The Industrial Revolution in World History

By Peter N. Stearns | Go to book overview

15
International Industry and the Complexities of Industrial Trends

The international implications of industrialization intensified after 1950, creating what might legitimately be termed a global economic revolution. In addition to innovations in specific societies, and atop the great variety of industrial situations, an international industrial apparatus took shape. International links and combinations built on previous developments, including transoceanic shipping and communication and the formation of foreign subsidiaries by leading companies. Nevertheless, the sheer complexity of international industry had important new qualities in the last half of the twentieth century.

The two basic features of the industrial revolution--technology and organization--began to apply on a world scale. International technology included routine air travel that enabled business leaders and technical experts to meet regularly and thus form something of an international community in their fields across political and ideological boundaries. With advances in computer linkages and satellite communication that greatly speeded the flow and volume of messages came literally instant access to developments on the other side of the world. The organizational revolution showed most clearly in the emergence of multinational corporations (stemming mainly from Western Europe, the United States, and the Pacific Rim, including Japan) that maintained complicated manufacturing operations around the globe. Some authorities argued that multinationals were replacing established governments as the most influential organizations in contemporary life.

International organization and technology were complemented by new flows of labor from Latin America, Africa, and Asia into the industrialized regions. The result was creation of an almost unprecedented mixture of civilizations around a common industrial base. Attending this development as well were new global problems of industrial pollution that required, though did not fully receive, another kind of international response.

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