Chapter 2: Telecommunications and the Nineteenth-Century Liberal-International World Order
McMahon 01 chaps 31/7/02 1:25 pm Page 19 2. Telecommunications and the nineteenth-century liberal-international world order The roots of the current cyber-financial global control system lie in the origins of the modern age itself. To understand current developments, therefore, we must briefly review the character of the modern age as a basic form of worldwide social organization. Thus we must consider the global control system in terms of the fundamental developments in political economy and technological change. The modern age is often differentiated from what preceded it by the apparently pivotal role of recently developed technologies like the steam engine, steel, electricity, plastics and electronics. There was certainly a long process of technological innovation which led to industrialization and all the social change associated with it, but before the revolution of industrial production (that is, in how things were made) proper there occurred a slower transformation in distribution technology (that is, in how things were transported) which set the scene for later developments. This transformation in transport and communications underpinned the creation of the first true global political economy, the geographical and organizational centre of which was Western Europe. The most important institutional structure in this process was the militarized nation state, or, in certain specific circumstances, the militarized trading firm, but as time progressed the essential component increasingly became transnational finance capital. Thus, after 1815 there came into existence a liberal-internationalist political economy based on British hegemony, the international balance of power system and the gold standard, within...
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