W.M. Spellman explores the past half-century, focusing on key topics such as human migration, science and technology, the environment, international business, religion and politics, and the break-up of Europe's overseas empires. Two central points of debate are examined: the struggle between centralized socialism and free-market capitalism; and the interaction between the forces of cultural fragmentation and the competing integrative forces of 'globalization' or world culture.
The socialist paradigm was discredited with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, thereby ending the East-West Cold War conflict; but the second point of tension intensified during the final decade of the century and continues today. Nationalism, as defined by language, culture, and tradition, has frustrated efforts to transcend differences, and in some cases has led to bloody conflicts, while the forces of globalization erode the distinctiveness of the nation state. At the heart of recent debates over the primacy of market forces and economic globalization are two troublesome issues, both addressed in this book: the question of global equity, or the ever-expanding gulf between the developed 'North' and the developing 'South', and the environmental impact of development on the planet's delicate ecosystems.
Authoritative and well-written, this is an ideal introductory guide for anyone with an interest in World history since the end of the Second World War, and the issues and challenges facing the globe today.