Globalization - Globalization undercurrents: 1951–1972



The indicators of globalization were present throughout the superpower struggle. Prosperity and peace brought greater individual mobility. Before World War I an average of 1.5 million people arrived annually at U.S. shores, with about half that many departing. Travel lagged until after World War II and then revived. Two million people arrived in 1956, 10 million in 1970. Immigration, which fell to a low of 24,000 in 1943 and stagnated during the Depression and World War II, revived slowly after the war, reaching 327,000 in 1957. The largest numbers of immigrants—many of them war refugees—continued to come from Europe, and at this time particularly from Germany. Air travel also took off. Before the 1940s the typical traveler from abroad came by sea; after World War II the traveler arrived by air. On domestic routes the number of revenue passengers rose rapidly from 6.6 million passengers in 1945 to 48.7 million in 1957 and 153.4 million in 1970. On international routes the rise was equally dramatic: from 476,000 in 1945 to 4.5 million in 1957 and 16.3 million in 1970.

Despite Cold War crises and the further regionalization of the world economy, highlighted by the launching of the European Common Market in 1957 (which lured massive American investment), a revolution in critical technologies—including transatlantic telephone service, satellite communications, computers, and jet travel—accelerated the globalization process and ushered in a new era of rapid intercontinental travel, instantaneous communications, and economic interdependence. America's humbling experience in Vietnam, dollar woes, and the rise of oil exporting nations in the 1970s did not dampen globalization. Americans still enjoyed the benefits of unprecedented prosperity spurred by technology and economic expansion overseas. They bought new homes equipped with the latest labor-saving appliances, vacationed and studied abroad, and followed breaking news and sporting events abroad on new color television sets receiving signals transmitted via space satellites. Despite domestic political turmoil, technoglobalization continued to press forward, gradually transforming the world of separate nations.

Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian who analyzed the impact of mass media on society, made the metaphor of the "global village" famous in 1962 as a reference to the new electronic interdependence that had recreated the world. At the time, McLuhan was concerned largely with how noninteractive communications like radio and television were homogenizing the world: everyone watched the same sporting events, news, and soap operas. He identified a significant trend. The late 1950s was a period of enormous change as technical developments in aviation, transportation, and communications brought cost reductions and improved service. People, goods, and capital began to move across borders, creating interactive bonds among people and between nations. These flows integrated markets, harmonized tastes, and homogenized cultures.

Some of the most significant advances involved air transportation for people and freight. In 1957, Boeing, having gambled 25 percent of its net worth on development of a long-range passenger jet, launched the 707-120, designed as both a tanker for the air force and a civilian jet. Equipped with long-range Pratt and Whitney J-57 engines, it halved flying time across the Atlantic and opened the era of cheap air travel. The number of passengers departing internationally on scheduled airliners rose 340 percent (from 4.3 million to 18.9 million) from 1957 to 1973 as airlines introduced tourist-class fares. A round-trip flight, New York to London, fell to $487. The arrival of the wide-bodied Boeing 747 in 1969 further expanded capacity and drove down costs. Originally designed as a cargo carrier, it could accommodate two containers side by side that could be transferred to trucks; soon, high-value goods were moving swiftly by jet freighter. It also offered lower operating costs at a time when fuel prices were rising.

Thus, by the early 1970s improvements in air transport made it possible for business to source suppliers and serve markets globally. From 1957 to 1973 the number of revenue ton miles for air cargo on scheduled international flights rose 866 percent from 128.2 billion tons in 1957 to 1.2 trillion ton in 1973. It would be a decade before the full impact of these improvements worked their way through the marketplace. Air service continued to expand rapidly and airfares fell. Charter service grew rapidly on the transatlantic route and fares on scheduled airliners fell below $200 (New York to London) by 1970. Millions of college students read Arthur Frommer's best-seller, Europe on $5 a Day (first published in 1957), put on their backpacks, and set out to see Europe and learn about "foreign affairs." Meanwhile, improved engine design and weight reduction led to longer-range planes. In 1976 Boeing launched the 747 SP, which had the capacity to carry 233 passengers nonstop with full payload between New York and Tokyo. By 1989 Boeing was producing the 747-400; it could carry 412 passengers for up to twenty hours at subsonic speeds.

Along with the arrival of reliable, efficient jet freight in the late 1960s, other important cost-saving developments occurred in maritime shipping, including containerization. In the 1950s longshoremen could typically handle from ten to fifteen tons of cargo per hour. The use of truck-trailer, standard-size containers, brought productivity up to from six hundred to seven hundred tons per hour. This meant faster ship turnaround, better coordination, and lower transportation costs. Beginning in April 1956, when the trucking executive Malcolm McLean first moved loaded trailers between two U.S. port cities on an old World War II tanker, containerization took off. Grace and Matson lines adopted it in 1960 and the rush to containerization peaked in 1969, during the Vietnam War. In addition, the international shipping industry developed specially designed ships for automobiles (the first auto carriers could handle from one thousand to two thousand cars) and LNG (liquified natural gas) tankers after the 1973 war in the Middle East..

Improvements in communications also boosted the globalization process. Until the mid-1950s individuals could not communicate quickly and easily across the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. In 1927 commercial telephone service using high-frequency radio opened between New York and London. But this interactive advance was not designed for mass communications. Radio telephones were noisy, unreliable, and costly—forty-five dollars for the first three minutes. September 1956 brought the most significant improvement in communications in over a century when American Telephone and Telegraph opened the first transatlantic telephone cable (TAT-1) by using microwave amplification techniques. The number of transatlantic telephone calls soared—climbing slowly from 10,000 in 1927 to 250,000 in 1957, and then jumping to 4.3 million in 1961. Soon large corporations such as Ford began using the telephone cable to exchange information and coordinate their over-seas operations from their U.S. headquarters. While telephone cables improved business communications among metropolitan centers, large areas of the world could not take advantage of telephone communications. Starting in the 1980s, satellite communications ended this isolation and made the emerging global village truly interactive.

The arrival of jet planes and transoceanic telephones facilitated business expansion, but so did American scientific leadership. World War II and the early Cold War saw many technological advances, and U.S. firms moved quickly to commercialize products from military research. Between 1945 and 1965 the number of patents granted in America more than doubled, rising from 25,695 to 62,857. Five times as many patents went to U.S. firms as to foreign corporations. As late as 1967 the United States accounted for 69 percent of research and development in major countries. A good illustration was the transformation of IBM, which took its domination into the global marketplace.

The Cold War generated momentum for globalization in other ways, too. National Science Foundation, National Space and Aeronautics Administration, and Defense Department contracts spurred basic research throughout the 1960s, and space research particularly spun off growth in intelligence gathering, electronics and engineering, and weaponry. Laboratories hired thousands of corporate engineers to work on missile and aerospace projects, and clusters of companies and laboratories sprouted up near major academic institutions. The space program's budget steadily increased to $1.2 billion by 1962, and steps were taken to orbit a man around the earth (via the Mercury Project from 1959 to 1962), and eventually to send him to the moon (through the Apollo Project in 1969). These were the precursors to the space shuttle and satellite communications of the 1980s and beyond, which fueled the globalization of information.



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