The New Leviathans

An atlas of multinationals throws unusual light on globalization


| January 1, 2004


In the year 1600 the world's first multinational corporation emerged -- the British East India Company -- and globalization was born. Four hundred years later there exist 63,000 multinational corporations (MNCs) employing 90 million people and producing 25 percent of the world's gross product, not to mention one of the most hotly debated issues of the last few years. But just what is globalization and why is it such a hot topic? Nayan Chanda of YaleGlobal Online reports on a new 'atlas of the multinational corporation' by Medard Gabel and Henry Bruner that seeks to explain just that. Entitled 'Global, Inc,' the book, according to Chanda, 'takes us under the skin of the global economy, offering an X-Ray-like image of the sinews and arteries of multinational corporations.'

The book is the brain-child of Bruce Mazlish, an MIT historian and head of the New Global History initiative. After reading a UN report on MNCs Mazlish decided to organize a conference to examine the effect multinationals had on global politics, economics, and culture, and to take a closer look at their 'historical roots.' From this conference the atlas was produced with the input of Business executive Medard Gabel and economic geographer Henry Bruner.

If the task of deconstructing the phenomenon of globalization and its history sounds daunting, it should be even more surprising to hear that the product of such a statistics-based feat could be 'beautiful.' Yet Chanda notes just that in regard to the many maps and charts in the book and expresses his belief that the atlas 'helps to demolish many misperceptions' about multinationals. Through the authors' objective lens, MNCs have the beneficial effects of increased capital, technology, and employment to countries, but nevertheless they point out that 'Given the enormous influence that large [MNCs] wield in today's society, it would not be far-fetched to say that the power of the large corporation could also be a threat to the democratic process.' With such a broad scope, 'Global, Inc' is certain to be a significant addition to globalization studies, and has undoubtedly assured its place on the reference shelf.
-- Kyle Cohen

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