Slicing through the nonsense
Globaloney: Unraveling the Myths of Globalization
Michael Veseth ’72, professor of international political economy
288 pages, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, www.rowmanlittlefield.com
The global economy is real and growing but hard to understand because it is too often portrayed in comfortable and familiar examples that are vague and over simplified. So what’s the truth about globalization and what is, as Claire Boothe Luce termed it, just “globaloney?” Is McDonalds representative of globalization? What about Microsoft? Or Nike? In Globaloney, Professor Veseth separates rhetoric from reality by looking closely at accepted globalization images and comparing them with unexpected alternatives. The result, says James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and author of Breaking the News and Looking at the Sun, is “a rare combination: [Veseth] conveys important economic arguments in a vivid and highly entertaining style. For anyone trying to assess the goods and bads of headlong progress toward a global economy, and trying to sort bogus fears from genuine reasons for concern, this book is a great place to start.” Veseth explains how all globalization is local, why the French love to hate it, and what Adam Smith has to do with it. The book shows why it is dangerous to generalize about globalization and, through its wealth of examples, demonstrates that globalization is not one big thing but many different, yet related, particular things. Globaloney is an irreverent but important look at how globalization really works.
Excerpt: The Beautiful Game and the American Exception
David Beckham is the best-known player in the world’s most popular spectator sport, soccer (or football as most of the world calls it), aka ‘‘the beautiful game.’’ Every day, in season and out, his image is pushed and pulled into homes, schools, and businesses around the world through all known forms of modern communications media. If global professional sports has a human face, it’s probably Beckham’s.
Do you know who Beckham is? The basic facts are these: David Beckham’s career with the Manchester United soccer team began at age 12 (as a ‘‘trainee’’ or member of the club’s youth squad). He played his first Premier League game in 1995 at the age of 20 and played midfielder in 394 games for Manchester United after that debut, winning six league titles. He is captain of England ’s nation team. He was transferred to Real Madrid, another elite soccer club, for a fee of £25 million in 2003. He wears jersey number 23 at Real Madrid in honor, he says, of Michael Jordan. His face is one of the most recognized images on earth.
David Beckham wears the symbols of global capitalism comfortably; they are embroidered on his chest. At Manchester United his playing jersey featured the logos of Nike and Vodafone (the team sponsor— professional soccer players are human billboards to a degree not allowed in America ’s major professional sports leagues). At Real Madrid he is a walking advertisement for Adidas and Siemens, the German industrial giant. The transfer from Manchester United resolved an awkward commercial conflict: Manchester was signed with Nike, but Beckham himself was Adidas property—the beneficiary of a £100 million lifetime endorsement contract. The Beckham/Manchester mixed message (Nike shirt, but Adidas soul and contract) is now reconciled: Adidas through and through. …
David Beckham is so famous—and so bankable from a commercial standpoint—that the mere use of his last name was enough to guarantee an audience for Bend It Like Beckham, a 2002 film directed by Gurinder Chadha, which was the highest grossing British- financed, British-distributed film in history. The film tells a soccer story, but it is really about globalization, of course, and so worth a brief digression.
David Beckham’s signature play on the soccer pitch is the free kick—a focused moment of high drama in a game that otherwise features a flow of continuous motion. He is known for his ability to strike the ball so that it rises and bends around the opposing side’s defensive wall, then arcs downward quickly, zooming into the net just beyond the goaltender’s frustrated grasp. In the film, a teenaged girl named Jess Bhamra dreams of playing soccer and bending her shots like David Beckham, but she faces two obstacles: she is a girl, and therefore subject to gender prejudice in sexist English sports, and her parents are immigrants from India who are opposed to the prospect of assimilation. She is expected to behave like a proper Indian girl and obedient daughter, which makes bare-legged sports out of the question. An interesting subplot concerns her father, a cricket player back in India , who quit the game after experiencing humiliating prejudice in England.
The critical question that this film asks is not whether Jess can really bend it like David Beckham (she can), but rather whether she and her teammates, coach, and family can become ‘‘globalized,’’ which is to say whether they can transcend or overcome the obstacles that prevent them from becoming equal competitors. It is tempting to say that the question is whether they can be assimilated and ‘‘Americanized’’ so to speak, for a reason that will become clear shortly.
Jess is invited to join the girls’ youth squad of the local soccer club. With the other girls she experiences English sexism and bonds with her coach, who is no stranger to English prejudice—he is Irish. The film ends happily, which is to say it ends with globalization triumphant.
Jess’s Indian family accepts her as a competitive female soccer player (her father even takes up cricket once again). Jess wins a big game by bending it like Beckham (in my favorite scene, she imagines that the defensive wall is made up of all her adult female relatives, dressed in colorful saris—an extra incentive to kick past them). Jess and teammate Jules gain the ultimate prize: they receive scholarships to play soccer in America, at the University of Santa Clara.
I call Bend It Like Beckham a globalization film because it is about how the forces of international or global competition empower individuals and allow them to overcome prejudice and cultural constraints. They transcend race, gender, and nationality. They become globalized.
And they do it in Adidas logo soccer gear with the trademark of the AXA financial group emblazoned across their jerseys. David Beckham, who makes a brief cameo appearance as himself, a celebrity being chased and photographed by a frenzied media throng, is the perfect picture of this vision of globalization. Or at least that’s what I think, but I admit there are differing views.
I believe that David Beckham is the perfect symbol of postmodern globalization—he is everything that Michael Jordan is and much more. His game is more global, his importance to it perhaps even more frankly commercial, his role and his existence even more media-driven, and his image sells, sells, sells. Plus, of course, he is a rich white male from an imperialistic country who models a high-end, cosmopolitan, metrosexual postmodern lifestyle. What more do you want in a postmodern globalization poster boy?
Some people disagree, however—a true soccer fan would probably say that Beckham cannot be the symbol of soccer globalization because, unlike Michael Jordan in his prime, he is not the most skilled player in his game. Or at his position. Or on his team. If skill on the field counts (and soccer fans can be excused for imposing this requirement, which others of us might not), then Beckham’s name should be replaced with one of these: Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry, Ronaldo, Pavel Nedved, Roberto Carlos, or Ruud Van Nestelrooy. These are the players who finished ahead of David Beckham in the 2003 FIFA player of the year poll. Zidane, Ronaldo, and Roberto Carlos play for the same team as Beckham, Real Madrid.
Fans say ‘‘no,’’ but I’m going to interpret their answer as ‘‘probably not,’’ because it seems to me that the reasoning behind their ‘‘no’’ is in fact strong evidence for the opposite argument—that Beckham really does embody the spirit and image of authentic postmodern globalization.
Whereas Michael Jordan’s great popularity and the power of his image was built on the foundation of his unmatched excellence as a player, Beckham’s celebrity is due much less to his sports skills and much more to image creation and media manipulation—to his ability, in short, to extend the influence of global sports to people who are not sports fans.
Indeed, Beckham is perhaps as famous for his on-field errors in critical moments as for his outstanding performances. These would be damning errors for an ordinary soccer player, but they are just another part of the endless highly publicized saga for a tabloid media celebrity. We demand perfection from athletes, but celebrity misdeeds are not just tolerated, they are expected. The tension between athletic value and market value is inevitable. …
There is a third answer to the question of Beckham’s global celebrity. Is he the perfect symbol of globalization? ‘‘No’’ is the answer that you would probably give this question if you lived in the United States . David Beckham? Globalization? No, of course not. Who is David Beckham? How can he represent globalization (and Americanization) if I have never heard of him?
America is the exception to the rule that soccer is the global spectator sport. Soccer is certainly played in the United States, but despite several attempts and millions of dollars, it is a sport that only a relatively few follow and those few are generally either immigrants or highly paid and educated elites. Americans, who define globalization in many eyes, are just about the least likely people on earth to know the name David Beckham.
I hope you appreciate the elegant irony of this situation. If globalization is Americanization, then the David Beckham image of globalization embodies even more of the stereotypical ‘‘American’’ elements than does the iconic Michael Jordan. Yet America is the one part of the world where Beckham’s sport is not wildly popular because, as we will see, it is considered so un-American. The paradox that Americanization is un-American, if it holds up to closer scrutiny, is just one interesting insight we will encounter as we examine soccer, the self-proclaimed ‘‘beautiful game,’’ and the American exception.
Get a signed copy of Globaloney
The Puget Sound Bookstore has copies of Globaloney signed by Professor Veseth available for $22.50, including shipping. Order by calling 253.879.2689.
Globaloney gear supports UPS
Now you can wear your world-understanding on your sleeve, or your head, or your chest. T-shirts, sweatshirts, infant creepers, aprons, coffee mugs, baseball caps, and more, emblazoned with the Globaloney logo, may be purchased at www.michaelveseth.com. Sales of Globaloney merchandise benefit the University of Puget Sound through donations to The Puget Sound Fund.
When profits are not the goal
Joy At Work: A Revolutionary Approach To Fun On the Job
Dennis W. Bakke ’68
336 pages, PVG,
review by Andy Boynton
What makes work fun? In surveys of the nation’s best employers, magazines often play up the perks: beer Fridays, concierge services, free Thanksgiving turkeys, no layoffs. Are these really the keys to workplace happiness?
Nope, says Dennis Bakke. The key to joy in work is trust, challenge, and integrity, and he has spent a career proving it. With Roger Sant, he co-founded The AES Corporation, an electricity provider, in 1981, and he later became its president and CEO. By 2002 the energy giant had plants in 31 countries, $8.6 billion in yearly revenue, and $33.7 billion in assets. BusinessWeek magazine once called AES “probably the biggest company that nobody has ever heard of.” Along the way he and Sant developed an unorthodox workplace model, marked by radical decentralization and a system of “shared values” that employees agreed to abide by both inside and outside the company.
As Bakke says in the book—which has received praise from the likes of Bill Clinton, Jack Kemp, and Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren—much of this philosophy originated with his mother, who gave all the children chores at their Saxon, Wash., home. “Somehow, she created an environment in which everyone was energized, not from fear of punishment or promise of rewards, but from a desire to accomplish something positive.”
At age 5, Bakke was hired by his grandfather to chase cows back to the barn for milking. (Part of his earnings went to the local church; the rest were used to buy government savings bonds.) A few years later, he began cutting kindling from old cedar logs and selling it to Seattleites, an experience that taught him “how to package a product and how to price it for the marketplace.”
Following his years at Puget Sound (where he played quarterback for the football team), Bakke attended Harvard Business School, and later landed at the Federal Energy Administration. Upon ending work for the Energy Productivity Center at Carnegie Mellon Institute, he and Sant decided to form an energy company, and Bakke vowed to avoid the bureaucracy and drudgery he’d experienced in the federal government. “I desperately wanted AES to be a different kind of organization.”
In their corporate philosophy, which would be refined and expanded over the years, the two emphasized the key values of integrity, fairness, social responsibility, and fun. What’s more, Bakke and Sant determined that the goal of the company was not to turn a profit. Rather, the goal was to serve a need in society—in this case, provide electricity at a reasonable price. Profitability was merely a way to reach that goal.
Later, in 1990, in AES’s public-offering memo, the approach even appeared as a “Special Risk Factor” at the urging of the Securities and Exchange Commission: “If the company perceives a conflict between these values and profits, the Company will try to adhere to its values—even though doing so might result in diminished profits or forgone opportunities. Moreover, the Company seeks to adhere to these values not as a means to achieve economic success, but because adherence is a worthwhile goal in and of itself.”
Early would-be investors were skeptical of this approach, and some saw the company as arrogant and self-righteous. Undeterred, Bakke made moves that might be deemed heresy at other, more traditional companies. Functional groups such as human resources, finance, and communications were eliminated, as were detailed job descriptions and titles like “employee” and “manager.” In a company of 40,000 people, Bakke set a goal to have no more than two layers of supervision between him and any entry-level worker. The concept of sick days didn’t exist. “You don’t need a handbook,” Sant once said, “to tell you when or how long you can be sick or what you should do about it.”
Most important, Bakke pushed responsibility, decision-making, and accountability to the lowest rungs of the company, and restricted himself, the CEO, to one significant decision a year. In Joy at Work, he compares it to the thrill of an athlete taking the game-winning shot. “Most people experience game settings as ‘fun,’ ‘exciting,’ and ‘rewarding’ when they are playing for something important and have a key role in deciding the outcome of the contest.
“I believe the biggest source of joy,” he continues, “is the opportunity to use their abilities when it really counts.”
Bakke, a devout Christian, has been asked how his strong religious beliefs shaped the value system at AES. “We live in a pluralistic world and our company reflects that world to a remarkable degree,” he once wrote. “AES’s shared principles and values tend, to great extent, to fall within the common intersection of many of the great philosophies of life. We didn’t really design them that way; it just happened.”
When Enron collapsed, the California blackouts hit, and the stock prices of AES and other energy companies plummeted, Bakke’s “values” system—which was already well established during the company’s late-’90s financial heyday—came under increased scrutiny by the board of directors. One board member chided the “absolute” nature of the approach, telling Bakke, “You are too dogmatic, especially with the religious stuff. You need to be more flexible and pragmatic.”
Eventually, Bakke was edged out as CEO, and he retired from AES for good in 2002. He’s since gone on to found Imagine Schools, one of the largest charter-school companies in the United States , with his wife Eileen, a lifelong educator. There, he aims to apply many of the same principles he employed at AES, a goal he calls “perhaps quixotic but worth every last ounce of my energy.”
Freelance writer Andy Boynton is a former Amazon.com editor.
Accepting global leadership
Alanson B. Houghton, Ambassador of the New Era
Jeffrey J. Matthews, associate professor of business leadership
288 pages, SR Books, www.rowmanlittlefield.com
review by Charles E. Courtney
Jeffrey Matthews’ biography of Alanson B. Houghton fills a significant gap in the way most of us think about the history of the United States. It is important not only because it tells us about one of the most influential diplomats of the 20th century, it also elucidates in considerable detail a largely forgotten era in our history. The 1920s are mainly remembered for prohibition, jazz, flappers, gangsters, and a stock market irrationally exuberant. Not many Americans would consider the ’20s the decade that established our subsequent role in the world. But it was, and Alanson B. Houghton, as Matthews brilliantly demonstrates, understood better than any of his contemporaries what that role had to be.
If you’ve never heard of Alanson B. Houghton, don’t feel bad. Neither had I until I read this book, and I’m supposed to know these things. When I began my career as a foreign service officer, way back in the 1960s, my first assignment was to attend the A-100 course. This course was the State Department’s boot camp for junior diplomats—three months of total immersion in the structure, functions, and history of American diplomacy. We learned about all the big-name diplomats, from Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin onward. But we never heard a word about Alanson B. Houghton. For that matter, we never heard much about the 1920s. The era was only mentioned as a period of rampant isolationism in the United States (which, as Matthews proves, was not at all the case).
Given the enormous responsibilities that settled upon America following World War II—first as leader of the free world during the Cold War, and now in the 21st century as the richest and most powerful nation-state the world has ever seen—it’s not surprising that people active in international affairs (as opposed to a number of historians Matthews cites) have tended to think of the ’20s as being of minimal relevance. But Matthews has a decidedly different take on the era. Here’s how his book begins: “Coming in the aftermath of the first global war, the decade of the 1920s was a pivotal period in world history. The Great War had wreaked havoc on the international scene. … The conflict consumed some $400 billion and devastated thousands of towns and farm regions. The war toppled the Old World empires of Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Ottoman-Turkey and left in its wake a contentious and untried European political system that pitted the victors against the vanquished. Thus, the 1920s witnessed the world’s desperate search for a new era of peace, stability, and prosperity.”
Alanson B. Houghton came into diplomacy in his late 50s as a political appointee, after a highly successful career as president of his family firm, Corning Glass Works.
Almost all of our most important ambassadors are political appointees chosen from the worlds of business or politics. Their appointments are earned by the political and/or financial support they have given to each newly elected president. Career foreign service types like me have always found this rather galling, since other countries usually choose their ambassadors from their professional diplomatic staffs. Some of our political appointees have been disastrous. I knew an American ambassador in Paris who couldn’t speak French. There was one in London who could scarcely speak English (he was so impressed by the British way of speaking that he thought he should imitate it, with results that were a torment for his listeners).
But there also have been great ones, and Houghton was one of them. He successfully ran for Congress in 1920 and after one term was chosen by President Harding to be our first post-WWI ambassador to Germany . As Matthews points out, “He was not chosen … because of his business acumen and an ability to solve pressing international economic problems. On the contrary, his selection was rooted in pure political patronage.” But once he arrived in Berlin it didn’t matter how he got there. He became the leading proponent of American engagement in Europe to help bring stability to Germany and the entire continent. He pressed the Harding administration to do everything possible to assuage the damage done by the Versailles Treaty to Germany ’s chances for a lasting democracy. He predicted the collapse of the German economy under the weight of reparations (over 22 months the German mark fell from 199 to 4,200,000,000 to the dollar) and helped put in place the Dawes Plan to establish a less self-defeating approach to reparations. Before Houghton’s ambassadorship in Berlin ended, Adolf Hitler’s attempted beer hall putsch showed how right Houghton had been about the fragility of democracy in Germany.
In 1925 Houghton became our ambassador to the United Kingdom, where he was instrumental in managing several political and economic conflicts that threatened to undo the Anglo-American alliance (Stanley Baldwin was a less compliant prime minister than Tony Blair).
Having gained wide European respect for his achievements in Germany, he continued in the role of honest broker between the United States and Europe. He helped negotiate the Locarno treaties and encouraged European acceptance of the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact. In other words he was much more than an ambassador to one country at a time. He was, rather, our diplomatic bridge across the Atlantic while America was replacing Europe as the predominant power in the world. “Houghton’s desire for American leadership on the world stage propelled his active diplomacy,” writes Matthews. We can be grateful to Alanson B. Houghton for the way he helped America begin to deal with the reality of global leadership, and to Professor Matthews for telling us the story in fascinating and rewarding detail.
Charles E. Courtney is scholar in residence in the Puget Sound School of Business Leadership.
Why Business People Speak Like Idiots
Brian Fugere ’80, Chelsea Hardaway, and Jon Warshawsky
192 pages, Free Press
Fans of the movie Office Space will appreciate this lighthearted guide to eliminating corporate-speak: jargon such as “bandwidth,” “synergy,” and “mindshare” that clogs inboxes and confounds meetings. And what’s the value added—er, the benefit—of communicating clearly? “To be that one infectious human voice—the one that’s authentic and original and makes people want to listen.” Based on “Bullfighter,” a software package that searches documents for business blather, the book identifies root causes of the problem—the writer’s focus on himself instead of the reader and an overreliance on 50-cent words—and touts the merits of humor, brevity, and being yourself. Also included are examples of offenders, such as Enron, IBM, and Bill Clinton (“It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”), as well as a glossary of buzzwords to avoid. Proceeds from sales of the book go to charity.
A Bark in the Park: The 45 Best Places To Hike with Your Dog in the Portland, Oregon, Region
Lisa Johnson, assistant professor of business and leadership; illustrations by Andrew Chesworth
128 pages, Cruden Bay Books, www.hikewithyourdog.com
Part of a nationwide series and targeted to downtown and suburban dwellers of the Rose City, this guidebook profiles exceptional outings for your pup, from easy strolls through city green spaces to strenuous day-hikes on the outskirts of town. Hot spots include Warrior Rock, site of the Pacific Northwest ’s oldest fog bell; Washington Park, home to a 34-foot bronze of Sacajawea; and Henry Hagg Lake, which Johnson calls “one giant swimming pool for your dog.” The author also provides a directory of local off-leash areas, trail hazards to watch for, tips for a doggie first-aid kit, and proper dog-hiking etiquette. (Don’t forget to bring along those plastic baggies.)
Careers: By Choice or Chance
Larry L. Dykes ‘71
Classic Day Publishing
In this self-published guidebook, Dykes—a headhunter who’s recruited everyone from part-time receptionists to company presidents—offers a load of tools for identifying and pursuing the ideal career. At the center of the discussion is The Matrix, a grid that Dykes developed in which readers can rank attributes that are important to them and plot career paths. The author advocates “diagonal thinking,” or considering a range of factors in making job decisions, and he stresses the notion of separating “who you are from what you do.” Also covered are resume-writing tips, job-hunting techniques, the merits of temping, and the importance of passion.