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Global Control

Information Technology and Globalization since 1845

Peter McMahon

Global Control aims to achieve a clearer understanding of the long process of globalization by focusing on the crucial role of information and control technologies. Information systems and control technologies are key to globalization and, while generally facilitating the overall trend to spatial reorganization, they also effect change through the pervasive influence of ‘internal systems logic’. Thus, the author argues, the dominant institutions of states, firms and markets transform global development and are themselves transformed by key information technologies. More specifically the book identifies the key phases of modern globalization and analyses the crucial role played by different information technologies at each point in time.
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Chapter 5: Telematics as a Transnational Control Infrastructure

Information Technology and Globalization since 1845

Peter McMahon


The essential processes of social control which emerged out of a period which included two world wars and global depression were still based on national institutional structures, especially those of the US. In the years between 1948 and 1968 the US leadership was largely successful in translating US industromilitary power into an international context and thus creating an American hegemonic system. National-level organization – in character military, mass industrial, (relatively) welfarist – was extrapolated into an international system through the development of interstate cooperative arrangements such as NATO, the Bretton Woods monetary system, the United Nations and the like. The postwar globe was essentially divided into three ‘worlds’ fundamentally defined by differing forms of basic social control (typically defined in terms of both political mode and wealth), and the tensions between and within these worlds provided the context for continued industro-military development under a basic bipolar regime of Cold War. Given this underlying systemic foundation which provided both military security and economic integration, business firms were able to continue their aborted transnational thrust, led by the core US corporations in an era dominated by what van der Pijl, following the American New Left theorists, called ‘corporate liberalism’ because although it was based in liberal trade it was actually dominated by huge corporations.1 After 1968, however, basic structural change accelerated and by the early to mid-1970s there were the beginnings of the latest phase in the development of the global political economy. The main changes that occurred before and around this period were...

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