The Yale Center for the Study of Globalization through its YaleGlobal online service has just launched an ebook A World Connected: Globalization in the 21st Century which is well worth the read for anyone interested in how globalization has – and will in future – impact our world, lives and work. It’s a seminal collection of essays collated from over ten years of work by scholars, practitioners, politicians, and experts in the study of globalization.
One of its most compelling points is its broad scope, covering the complex array of ways in which globalization is changing our world – often discussions of globalization narrow in to areas of economics and trade, or to the global capital markets which have had such an impact in recent years, or to the geopolitics of a new world order. With the notions of interconnectedness and interdependence as its lenses, the book not only explores these topics, but also the many ways in which globalization touches all of our lives and interweaves communities, countries and continents – including how cultures and societies develop, how we seek security, how ideas moving around the world are impacting creativity, how rising inequalities are changing societies, how China’s rise is impacting the world, and how we as people interact around the world.
This focus on connections also serves to highlight the pressing global challenges which the world, its institutions, businesses and individual citizens face – and the fact that no one of these actors can address the challenges alone. As we too have said, the biggest challenge is for our organizations and societies to recognize this interconnectedness and the need to tackle the issues through global cooperation, which is currently sorely lacking. The aim of this book is to make a contribution to this debate – highlighting the challenges ahead as a first step in working towards solutions.
In delving into the rich array of perspectives the book offers, be warned that the book initially seems long. However, it is organized around key themes, illustrated by short, readily digestible essays that illustrate how the impact of globalization has developed in the first few years of this century and may continue to impact us all in future. So don’t try to read it all at once! My strategy for making the most of the book was to read the chapter introductions first, which offer an excellent summary of the topic areas and issues, then in spare hours to delve deeper into each subject area, picking 2 to 3 essays at a time to explore. Even these small “chunks” provide provocative food for thought, and looking forward it will certainly become an excellent reference to which I anticipate returning many times.
The one thing I would have liked to see – but perhaps the point is that the reader needs to develop it for herself or himself – is a final summary covering what are the challenges of globalization ahead in each topic area, and what are the questions we should therefore be asking ourselves, individually and collectively, to ensure that the positive aspects of globalization outweigh the negative ones. Having said this, it is clear that the challenges and questions we should each ask will be coloured by our own situations and experiences – but there will also be collective questions we need to address, in the spirit of the book’s focus on a connected world.
The rise of China, its impact on Asia, the Arab Spring, nuclear power, terrorism, the tensions between Islam and the West, Africa’s rocky road to development, the financial crisis, climate change, resource crises and more are all here, but from my perspective some of the most compelling shifts we are witnessing as a result of globalization are found in the chapters on culture and society which highlight how our organizations, communities and behaviors are changing. A few highlights that you should not miss as you read:
- Clyde Prestowitz’s 2004 essay The Great Reverse – the first in the book – which sets the scene by highlighting 3 waves of globalization over the last 500 years.
- A 2012 call by Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization for governments worldwide to recognize the Fallacy of Protectionism.
- Immanuel Wasserstein’s 2009 plea to take a look at Where is the World Headed? It identifies geopolitics and the world economy as critical areas of turbulence ahead – which need cooperation beyond national borders to address.
- Dilip Hiro picks up the paradigm of the emerging relationships between multipolar powers in his article, World Order Without a Hegemon: Compete and Cooperate.
- Bob Clifford’s essay on Marketing Humanitarian Crises, which highlights just how much media (and social media) are influencing our attention and engagement with issues.
- In Megacities, Mega Dreams for a Connected World, Suketu Mehta shows how the acceleration of urbanization is not just about economic advancement, it’s a desire for freedom.
- The rise of civil society and increased activism around the world is charted in Guobin Yang’s essay A Civil Society Emerges from Earthquake Rubble.
- Patrick Sabatier’s thought-provoking piece is A Clash of Civilisations in Europe? Relevant at the time of writing in 2006, and perhaps even more so now, it discusses the impact of tensions in Europe around Islam – including the roles of both sides and the media.
- In Confucius versus Avatar – The Winner Is… Mary Kay Magistad explores the uneasy coexistence of media and censorship in China – and the rising voice of the people.
- Rohini Nilekani seeks lessons in our management of oil over time to apply to the growing challenge of water scarcity in his essay Is Water the Next Oil?
- In The Double Edge of Globalization, Nayan Chanda suggests that the failure to appreciate the growing interdependence of the world’s countries and economies – and its impact – could risk the world drifting towards crisis. A root cause is the inadequacy of the international system to address the global challenges we face. But he does not blame the UN – rather the sovereign governments who are unwilling or unable to work across borders on these issues. Unfortunately, this remains the case some five years later.
- In New Energy Frontiers Expand Global Connections, Alexis Ringwald outlines how India’s future energy challenges are unleashing innovation in renewable energies, which are fast becoming a mantra for India’s future development.
As the story of globalization 21st century-style continues to unfold, reflecting on the lessons and challenges of both the recent and more distant past is critical to understand the options as we move forward – together, as nations, societies, communities and individuals – and the potential impact of our collective choices. This book will serve as an invaluable and thoughtful reference along the journey. Thank you to the team at YaleGlobal for allowing me the chance to review it.