Globalization - A world divided: 1940–1950



World War II further threatened Anglo-American-style globalization. The Axis powers—a loose coalition of Germany, Italy, and Japan—resorted to military force to overthrow the post-Versailles world order and to establish closed, regional systems dominated from Berlin, Rome, and Tokyo. The conflict afforded the United States a second chance to provide leadership and to promote its vision of a peaceful, prosperous, and united world. The Roosevelt administration pressed plans for international rules and institutions that would structure the post–World War II global economic and political system. In joining technology with national security, the war forged an enduring partnership among business, government, and science. Afterward, the new military-industrial complex would sustain America as an economic and military superpower, develop endless frontiers for scientific discovery, and speed the globalization process.

In effect, scientists and their laboratories, with government funding and direction, contributed in a major way to the success of the war effort, and in the process they developed many new products that had commercial applications which would transform the postwar world. Atomic energy, for instance, had many peaceful applications, particularly as a source of electrical power. The mass production of penicillin transformed the treatment of disease. Also, radar provided the basis for microwave cooking. The first computers appeared during World War II to assist the military with code breaking and long-distance ballistics calculations. ENIAC, one of the first, was a huge machine, occupying 1,800 square feet and using 18,000 bulky vacuum tubes. Not until the development of transistors and the microchips that resulted from them could cheap and reliable computing power be loaded into desktop and portable units. The transistor, which was developed in 1947 and 1948, grew out of wartime research on silicon and germanium at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey. The transistor led directly to the technology of the personal computer, which itself spawned the globalized information age in the last third of the twentieth century.

No industry benefited more from wartime cooperation and federal contracts than aviation. At the outbreak of war the Boeing Company of Seattle, renowned for its seaplanes and engineering skills, had fewer than two thousand employees and was on the verge of bankruptcy. From this inauspicious beginning the company flourished on the strength of its bombers (the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-29 Superfortress). Employment rose to nearly forty-five thousand. At the end of the war Boeing, on the strength of its experience and reputation in military aircraft production, turned its attention to the civilian market, using the B-29 as the basis of the luxurious 377 Stratocruiser that Pan American used on Atlantic routes. It contained a spiral staircase and a downstairs bar, but was soon superseded by the four-engine 707 passenger jet, launched in 1954. The latter also had roots in military work to develop a jet tanker and from wind tunnel experiments with jet engines during World War II. Thus, with government assistance, American companies like Boeing, Douglas, and Lockheed would come to dominate the rapidly expanding world market for civilian aviation.

Growth was also in order for consumer goods, which were also foundations for later globalization. Robert W. Woodruff, who had taken over the Coca-Cola Company in 1923, aimed to make his beverage an ordinary, everyday item for Americans and people around the world. He built on his foreign operations, particularly in Europe, during World War II by having Coke accompany the military overseas. Soldiers not only identified with Woodruff's product during and after the war but heroes requested it—as did an American pilot who crashed in Scotland and asked, upon regaining consciousness, for a Coke. The beverage was so pervasive that the Nazis and Japanese denounced it as a disease of American society. By war's end the company ran sixty-three bottling plants across the globe, on every continent. Its net profits in 1948 soared to $35.6 million, elevating it to near-universal acceptance as the world's beverage of choice.

The Cold War dashed the hopes of internationalists who would have facilitated the globalization of the world economy, but still strides were made toward the technoglobal system, induced particularly by governments working through the United Nations. In these instances, officials instilled international law and arbitration processes in the international economy, yet another foundation of globalization. For instance, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) pushed for global rules to govern the dynamic medium of air transport and travel. The objective was to establish international law, as well as promote order, safety, and efficient development in aviation, although ICAO authority remained limited by national desires to control lucrative commercial air traffic. The ICAO, established on a permanent basis in April 1947, provided the framework for the vast expansion of commercial airspace after World War II. By the late 1960s its 116 member nations connected markets around the world more closely by integrating various technical aspects of airplane transport, such as air navigation codes, as well as by devising a mechanism to resolve civil disputes, promote simpler procedures at borders, and boost Third World development in civil aviation—all enhancing globalization through air transport.

The protracted Cold War struggle that divided the world into two spheres of influence—one led from Washington, the other from Moscow—prompted national security considerations, rather than invisible market forces, to define international relationships. Governments continued to regulate trade and financial exchanges, despite efforts to lower barriers and promote commerce. But America's technological advantage, adaptable production processes, and access to resources, so decisive in the struggle against Axis aggressors, helped win the conflict. Also, a new generation of U.S. political and corporate leaders, familiar with mistakes made at the end of World War I when the United States shunned overseas responsibilities, chose to accept this second opportunity to guide the world. Furthermore, as it turned out, these internationalists were also better salesmen than Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and his heirs, who presided over a decrepit, controlled Soviet economy unable to satisfy basic consumer wants. Aware that a troubled world had an insatiable appetite for American values, goods, and services, U.S. leaders exploited their comparative advantage in communications and marketing to advance the American dream of democracy, mass consumption, and individual enterprise. In the long Cold War, the formula of guns, butter, and liberal ideals eventually proved a winner that spread American values on a global basis. Without America's Marshall Plan, support for Japan, and containment of the Soviet Union, the history of the Cold War might have turned out quite differently, and likewise for the course of globalization. Had the USSR won the Cold War, Soviet-directed expansion would have been far different—far more capricious, authoritarian, and state-managed—than the American-led alternative based on the rule of law, democratic elections, open markets, and the relentless energy of technology and entrepreneurship. Thus, the era of globalization that began near century's end evolved, ironically, from the deglobalized structure of the Cold War.



Other articles you might like:

Follow City-Data.com Founder
on our Forum or Twitter

Also read article about Globalization from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: