“Globalization: The Super-Story” by Thomas Friedman

free essayGlobalization plays a significant positive role in modern world. It creates a fruitful integration of people, countries, and organizations that can benefit everyone. However, for some individuals globalization may also become a tool to gain the amount of power that can be compared to such of a country. These consequences of globalization are discussed in the essay “Globalization: The Super-Story” by Thomas Friedman, who is a journalist and the contributor to The New York Times. “The Super-Story” published in 2002 is a reflective essay, in which Friedman explains the phenomenon of globalization quite well. Friedman’s work has many valid points about current global processes, and the author backs them up with facts and bright examples. I agree with his ideas of the distribution of power in the modern world between nations, companies, and individuals. However, Friedman’s conception seems to be a bit simplified, especially concerning the idea of the rise of super-empowered individuals.

Summary

The main idea of “Globalization: The Super Story” is the world’s transition from the cold war to globalization and the impact it has on the changes in the global balance of power. Friedman defines globalization as “the inexorable integration of markets, transportation systems, and communication systems to a degree never witnessed before – in a way that is enabling corporations, countries, and individuals to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before” (392). The statement generally puts forward the idea that the phenomenon of globalization is for the better because it allows for more effective means of cooperation than in the past.

Friedman states that after the cold war system, which was “built around division and walls,” the era of globalization “built around integration and webs” came (392). During the Cold War, the main power players on the world arena were countries, mainly the US and the USSR. After the end of Cold War system, two new powers appeared that became as significant as countries. The world power became divided between the nations, global markets, and individuals, leaving no one “quite in charge” (392). Therefore, the distribution of power appeared to be more equal.

Friedman thoroughly describes the two new factors that came with the globalization. The first is the increased influence of global markets, whose power the author compares with massive bombing that a country can make (Friedman 393). Due to the development of the Internet technology, global markets, and financial centers, such as Wall Street, Hong Kong, and Frankfurt, became connected within one web and able to perform operations from any part of the world almost instantly. The second factor is super-empowered people, which is a central factor of Friedman’s essay. After the end of the Cold War system, a single individual become able to be as powerful as a country-nation, and even to confront one, which Friedman illustrates by the example of bin Laden. Thomas Friedman argues that with integration and globalization of current social, political, and economic processes, individuals and companies have gained much more influence and power than in the past.

Critique

I agree with Friedman’s vision and definition of globalization. He is also right about the role of globalization in changing global geopolitical and social stage. However, I find the author’s explanation about the differences between the globalization system and the Cold War system inconsistent. It is also true that due to globalization, and specifically the invention of World Wide Web, our lives has changed fundamentally, and the countries were no longer the only powers in the world. However, Friedman makes a rather blunt statement that “the United States is now the sole and dominant superpower and all other nations are subordinate to it to one degree or another” (392). This claim seems to contradict with what Friedman said earlier about nobody being “quite in charge” (392). Moreover, without blaming Friedman in being a little biased, I must admit that there are countries that would disagree with him. In the era of globalization, some features of the cold war still exist. For example, such countries as Russia and China, are currently remain politically divided from the world around them. The wall, which Friedman defines as the symbol of the Cold wWr systems, has never fallen completely for these countries.

Friedman provided a persuasive example of bin Laden who singlehandedly declared a war to the US and was so much frightening that the US had to mobilize a huge army, and “75 missiles” to fight against a single individual (Friedman 393). However, the idea of a single individual vs. a country is a bit exaggerated. Friedman fails to mention that bin Laden acted not entirely alone. In fact, he had a support of thousands of radical Muslim extremists and terrorist organization al-Qaeda, which also has a great power that can be compared to a power of some country. It should be mentioned that although all three super-powers are very different they tend to overlap and depend upon each other. For example, bin Laden might not have become a super-empowered individual if he had no support from al-Qaeda. The Wall Street, which is located in the United States, might have not been so powerful on the financial market if it were located in some third-world country. Thus, the integration of individuals, countries, and organizations is much deeper than Friedman argues.

There is one more reason why I find the notion of super-powered individuals irrelevant. The evidence that Friedman provides prove that some individuals can have a huge impact on the world, but they are not unique to globalization system. During the Cold War period, there were many people whose actions changed the history and thus, they may be described as “super-empowered individuals.” For instance, Friedman tells the story of Jody Williams, who empowered herself in order to build a coalition to sign a treaty. Similarly, the Cold War era also has examples of individuals who changed the world such as Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi.

Therefore, the essay “Globalization: The Super-Story” has many interesting ideas about globalization and persuasive examples. However, some facts are exaggerated, such as the overstatement of the capabilities of a single man to compare with powerful countries and organizations. Other facts are not relevant to the topic of globalization. I believe that super-empowered individuals have a great impact on the world, and some of them are truly powerful enough to confront other power players. However, this fact does not help in defining the phenomenon of the globalization system since such individuals have also lived in the cold war period, and many centuries before that as well.

Conclusion

The essay’s title is “Globalization: The Super-Story,” and it reflects the authors main points of discussion. Friedman successfully defines the process of globalization and consistently connects it with the three elements of super-power in contemporary world. At times, the author tends to exaggerate his arguments, which does not make him wrong. The image of the three main factors of globalization that are all focused around power is vivid. The only thing the essay lacks is a more detailed insight into the nature of integration of these three factors.