Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Globalization - Economics in/and History

My undergraduate training was in history, and I came to economics "through" the back door of a business minor. A course I needed to graduate was taught by a visiting professor who was very good at putting the concepts in to a relatable context. I had a "road to Damascus" moment, and I've been interested in economics and the relationship to history ever since.

This explains how I ran across this review on the History News Network web site. The book, titled Power and Plenty, asks whether globalization is an unstoppable train, or whether it can be slowed down or even derailed. After istening to much of the political rhetoric and punditry during this "winter of our discontent," one would certainly accept the possibility of the latter.

And while I've not yet read the book, I will probably pick it up for a couple reasons. First, I've long felt that Thomas Friedman's labeling of globalization waves - he calls them globalization 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 - were too limited. After all, he cites 1.0 as the period many of us refer to as "The Age of Discovery." But there are numerous periods prior to that when trade helps to build empires in what is then the "known world," and even drives further exploration. For many of these earlier civilizations, trade encompassed the world as they knew it. For them, it was globalization. And it did much of what advocates of the current incarnation of globalization find valuable.

Second, the book seems to focus on the economic institutions that are in place that both promote and hinder the expansion of trade. Whether it is a mind-set, laws, or a naval force committed to protecting commerce, these rules and organizations set the tone for a world view. If nothing else, it reminds us as economic educators that our role is to help our students understand the plusses and minuses of economic engagement with the rest of the world.

I'll try to review the book once I've read it to see if I'm right.

Whether you're a history teacher or economics teacher, if you're familiar with the book, I encourage your comments. And even if you've not read the book, feel free to share your thoughts.

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