Jelle Alkema

"Ons motto is waarde voor waarde. En dat gaat zeker niet alleen over geld. Meer weten, mail me

Jelle Alkema


Introduction to Globalization

(source: Global Organizational Networks, a guide to understanding Globalization, Jelle P. Alkema, Alkema en Backer 2007)

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The world is changing fast. Only a short time ago Europe started its expansion outwards, discovering worlds that had always been there, but had until then remained hidden to our eyes. These European adventurers were soon replaced by businessmen, to whom the maps revealing the distant coasts were as precious as the gold they hoped to find there. Now, the same coasts appear in glossy advertisements as places you can spend your holidays, only a few hours by plane away. But the businessmen have never left. They are still out in numbers looking for opportunities. How should they react to this changing world? In this guide I try to point in a certain direction. Because of diminishing functional space (time effort and cost necessary to cross physical space) a global organizational pattern is emerging of specialized locations and specialized businesses. Understanding this mechanism is important to all strategists, whether for global companies or as private citizens. I will use economics and geography explaining how regional specialization is a logical outcome of globalization. And how strategists (aren't we all?) have to be aware of this.


The meeting of those who discovered and those who were discovered were not always happy ones. Economic growth in Europe took place at the expense of well-being elsewhere. And this has not changed much either. But it will have to change. Not much longer can we talk about us and them without having a lot of explaining to do who we mean by us, and who we mean by them. People interact with others around the globe and may identify with those far away whereas they feel removed from those living next door. National identities are no longer self explanatory, if they have ever been. The Netherlands has a great democratic tradition based on our citizenship, burghers, of our state. Our civil society is based on accepting differences and negotiating compromises. As a result in our society people are as equal as they can be and interaction needs to have two winners. But Globalization is straining the system. The influx of new-comers and the loss of cohesion as our internationally oriented state runs towards disintegration. We will soon first and foremost be citizens of the world. But as citizens of the world, will we be able to establish a similar type of civil society, or will we accept being at the mercy of a global market economy where the winner takes all?


In this guide to globalization I will try to sell the reader the idea of this citizenship, the burgher society, of moral business people interacting out of free will. For this, I will depart from the great Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith, wrongfully accused of being the champion of the winner takes all mentality. I will redefine using his writing the selfish economic man we seem to have embraced into a moral man.


Business people and many others are very used to dealing with a world of which they understand only a part. Different from science, in life we cannot create laboratory conditions in which only one variable moves. All of them move at the same time and we have to make do. Dealing with reality then takes practical people, who do not lose sleep over generalizations if it brings them closer to understanding the complete picture enough for them to act.


I myself am such a person. Looking at reality and trying to understand it, I have always combined business sense with curiosity about what I observe. Now that I teach other practical people in professional education, I have felt the urge to present them with a holistic view on globalization, incorporating all areas of expertise, many of them not entirely mine, because I feel I need to present them with a complete picture of reality. I must have failed, but still hope I have created something which will give the reader new insights. That is why I have called this, a bit presumptuous, a Guide to Understanding Globalization.