A sensible rule of thumb for connectedness might be that the actions of
powerholders in one region of a network rapidly (say within a year) and visibly
(say in changes actually reported by nearby observers) affect the welfare of at
least a significant minority (say a tenth) of the population in another region
of the network. Such a criterion indubitably makes our own world a single
system; even in the absence of worldwide flows of capital, communications, and
manufactured goods, shipments of grain and arms from region to region would
suffice to establish the minimum connections. (Tilly 1984: 62)
The culinary capital of India may be London, that of China San Francisco. In order to carry out anthropological fieldwork in a village in the Dominican Republic, one has to spend at least a few months in New York City. The little trolls, 'Scream' t-shirts and expensive knitted sweaters sold to tourists visiting Oslo, are made in Taiwan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, respectively. The largest city in the English-speaking Caribbean is London. And if the classical patriarchal kinship system of the Taiwanese had been unable to withstand the pressure of individualism from modernization, several shop owners in Silicon Valley might still have been in business: The patrician is an efficient economic unit where interest-free loans and free services are available, and when shops in California (and elsewhere) have to close down because their customers have lost their jobs, this is partly a result of competition from East Asia.
Such is the extent of global interconnectedness — and I still haven't even mentioned satellite television, the Internet, cheap flights and cellphones. Some theorists compare the complex webs of connectedness in the current era to chaos and complexity in physics (for example, Thrift 1999; Urry 2003), mining complexity theory for models that can be used to understand social change.
The most famous image from chaos theory is that of the butterfly effect: A butterfly flapping its little wings on the Brazilian coast whips up some air and changes the direction of a tiny wind. This wind connects to other streams of air, changing