Magazine article The Futurist

Corporations and the Global Village. (Book Review)

Magazine article The Futurist

Corporations and the Global Village. (Book Review)

Article excerpt

Multinational corporations are increasingly viewed as the enemy of the Global Village. To succeed in the future, corporations need to restore trust and virtue to the balance sheet.

Most of the current discussion of globalization consists of proponents and opponents talking past each other. The Future of Corporate Globalization--highly readable, often brilliant, and always accessible--is a welcome exception.

Its author, a professor of international business at the University of Washington, is no armchair theorist. In addition to teaching in Japan, Jeremiah J. Sullivan has been a consultant to the U.S. and Chinese governments and has previously published a book on Japanese businessmen in America. Not a dry academic study, Sullivan's new book displays the author's formidable knowledge of philosophy, history, literature, and anthropology and is very well worth reading.

Sullivan defines globalization as "two things: the expansion of trade and investment across borders and increased linkages so that a company's or country's economic actions affect and are affected by economic, political, social, and cultural events in other societies." On balance, he believes that it is not only inevitable but good for all concerned. He devotes several chapters to a detailed, evenhanded, and well-researched analysis of various claims of its critics, demonstrating that he not only takes them seriously but also shares many of their views.

"Clearly," Sullivan contends, "the market model is in trouble." The main reason is the narrowness of its proponents, the traditional mainstream economists whose views and even whose craft, he argues, are fundamentally flawed: "The microeconomic, rational-man theory of human choice behavior does not account for habitual, emotional, values-driven behavior." We are not, he goes on, "only unsure of the fundamental roots of economic growth, but we also know little about the day-to-day processes through which growth occurs."

The critics of globalization may or may not accept the fact that the market can bring about greater output of material goods and services, but they are, quite legitimately, interested in other things as well: justice, order, virtue, and sovereignty. The claims of the critics--even leaving their possible merits aside--are growing louder and will continue to grow, and global corporations will have to take them into account.

Sullivan posits two grand models for society. One is the Extended Order model, the "idea that work is solely an economic exchange relationship within the context of a market model, in which an individual willingly puts himself under the direction of another in return for some reward. …

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