Commanding Heights Video Reaction Paper

Based on a best-selling book (1998), this deftly produced set explores the growing world economy and examines how economic globalization is affected by political, historical, commercial, and other factors.

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Yergin and Stanislaw first attempt to explain the most crucial economic and political changes of globalization since the post-World War I New Deal era. In the introduction, they state that their book is intended to be their “story, a narrative of the individuals, the ideas, the conflicts, and the turning points that have changed the course of economies and the fate of nations over the last half century.”

The story begins with the final meeting of the Allied leaders at the end of World War II in the Potsdam suburb of Berlin in 1945. Yergin and Stanislaw claim that the Potsdam meeting was the defining point for the economic and political structures that were to give nation-states control over the commanding heights of their economies for the next thirty years.

Yergin and Stanislaw argue that public trust in the government’s ability to manage the economy was put in question during the energy crisis of the 1970s, a time when the Carter Administration felt itself under “siege,” prompting the president to wonder whether “narcissism” was at the heart of America’s economic and political problems. The fall of the Carter Administration and the election of Ronald Reagan represent for Yergin and Stanislaw the outward political indication that “winds were changing” and a new battle for the commanding heights of the economy was about to commence.

Yergin and Stanislaw point to the new free market policies in Britain and in Asia as the beginning of a new global critique of nation-state control over the economy. By the 1980s, a new consensus in favor of markets is seen to have replaced the Potsdam consensus in favor of governmental regulation over the economy. In describing changes that have occurred since the 1980s, Yergin and Stanislaw’s story shifts to the narrative of globalization.

Yergin and Stanislaw seek to explain the bewildering pace of change brought about by globalization by considering the way the world looked just a mere decade or two ago. It is at this point that Yergin and Stanislaw’s story shifts to the plot of globalization in the contemporary era. Yergin and Stanislaw are global business enthusiasts who see globalization of markets establishing a new set of ideas and opportunities for the twenty-first century.

Yergin and Stanislaw’s cheerful slant on the globalization of market activity fails to recognize its serious cultural downside – namely, the loss of commitment to a real community. Indeed, it is the loss of commitment to the community that gives Yergin and Stanislaw reason to believe that the nation-states will be less significant in the future.

What Yergin and Stanislaw fail to see is that the same information technologies, which create the “woven world” experience, can also bring about frightening new opportunities for nation-state control over global information markets. For example, the global technological-market nexus for the first time gives governments of nation-states the technological capability to coordinate nation-state regulatory systems necessary for global regulation.

Yergin and Stanislaw never consider this potential, which exists in the collection of web information about individuals compiled through computer-generated dossiers, case histories, and databases. The privacy-free state at the heart of the libertarian conservative ideology, which Yergin and Stanislaw attribute to the free market of globalization, may turn out to be less free and libertarian than they think.

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