chapter  1
20 Pages

Modern Theory and Ancient Practice: Is Globalization New?

This forceful dictum, usually attributed to the automobile magnate Henry Ford, can be usefully set alongside President Abraham Lincoln’s more elegant, “Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history!”

The authors of this volume, one of us a management professor the other a professional historian, unstintingly give the palm to Lincoln. We do so fully aware that since about 1980, a host of academics, management experts, and corporate executives have proclaimed the coming of a new and unprecedented economic age: that of a borderless global economy based upon information, instead of production.1 Skilful theorists and big-picture thinkers have sketched out the ligaments of a world economy dominated by giant multinational enterprises working in tandem with networks of more nimble, smaller fi rms. Most of those who study this global onrush of capitalist techniques linked with evolving telecommunication systems are convinced that this is something new under the sun. The claim is made that today’s economy is altogether new. The argument is advanced that history offers few lessons, few parallels to guide us in the age of the mobile phone and the Internet, when products and commodities change hands at the fl ick of a cursor. In this view, Henry Ford was right.