W W W. T H E P U B L I C M A N A G E R . O R G
China are transforming,even under heavy-handedgovernment control)
Liberal economic and trade policies advocated bythe World Trade Organization and the structuraladjustment policies imposed on developing andemerging former communist and socialist coun-tries by the Bretton Woods Institutions—theInternational Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Voyage of Exploration
With this framework in mind—coupled with my“ThirdWorld”upbringing (in Sri Lanka),Americaneducation,and international organization experience— during the spring semester 2004,I took a voyage of exploration to the Caribbean,Latin America,Africa,and Asia to study the impact of global forces in thesesocieties and to learn how they responded to an ever-changing local economic,social,religious,and culturalethos.During and after this “Semester at Sea”programat the University of Pittsburgh,I reflected on the expe-riential learning,in-country interviews,and field obser-vations to better understand the dynamics of globaliza-tion processes that have typically been interchangeablyassociated with the concept of Americanization.
In the pro c e s s ,I learned more about A m e rica fro mo t h e rs ’p e rs p e c t ives and began to appreciate the priv i-leges of individual freedom and liberty enshrined in theU. S.Constitution (as opposed to the ascendance of group rights over individual freedom in the East A s i a nand Confucian culture s ) .A single pers o n ,an institution,or a nation cannot monopolize these forces and pro c e s s-e s .As in the evolving A m e rican experi m e n t ,a collectivee n t e rp rise drives the dire c t i o n ,s p e e d ,and scope of glob-a l i z a t i o n .The footprints of globalization are less distinctin the autocratic and re l i gious states of the Middle Eastthan the free and open economies of East A s i a .C o l l e c t ivee n t e rp rises only succeed where freedom re i g n s .
All but two of the countries we visited conform tothis rule:
Cuba is one exception:despite itsauthoritarianleadership,global economic forces are at work inthe undergrounddollar economy.Also,the his-toric visit ofPope John Paul II has opened a smallwindow of freedom for religious worship.
To some extent,China is another:it manages itseconomic and religious freedom,but is influencedby the changing nature of its duality of gover-nance in Hong Kong and Macao (former Britishand Portuguese colonies,respectively).It seems that every country—from Brazil to SouthAfrica to India—searches for greater freedom becauseits citizenry demands it.In Brazil,those who live in
seek greater democratic participation in economicd eve l o p m e n t .Racially divided black townships inAfrica look for greater political and economic integra-tion.India,the largest democracy in the world,shows usits global aspirations with its growing middle class aslarge as the European Union.Indians accurately claimthat their growing purchasing power is catching up tothat of the nations of Western Europe combined.Cambodia tries to overcome its legacy of tragic “Asiangenocide”and moves toward democratic governance.With its greater cooperation and friendship with theUnited States,Vietnam is on its way to greater econom-ic prosperity.Culturally,Confucian South Korea andBuddhist-Shinto Japan attempt to cope with the para-doxes of globalization and national identity.One way or another,every country displays some elements of theAmerican experience or democratic footprint.
The Lexus and the Olive Tr e e
U n d e r s t a n d i n g G l o b a l i z a t i o n
,Thomas Friedman observes the follow i n g :
Today,globalization often wears Mickey Mouse ears,eatsBig Macs,drinks Coke or Pepsi and does its computingon an IBM PC,using Windows 98,with an IntelPentium II processor and a network link from CiscoSystems.Therefore,while the distinction between what isglobalization and what is Americanization may be clear to most Americans,it is not—unfortunately—to manyothers around the world.In most societies people cannotdistinguish anymore among American power,Americanexports,American cultural assaults,American culturalexports and plain vanilla globalization.They are now allwrapped into one.I am not advocating that globalizationshould be Americanization—but pointing out that (this)is how it is perceived in many quarters.
teaches MBA courses in international trade policy and management at the UMUC Graduate School of Management and Technology at the University of Maryland.This article is drawn from his forthcoming book,
Freedom on the March:An American Voyage toExplore Globalization
,based in part on his Semester at Sea teaching and field study tour.Dr.Mendis served at the U.S.State Department under Secretaries Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell.He is a governing board member of the USDA Graduate School,an editorial board member of
,and a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science.He can be reached at email@example.com.