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Globalization: Central Feature of the Post-Cold War World,
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (Taschenbuch)
Readers familiar with Thomas Friedman's consistently superb work for The New York Times - first reporting from the Middle East and now writing a column on foreign affairs - know him to be exceptionally bright and articulate. Since 1994, Friedman has specialized in covering the intersection between foreign policy and international finance, so he is an ideal interpreter of globalization - the trend toward international economic integration through free-market capitalism. This book is a fine introduction to events profoundly impacting on our world, written in Friedman's characteristically clear and crisp prose. The "Lexus" in Friedman's title stands for "the drive for sustenance, improvement, prosperity and modernization," whereas the "olive tree" "represents everything that roots us, anchors us, identifies us and locates us in the world - whether it be belonging to a family, a community, a tribe, a nation, a religion or, most of all, a place called home." Much of Friedman's book is devoted to the theme of the Lexus and olive tree wrestling with each other in order to find a healthy balance. According to Friedman: "The challenge in this era of globalization - for countries and for individuals - is to find a healthy balance between preserving a sense of identity, home and community and doing what it takes to survive within the globalization system."
In Friedman's view, the "slow, fixed, divided Cold War system" is readily distinguishable from the "new, very greased, interconnected" world of globalization, in which free-market capitalism is spreading throughout the world. According to Friedman: "While the defining measurement of the Cold War was weight - particularly the throw weight of missiles - the defining measurement of the globalization system is speed - speed of commerce, travel, communication and innovation." In contrast to the Cold War's "overly regulated, walled up system," Friedman explains that globalization's three "democratization" - the democratization of information, the democratization of technology, and the democratization of finance - are changing the way business and everything else is done. In Friedman's view, "what is new...is the sheer number of people and countries able to partake of today's globalized economy and information networks, and to be affected by them." According to Friedman, "the Internet offers the closest thing to a perfectly competitive market in the world today." Friedman explains: "In the 1980s the Internet was a novelty. By the 1990s it was a useful technology. By the time the new millennium rolled around it was an indispensable tool for doing business." Friedman writes at some length about what he cleverly calls "the Electronic Herd," which is "made up of all the faceless stock, bond and currency traders sitting behind computer screens all over the globe, moving their money around from mutual funds to pension funds to emerging markets, or trading on the Internet from their basements." According to Friedman: "Countries cannot thrive in today's world without plugging into the Electronic Herd." Friedman explains that, with "the end of the Cold War system and the fall of walls everywhere, there suddenly emerged a vast global plain where investor herds from many different countries could roam freely." Friedman acknowledges that the effects of globalization are not entirely positive. For instance, Friedman acknowledges that the Electronic Herd is "potentially more volatile" than previous models, and that makes markets less stable. According to Friedman, "today, in the globalization era, the ability of the herd to transmit instability from bad countries to good countries has vastly increased." In addition, Friedman predicts that the system of globalization will "both environmental disasters and amazing environmental rescues." The prospect of environmental problems in the new world order is especially troubling. Friedman asks: "Can we develop a method of environmentally sustainable globalization?" He answers: "One hope is clearly that technology will evolve in ways that will help us preserve green areas faster than the Electronic Herd can trample them." Friedman adds: "But technological breakthroughs alone will not be enough to neutralize the environmental impact of the herd, because the innovations simply are not happening fast enough - compared to how fast the herd moves, grows and devours." Friedman places his hope in "super-empowered environmentalists" "who, acting on their own, can now fight back effectively against both the Electronic Herd and governments...[M]ore and more multinationals are realizing that to preserve their global reputation and global brands in the face of Internet activism, they need to be environmentally responsible." Friedman also offers this cautionary observation: "[I]n 2000 we understand as much about today's system of globalization is going to work as we understood how the Cold War system was going to work in 1946." Friedman's point, I believe, is that, although we have been able to give a name - globalization - tothe most powerful force changing the world, that does not mean that we are close to fully comprehending it. Some aspects of the globalized world are fully comprehensible and frightening. Notwithstanding the manifest benefits of globalization, there is an ongoing backlash against it. In particular, Friedman warns about "the real, immediate national security threat" from what he calls "the Super-Empowered Angry Man," such as the Aum Shinrikyo sect in Japan, the Unabomber, Osama bin Laden, and the Ramzi Yousef group in New York. Friedman implies, quite correctly I believe, that, the globalized world may be very exciting, but it also remains a very dangerous place. Friedman obviously believes that most of the globalization process is beneficial, and he probably is correct, but he also is not entirely objective. Friedman is not merely a pundit. He is a proponent for globalization. He writes: "You cannot thrive today without plugging into the Electronic Herd."
This book is excellent, and, all things considered, I believe it is superior to John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge's A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalization, another introduction to globalization which I recently read and reviewed. However, I would recommend either. Whether one is a globalization proponent or opponent or neutral, the system is changing the world, and that behooves all of us to understand it better.