Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century

Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century

“Magisterial history…one of the most comprehensive histories of modern capitalism yet written.” ―Michael Hirsh, New York Times Book Review

In 1900 international trade reached unprecedented levels and the world’s economies were more open to one another than ever before. Then as now, many people considered globalization to be inevitable and irreversible. Yet the entire edifice collapsed in a few months in 1914.

Globalization is a choice, not a fact. It is a result of policy decisions and the politics that shape them. Jeffry A. Frieden’s insightful history explores the golden age of globalization during the early years of the century, its swift collapse in the crises of 1914-45, the divisions of the Cold War world, and the turn again toward global integration at the end of the century. His history is full of character and event, as entertaining as it is enlightening.

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3 thoughts on “Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century”

  1. Izaak VanGaalen says:
    54 of 60 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Globalization 2.0, July 11, 2006
    By 
    Izaak VanGaalen (San Francisco, CA USA) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    Jeffrey Frieden, a Harvard professor specializing in international trade and finance, has written a masterly and comprehensive history of capitalism from 1870 to the present. His history of globalization reminds us that it is not a recent develpment and that its current success is not guaranteed.

    The first era of globalization (1870 to 1914) had many of the same characteristics as today’s. There was an unprecedented cross-border movement of goods, capital, and labor. (Labor more so in the first era.) During these years huge amounts of capital moved overseas to America, Canada, and Argentina mainly due to the reduced costs of communication and transportation. The technologies driving this globalization were the telegraph and railroads. It was also facilitated by the fact that most currencies were convertible to gold. The investment in the Americas was also followed by a huge immigrant population. In these years, America, Canada, and Argentina had much larger immmigrant populations at the turn of the 20th century than today.

    The main thing that distinguishes the present globalization from the first is what happened in between. After the Great Depression and World War II remedies were put into place to mitigate the damaging effects of these economic and social catastrophes. Social benefits such as unions, minimum wage, healthcare and pensions were established as safety nets. In the era between the two globalizations when economies were mostly national the safety nets were part of the social contract between capital and labor.

    In 1980, when our current era of globalization begins, capital began to move overseas again in order to find countries with lower labor and social costs. This time, however, labor did not follow. The industrialized countries now have large middle classes with social benefits promised who are not certain about how they are going to be paid. This is causing many in the industrialized world to have second thoughts about our current phase of globalization.

    Frieden has a guarded optimism about global capitalism and thinks it is still the best system for distributing wealth. Yet, his last chapter “Global Capitalism Troubled” points to some more clouds on the horizon. There seems to be a growing gap between those who control capital and those who work for a living. People understand that globalization is inevitable but they want a new set of rules to address the growing inequalities.

    Frieden is a cheerleader for a more equitable capitalism that can deliver both social benefits and robust economic growth.

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  2. Philip Sim says:
    39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Almost tempted to give it a miss, April 22, 2007
    By 
    Philip Sim (SINGAPORE Singapore) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century (Paperback)
    I was almost tempted to give the book a miss after seeing the high ratings that were given by reviewers that seemed to be anti-globalizationists (what an awkward term!)

    However, I came across the book at my library and gave it a chance, and I was not disappointed. It is a book that does a creditable job of summing up the ups and downs of the world economy over the past hundred years and more. And it also does a fairly good job of raising some issues and problems with the world economic system, and how the system had evolved to meet those issues and problems. On the whole, I think it’s a balanced book, pointing out the critical need for free and integrated markets to raising millions in the world out of poverty, as well as some of the problems facing them.

    The only reason why I gave the book a four rather than a five is that it is not an easy read, and it is best read with some thought and analysis on the reader’s part. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not something for everyone.

    By the way, do ignore those reviews that pretend to tell you what the author was saying in his book. I’m not sure that he’s actually saying what they say he is saying.

    Read the book for yourself. It’s worth the time and effort.

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  3. Linksman says:
    27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    winners and losers, a scorecard, October 11, 2009
    By 
    Linksman (Pinehurst, NC) –

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    Although he begins slowly and tempts one to cast the book aside prematurely, Professor Frieden ultimately provides a useful play by play account of global trade and money flows over the past one hundred odd years. Whether or not he intended to prove as much, his chronicle demonstrates that absent sound political leadership, the result within ANY COUNTRY is an enlarged volume of tradeable goods, a small financial elite, a bewildered and increasingly indebted and disenfranchised population which must mobilize into political constituencies to battle for scraps. This was true under the classical gold standard, and it remains true under the regime of floating exchange rates. It was less true during the Bretton Woods regime (1946 to 1973), largely because speculative financial flows were restricted by exchange controls.

    The strength of the book is that it mentions every event of consequence, most of them in passing. A reader can sense the inevitable buildup of economic and political pressures, and watch them explode one by one. That America allows itself to be drawn into the morass, time after time, is testament to the linguistic capabilities of our well heeled charlatans, toadying academics and ignoramus politicians, who always manage to capture the public forum, and who continue to retain it even after the latest disaster which ought to have made even them consider reality just this once. Don’t hold your breath. For those for whom globalization pays it pays really well. Until the rest of us digest the lessons of books like this one, the music can be expected to continue as more and more chairs are drawn away.

    Professor Frieden displays respectable academic virtues and remains even handed toward the concerns of both rich and poor. You won’t get a radical suggestion out of him. It is tempting to suggest that America should turn its back on the global economy, and put its population to work here at home making what we need. It is more tempting to suggest that the beneficiaries of global money flows should be taxed progressively (and then some), that banks should be returned to productive lending and broken into manageable pieces, that large corporations should be progressively taxed on their capitalizations rather than on what they choose to report as earnings, and that land should be taxed at its unimproved value instead of under the conventional method which endlessly rewards those whose ancestors grabbed it first (and a succession of buccaneer tycoons shrewd enough to bamboozle the bankers who allow them one way options to step into inheritor shoes). All of these gestures would help and none of them is likely to be tried, at least until things become dramatically worse. The only certainty is that our present course is not going to work, but at least many of us will have plenty of time to become experts in economic history. They say it helps to understand why one is being $crewed.

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