A journey through time

    Ian McMaster
    Von Ian McMaster


    Have a look at the following three texts and try to guess the year — or, at least, the decade — in which they were published:

    1. “All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are to dislodge sth.etw. verdrängendislodged by new industries … that no longer to work sth. upetw. verarbeitenwork up indigenous(ein)heimischindigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotestentlegenste(r,s)remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe.”
    2. “…there has been increasing distrust of the world’s business leaders in the light of financial scandals. ... One does not need to be a follower of Karl Marx to see that unless there is a new sense of ethics and responsibility among top management, there could be a revolt not only against business leaders, but against the system itself.”
    3. “Cross-border investment, trade, bank loanDarlehenloans and supply chainLieferkettesupply chains have all been to shrinkschrumpfenshrinking or stagnating relative to world GDP (gross domestic product)BruttoinlandsproduktGDP. Globalisation has given way to a new era of sluggishnessTrägheit, Schwerfälligkeitsluggishness … we call it ‘slowbalisation’. … Slowbalisation will lead to deeper links with regional blocs. Globalisation made the world a better place for almost everyone. But too little was done to to mitigate sth.etw. mildern; hier: reduzierenmitigate its costs.”

    Globalization is not the modern phenomenon that it is often thought to be

    How did you get on? Could you identify the eras in which the three texts were published? Let’s look at the texts in reverseumgekehrtreverse order:

    • The third text was published in The Economist last week (26 January, 2019). The British weekly newspaper is known for its free-market sympathies, but notes that globalization (or “globalisation”, as they spell it) has had significant costs as well as benefits. The Economist warns, however, that the slowing down of globalization — through tariffsZölletariffs and other forms of “geopolitical rivalry” — is unlikely to solve the problem. “Slobalisation will be meanhier: niederträchtigmeaner and less stable than its predecessorVorgänger(in), Vorläufer(in)predecessor. In the end it will only feed the discontentUnzufriedenheit, Unmutdiscontent.”
    • The second text comes from my editorial in Business Spotlight issue 4/2002. It had certainly been a bad year for business and management ethics, with financial scandals at both Enron and Worldcom — though the text could have been written in more or less any year before or since. As I also said in the editorial, “managers are in danger of acquiring a public reputation as bad as that of groups such as politicians, lawyerAnwalt/Anwältinlawyers and — I’m afraid to say — journalists. That should give them food for thoughtDenkanstoß/-anstößefood for thought.”
    • The clueHinweisclue to the first text is actually in the second text. Because the author was none other than Karl Marx (and Friedrich Engels) in The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848. We often think of globalization as a modern phenomenon but it is clear that it was already a key issue back in the mid 19th Century. Marx and Engels had clearly to spot sth.etw. entdecken; hier auch: erkennenspotted this trend and described it clearly. I noticed this passage while reading The Communist Manifesto, first in the original German and then in English. I had picked up the German version during a recent visit to Marx’s birthplace. Ironically, capitalism was in full swing at the museum in the house where Marx was born, with not only books but also a range of Marx souvenirs for sale.

    And the lesson is? Well, events are a lot more timeless than they appear. And in 100 years’ time, articles will no doubt be published to bemoan sth.etw. beklagen, bedauernbemoaning the slowdown of globalization, the lack of ethics among managers and the costs of capitalism. And someone will no doubt write an editorial or blog post similar to this one.

    In his blog, Ian McMaster has been commenting on global business issues since 2002. You will find more of his blog posts here.