While our focus in this volume, as stated at the outset, has been to aid managers in understanding and improving the process of globalizing their companies, we must recognize that there is a much broader context in which these decisions are made. World political structures are changing rapidly and often unpredictably in the post-Cold War era. The rules for humanitarian intervention or the pursuit of terrorists are being written both by individual political leaders and supranational organizations such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the European Union, and the outcomes in shaping the environment of business remain uncertain.
Business used to be a player on a world stage. Increasingly, however, business has become a shaper of that world stage. For better or for worse, the globalizing of business is inextricably linked to the globalization of society. Corporations have become such central players in the process of globalization that they have been portrayed both as essential engines of progress and as wanton destroyers of value, depending on who is making the judgment.
Beyond globalization to “McDonaldization”
Global corporations are thus seen as having tremendous powers for good or for evil. On the positive side, Thomas Friedman observed in 1999 that “No two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald's.” His so-called “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention” was an exaggeration, perhaps, but he makes the point that the spread of global businesses can lead to greater political stability.