Skip Navigation

The Impact of Globalization on World Peace

The Fifth Annual Arnold C. Harberger Distinguished Lecture delivered by Thomas L. Friedman, Foreign Affairs Columnist for The New York Times at UCLA, January 17, 2001

Becky Carrera Email BeckyCarrera

I am honored to be giving the fifth annual Arnold Harberger lecture, especially with Professor Harberger present. It is really a treat for me.

I know some of you have read The Lexus and The Olive Tree.  I wrote this book in 1998-1999 and it came out in 1999. The deal that I had with the paperback publisher was that whoever won the rights to do the paperback had to agree that I could completely redo the book and re-write it, re-edit it, and re-index it. I did that because the subject to me was so alive that I felt just in the year between the hardback and the paperback, I needed to update it, so about 20 percent of the paperback is new.  I tell you that not for marketing reasons but to lay the basis for what I would like to talk about today. What I would like to talk about is what I have learned since the hardback came out, what is the core thesis of the book and where my own thinking in regards to globalization, and globalization and world peace, has gone since I started this.  So, the first half of this talk is going to go over the core thesis of the book, where the book really came from, and then where my own thinking has gone since.

Now, I always start my talk about The Lexus and The Olive Tree by talking about my job as the “Foreign Affairs” columnist for the New York Times because I have the best job in the world.  I mean, somebody has to have it.  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 is only one downside with my job and that is that I have to have attitudes twice a week, every Tuesday and every Friday on the editorial page of the New York Times.  So the big challenge I had when I started this job in January 1995 is - what attitude?  What attitude?  Now, I am the fifth foreign affairs columnist in the history of the New York Times.  The first was a woman named Anne O’Hare McCormick who began in 1937.  She got her start, according to her highly politically incorrect obit in The New York Times, accompanying her husband, who was an engineer from Dayton, Ohio on buying trips to Europe.  She started stringing for the Times and writing for the Times, and they liked her stuff so much that they gave her a column, the first column in the New York Times actually, and the first foreign affairs column.  In 1937 it was called “In Europe,” because as far as the New York Times was concerned in 1937, “In Europe” was foreign affairs.  In fact, the title of the column only changed to “Foreign Affairs” in 1954 with the advent of the Cold War, as America stood astride the world as a superpower.

Now, 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 – Cy Sulzberger, Flora Lewis, and Leslie Gelb – had the Cold War as the framework and super-story for their attitudes.  Well, I started in January 1995 when 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. The Lexus and the Olive Tree was really my own personal answer to that question.  It is truly a foreign affairs columnist’s survival handbook because the Times said, “Go out in the world and write about it,” and I needed a framework in order to tie things together for myself. I did not just invent this cause; I just needed a framework.  Rather, after three years of doing this job, I started connecting the dots that were useful to me, and the book really came out of that impetus.

Now, the core thesis of the book is that globalization is not a trend and it is not a fad.  My view is that globalization – the 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.  It is enabling each of us to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before.  It is enabling the world to reach into each of us farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before. In my view, this thing called globalization is actually the international system that replaced the Cold War system.  Like the Cold War system, this globalization system 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.  That is the core thesis of the book.

Now, the best way to understand the implications of this globalization system is to compare it to the Cold War system.  The Cold War system was characterized by one overarching feature, and that was division.  The world was a divided place, and in that system all your threats and opportunities as a country or company tended to flow from whom you were divided from.  That system was symbolized by a single word, the wall – the Berlin Wall.  The globalization system is also characterized by one overarching feature, only it is integration.  In this new system, all your threats and opportunities, I believe, tend to flow from whom you are connected to, and it is symbolized by a single word, the web – the worldwide web.  So, over the past 15 years or so, we have gone from a world of division and walls to a world of increasing integration and webs. In the Cold War we in America reached for the hot line, which was a symbol. The hot line that connected the White House and the Kremlin was a symbol that we were all divided but, thank God, at least two people were in charge, the United States and the Soviet Union.  In globalization, we reach for the Internet, which is a symbol that we are all connected and nobody is in charge.

What is really scary about the globalization system, in my view, is that its internal logic exactly mirrors the logic of the Internet.  We are all increasingly connected but nobody is quite in charge. of lecture in an an acrobat pdf can be downloaded below.

To print this page, select "Print" from the File menu of your browser.