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Transnationalization: An American Opportunity (Mattelart Short Paper)

September 12, 2010

Transnationalization: An American Opportunity

According to Mattelart, “While the Marshall Plan helped Europe, ravaged by the war, back onto the path of growth, it was also the Trojan horse that bore the ‘Americanization of society,’” furthermore, “It opened the way to the modernization of the industrial apparatus of the countries concerned and served as a background to the reorganization of society” (Mattelart, pg. 62). Just like the Roman Empire and the British Monarchy, the U.S. has been afforded opportunities that have changed the course of its’ history. If World War II never happened the United States would have remained in a depression, the prosperous Post-War era would be left to imagination, and many things we take for granted today might never have been developed or left to another country to invent. But globalization has allowed the United States to pursue its’ industrialist and capitalist agendas.

As Mattelart stated in the preface, “globalization goes hand in hand with fluidity of immaterial exchanges and immaterial flows across borders” (Mattelart, pg. vii). This also forced companies to adopt one of three operational strategies: 1) ethnocentric – when the foreign “subsidiaries” are in close working relations with the national identity of the “mother company”; 2) geocentric – the firm is “strongly integrated into the search for an optimum strategy in a cosmopolitan perspective;” 3) polycentric – firms that operate with different identities and visions but are overly decentralized in relation to the “mother company” (Mattelart, pg. 61). But this makes it seem like the organization is taking into account every cultural aspect of that host nation when determining how that company will operate.

For example, I bet Nike thinks it took into account that “cheap” labor was important but that it was also providing families with “ample” monetary means to support their daily needs … but in reality the company was forcing young children to work in sweatshops and paid pennies on the dollar for every, let us say, 10 – 20 soccer balls, shoes, or shirts they stitched (the numbers are not exact). This “outsourcing” of companies also led to even the IRS sending a few of their business operations overseas … so when people had questions as to why they were being audited or if companies had questions about their expenses/revenues they would be talking to an IRS representative in Mumbai or New Delhi, India. Yes, this allows companies to expand daily operations, and yes this has even afforded entire nations like India and China to develop their economies but it has also put the United States’ manufacturing sector into economic trouble. With a GDP of $14.4 trillion in 2009 (according to the CIA U.S. page), the U.S. spent about 50% on imports and 67% on exports (according to the U.S. 2009 Census). But majority of the United States manufacturing money came from military, technology and oil sectors, which puts even a further strain on our agriculture and alternative energy producers. What has globalization done for the U.S.? It has “hastened the incorporation of distinctive societies into increasingly larger groups, constantly pushing back physical, intellectual, and mental borders,” somethings that may still impact the Internet and other technologies in the near future (Mattelart, pg. vii).

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One Comment leave one →
  1. allitravis permalink*
    September 15, 2010 8:14 pm

    Well said. I especially liked your opening paragraph; it really caught my attention and made me reflect on the many opportunities (both good and bad) that globalization has created for the U.S. (and the globe, for that matter). Try this exercise of the mind: think about what would happen to the U.S. economy and all of its industry if borders were baracaded. If we isolated ourselves from the world, allowing no trade, communication, or involvement with any other countries, what would happen to America?

    I recently attended the Brinson Lecture in the Cub auditorium. In Mr. Brinson’s speech discussing international investments, he referenced some companies that one would naturally associate as being a domestic company (therefore more susceptible to changes in the U.S. economy than those across borders) that are actually now actually barely run out of the United States. Take Coca Cola for example, a company that for many years was one of the “trademarks” of American culture. Coke is now only roughly 20-30% managed, produced, and sold in the U.S. The other 70-80% of its business is run abroad (this information is taken from the Brinson lecture). I’m sure Coke (and its bank accounts) give kudos to globalization for its expansion into a worldwide dominant soft drink.

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