili Drori (eds.). 2009. World Society: The Writings of John W. Meyer. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2009. Amazon Link.
A shorter formulation was published in the American Journal of Sociology:
Meyer, John W., John Boli, George M. Thomas, and Francisco O. Ramirez. 1997. “World Society and the Nation-state.” American Journal of Sociology 103(1): 144-181. JSTOR link.
For an institutional perspective on “world culture”:
Boli, John, and George M. Thomas. 1999. Constructing World Culture: International Nongovernmental Organizations since 1875. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
I have a brief undergraduate lecture that offers an even simpler summary of world society theory: International Sociology, Class 14 World Polity Theory
Another description of world society theory (and related perspectives) can be found on Emory’s globalization website: http://www.sociology.emory.edu/globalization/index.html
Finally, John Boli, Selina Gallo-Cruz, and Matthew Mathias created an amazing bibliography of world society/world polity research: World Society-Polity bibliography 1 Sept 09.pdf