Stresses of Globalization

Unfortunately in the year XXXX the whole world was one large international workshop. A strike in the Argentine was apt to cause suffering in Berlin. A raise in the price of certain raw materials in London might spell disaster to tens of thousands of long-suffering Chinese coolies who had never even heard of the existence of the big city on the Thames. The invention of some obscure Privat-Dozent in a third-rate German university would often force dozens of Chilean banks to close their doors, while bad management on the part of an old commercial house in Gothenburg might deprive hundreds of little boys and girls in Australia of a chance to go to college.

Except for the archaic language, this might be a contemporary description of the risks and stresses of our increasingly-interconnected world. It is actually a passage from Hendrik Willem Van Loon’s book The Story of Mankind, published in 1921.

The date that appears in place of XXXX is 1914.

4 thoughts on “Stresses of Globalization”

  1. It’s always amazing to see how keen observers of the human condition can project the implications of nacent trends to their logical conclusion well before the general population–or even other intelligent minds focused elsewhere–are aware of their existence, let alone their implications.

  2. > It’s always amazing to see how keen observers of the human condition can project the implications…

    That’s one way to look at it.

    Another way is that today’s catastrophes are little different from those of our ancestors.
    They survived, so will we.

    The interconnectedness of all things isn’t an illusion.
    And it’s not something which someone in 1921 could presciently “project ahead” on.
    It was always there.
    The Butterfly Effect is quite real.
    Most times, the butterfly flaps don’t ripple much… but sometimes, they go a long ways away.

  3. The professor’s book is classic. a great primer for anyone who wants to understand history. His piece about how his own grandfather dropped everything and ran off to follow Napoleon Bonaparte… and how the professor confessed he’d probaly do the same thing if he saw the little corporal in the street was inspiring.
    Your posting of this quote is yet another example of ‘Arete’ of the mind. Something your blog produces on a regular basis.

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