Twelve books on globalization

There are dozens of books about globalization: which of them are relevant for managers?


A visit to any good bookshop will reveal dozens of books with “globalization” in the title. Which of them are relevant for managers? In this essay, I shall review a sampling of twelve recent books on globalization by four groups of writers. First, there are sociologists like Tomlinson and Giddens who argue that a common culture is developing worldwide. Second are political scientists like Gilpin, Germain, Strange and Woods, who examine the power of multinational enterprises (MNEs) and the need for reform of global regulatory architecture. Third is work by economists and management scholars like Kenichi Ohmae, Richardson and others who have insights into the increase in international trade and investment and how this may relate to business strategy. I also include some books by a fourth group of writers who are more concerned with economic development and equity aspects of globalization. These include Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, Michael Edwards and others. Finally, I look at a readable synthesis of much of this work – the insightful book by Micklethwait and Wooldridge.

Sociology and global culture

The word “globalization” is much abused and presents a problem for scholars across the social sciences and in business schools who define it from the viewpoint of their own discipline. For an economist and business school professor like me, globalization can be defined as “the activities of multinational enterprises engaging in foreign direct investment to create foreign subsidiaries which add value across national borders” (Rugman 2000). For sociologists like Tomlinson (1999), the definition is much broader. John Tomlinson argues that an economic definition of globalization is too narrow; instead it is multidimensional, best “understood in terms of simultaneous, complex, related processes in the realms of economy, politics, culture, technology and so forth ” (p16). It is argued that globalization has led to harmonization of culture. Despite unnecessary jargon from the academic literature on social theory, the book is clearly written, with numerous contemporary examples.

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