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Summer 2001
Getting a grip on Globalization
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Navigating the shoals of the 21st century will require a clear understanding of the forces that are driving globalization in the post-Cold War era.

By Thomas L. Friedman

I have the best job in the world. As the foreign-affairs columnist for The New York Times, I get to be a tourist with an attitude. I get to go wherever I want, whenever I want and write about whatever I want. It's a great job. There's only one downside. I have to have attitudes twice a week, every Tuesday and Friday, on The Times' editorial page. So the big challenge when I started this job in January 1995 was: What attitudes?

I'm the fifth foreign-affairs columnist in the history of The New York Times. The first was Anne O'Hare McCormick. She got her start -- according to her highly politically incorrect obit in The Times -- in 1937, accompanying her husband on buying trips to Europe. She started writing for the newspaper and they liked her stuff so much they gave her a column -- the first column in The New York Times, actually, and the first foreign-affairs column, which was called "In Europe," because as far as The New York Times was concerned, in 1937, "In Europe" was foreign affairs. The title only changed to "Foreign Affairs" in 1954 with the advent of the Cold War as America stood astride the world as a superpower.

The super-story, the framework for Anne O'Hare McCormick's attitude, was the crumbling of Versailles Europe and World War II. Her three successors -- C.L. Sulzberger, Flora Lewis '41 and Leslie Gelb -- had the Cold War as the framework and super-story for their attitudes. Well, when I started in January 1995, the Cold War had just ended and no one was quite sure, least of all myself, what would be the framework and super-story for my attitudes. My book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, was really my own personal answer to that question.

The core thesis of the book is that globalization is not a trend or a fad. My view is that globalization -- this integration of markets, finance and technology -- is shrinking the world from a size "large" to a size "medium," and from a size "medium" to a size "small," and enabling each of us to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before. Globalization is actually the international system that replaced the Cold War system. And like the Cold War system, it has its own rules, logic, pressures and incentives that will and do affect everyone's company, everyone's country and everyone's community, either directly or indirectly.


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