Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century

By Phar Kim Beng
Strategic Pan Indo-Pacific Arena
Twitter: @indo_pan

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Globalization is key to understanding how the world is becoming more interconnected. How space and time are compressing to become one. But, Jeff Frieden, argued, that the world has witnessed such a phase in globalization before in the 1900. It was also a matter of choice, not circumstance made by the availability of technology; as is a common belief now.

But the subsequent eruption of global conflicts during World War I, and II, put paid to any dreams of a global commons. Instead, the world fell into three ramparts i.e. the West, the Soviet bloc, and the Non-Aligned Movement. In “Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in The Twentieth Century,” Jeff Frieden, a professor at Harvard University, spoke of the dangers posed by global capitalism too.

While everyone agrees free trade can increase the welfare of all, the speed and scale at which people gain from free trade does differ from one country to the other too. The income differentials in Hong Kong and Singapore are now two of the widest in the world, despite persistent efforts to close the chasm through various social policies.

Obviously, lurking in the DNA of what Edward Luttwark once called “turbo charged capitalism” is the survival of the fittest, fastest and fattest. Those who have gorged on the profits of the world will tend to do better in other areas. Even then when a pandemic hits, retail sectors that have not migrated online are all deeply hit. This is true of multinationals that have spread their wings all over the world. They are now not in a better shape to withstand full financial shocks, granted that the pandemic is shaping to be one “global wave” as Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organization (WHO) recently put it in July 2020. Indeed, the story of global capitalism will not begin and end with one book, but will contain many permutations, with or without pandemic writ large.

Japan has begun to experience the greying phenomenon; as is the case with many member states of the Organization of Economic Development (OECD), especially South Korea, Germany and Italy. Perhaps artificial intelligence and technology can redeem Japan’s productivity one day. But maybe it can’t since Japan has a strict policy on immigration which aggravates its own national decline.

The same goes for the United States. The subprime crisis of the United States showed the feeble and flawed nature of its financial system. Even Sweden, a stable Scandinavian country, as indeed, Norway, has faced various rounds of currency attacks before. Capitalism has a malicious nature that can cannibalize its own. Jeff Frieden, who is a specialist on the banking history of the world, is perfectly aware of the limitations of the system, hence his focus on the rise and fall of global capitalism. To the degree it will rise, those who would be left behind would be plenty too. Therein the moral and scholarly value of this book.




Founder of Strategic Indo-Pacific Arena (

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Phar Kim Beng, PhD

Phar Kim Beng, PhD

Founder of Strategic Indo-Pacific Arena (

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