Nowadays, there is hardly any doubt as to whether the cotemporary world is globalized by nature. In fact, globalization has become such an integral part of the world that all individuals acknowledge its significance and influence no matter whether they suppose that this influence is positive or negative. However, in 2002 globalization was a relatively new phenomenon that was only gaining momentum and recognition among scholars, politicians, diplomats, and the public. Therefore, the book entitled Longitudes & Attitudes: Exploring the World after September 11 in general and its prologue “The Super-Story” by Thomas Friedman was highly topical and raised an essential and largely under-researched issue of globalization as a new international system. The prologue, which is under consideration herein, remains highly informative and useful as it helps readers understand the main axes of power in the globalized world and how this system differs from the previous system of the Cold War.
The matter is that although globalization is not a new concept and is widely used in all sorts of publications, not everybody understands what it really means and implies for the world, states, and individuals. Thus, “The Super-Story” provides a brief and concise insight into globalization and its main features. Besides, Thomas Friedman is a well-known and highly honored author and international affairs specialist who won the Pulitzer Prize for the book from which the prologue for the critical analysis has been taken. Overall, “The Super-Story” is a well-written, highly informative, and useful essay about the current international system that is definitely worth reading and considering not only for specialists, but also for all individuals living in the modern globalized world.
In “The Super-Story”, Friedman first and foremost emphasizes significance of having “the super-story”, “a big lens”, or “a big framework” through which individuals look at the world and all events occurring in particular countries and among different countries, as well as among corporations and individuals, i.e. among all actors present in the international system. Since the world is not static, these big frameworks change with varying frequency and all events should be considered and analyzed from the perspective of the new system. Thus, Friedman claims that the current and relatively new international system is called globalization, which is drastically different from the previous system called the Cold War. The author defines globalization as “the inexorable integration of markets, transportation systems, and communication systems to a degree never witnessed before…” (Friedman).
The above definition of globalization emphasizes that the new world system is no longer defined and determined by nation-states only as it used to be before, but rather by markets, communication systems, other systems, individuals, corporations, and countries. This is one of the differences between globalization and the Cold War system. Another key difference, as determined by Friedman, is the fact that the Cold War system was based on the principles of realism. It means that there were two superpowers in the world – the USA and the Soviet Union, which made the entire world divided. Walls and divisions separated nation-states that were primary actors in the previous international system. In turn, the new system of globalization is characterized by integration, inclusion, and interconnectedness of many existing actors.
The second part of the essay under consideration is aimed at describing the three balances around which the globalization system is built and functions. According to Friedman, these three balances include the following: the conventional balance of power between nation-states, the balance power between nation-states and global markets, and the balance power between nation-states and individuals. The first balance of power is traditional by nature and was present at all times. In turn, the other two balances are new characteristics of the new system, but Friedman manages to explain how they function and what impact on the world in general and all other actors of the globalization system they have.
It seems that the main purpose of “The Super-Story” by Friedman is informative and enlightening since it does not attempt to persuade readers of something, but rather presents his view of the globalization system in a rather objective way. The author’s credibility raises no doubt and the fact that the book from which the prologue analyzed herein has been taken is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Nonetheless, it should be taken into account that the essay was written in 2002, while today is 2016 and much has changed over the past 14 years. It is undeniable that the world is still governed by the globalization system. The system still has three balances of power, yet this issue should be considered in more depth. The first mentioned balance of power, which is considered to be traditional, is the one between nation-states and it remains topical. However, a Friedman’s claim that “In the globalization system, the United States in now the sole and dominant superpower and all other nations are subordinate to it to one degree or another” does not reflect the reality accurately nowadays. It might have been true immediately after the end of the Cold War when the USA’s main rival, i.e. the Soviet Union, collapsed and there was no other nation-state that would aspire to acquire the status of a world superpower. Currently, China, Germany, and the EU in general play a significant role on the international geopolitical arena. Moreover, Russia strives to influence world affairs and although it cannot be considered as a superpower, it does have some influence as evident from the recent events, for instance, its involvement in the Syrian conflict. Besides, the USA has somewhat lost its positions of a superpower and now faces a lot of problems that prevent it from being so globally influential as before.
In turn, there is no doubt and arguing against Friedman’s view of the second balance of power, which concerns global markets. In fact, his claim that “the Electronic Herd”, i.e. investors, and the Supermarkets, i.e. global financial centers, “can have a huge impact on nation-states today, even to the point of triggering the downfall of governments” has proven to be true and highly accurate (Friedman). Recent economic crises and subsequent recessions have severely impacted virtually all nation-states, corporations, and individuals, which has only shown true power held by global markets over the world. The third balance of power, i.e. empowered individuals, seems to be one of the most controversial points in the essay by Friedman. On the one hand, he is absolutely right that there are individuals who can “influence both markets and nation-states” and who use the internet and other modern technologies to increase their power (Friedman). On the other hand, the Friedman’s claim that such individuals are present in the globalization system more than in any other previous system does not seem to be completely accurate as the history has always been written by powerful and influential individuals. In the past, there were no fewer personalities who shaped entire countries and epochs. Of course, the internet and other modern media have facilitated the spread of the individuals’ power and networks, as well as making them visible. Therefore, this issue has to be studied in more depth in the future to determine whether empowered individuals have risen to power in the globalization system more than in the past.
Withal, “The Super-Story” by Friedman is a highly informative essay about globalization as the current international system in which all actors are interconnected and interwoven and which is governed by three core balances of power. The new system has emerged partially as a result of the advent of the internet and development of other modern technologies, as well as disappearance of the clear division of the world into two areas controlled by two super states. Although the essay was written in 2002, most of its points are still topical, which makes the essay worth reading and considering.