Book Excerpt: 'Longitudes and Attitudes'

In this era of globalization, there are three balances of power: the United States as superpower among other nations, the global financial market and "super-empowered individuals," who often employ the latest technology to influence the other two powers, author Thomas L. Friedman, writes in Longitudes and Attitudes. What happened on Sept. 11 was a result of one "super-empowered" and angry individual, the foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times says.

Read an excerpt from Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11 by Thomas Friedman:

Prologue: The Super-Story

I am a big believer in the idea of the super-story, the notion that we all carry around with us a big lens, a big framework, through which we look at the world, order events, and decide what is important and what is not. The events of 9/11 did not happen in a vacuum. They happened in the context of a new international system — a system that cannot explain everything but can explain and connect more things in more places on more days than anything else. That new international system is called globalization. It came together in the late 1980s and replaced the previous international system, the cold war system, which had reigned since the end of World War II. This new system is the lens, the super-story, through which I viewed the events of 9/11.

I define globalization as the inexorable integration of markets, transportation systems, and communication systems to a degree never witnessed before — in a way that is enabling corporations, countries, and individuals to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before, and in a way that is enabling the world to reach into corporations, countries, and individuals farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before.

Several important features of this globalization system differ from those of the cold war system in ways that are quite relevant for understanding the events of 9/11. I examined them in detail in my previous book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, and want to simply highlight them here.

The cold war system was characterized by one overarching feature — and that was division. That world was a divided-up, chopped-up place, and whether you were a country or a company, your threats and opportunities in the cold war system tended to grow out of who you were divided from. Appropriately, this cold war system was symbolized by a single word — wall, the Berlin Wall.

The globalization system is different. It also has one overarching feature — and that is integration. The world has become an increasingly interwoven place, and today, whether you are a company or a country, your threats and opportunities increasingly derive from who you are connected to. This globalization system is also characterized by a single word — web, the World Wide Web. So in the broadest sense we have gone from an international system built around division and walls to a system increasingly built around integration and webs. In the cold war we reached for the hotline, which was a symbol that we were all divided but at least two people were in charge — the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union. In the globalization system we reach for the Internet, which is a symbol that we are all connected and nobody is quite in charge.

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