Exam preparation materials

V. PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER

You’ve read about a lot of stuff in this chapter. Two world wars. A cold war and all its consequences. The end of European imperialism. The rise of the United States as a superpower. Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East. These are all huge issues. And it’s hard to discern immediately how you can connect them all together, other than to say that there were a lot of wars and a lot of hatred. Yet, beyond the morbidity and feelings of helplessness that a careful study of history can engender, there are also a lot of ways to think about history that can help you evaluate how people and the world function.

In the last chapter, we talked a lot about nationalism, and it certainly didn’t stop in the twentieth century. Nationalism not only led to fascism in Nazi Germany, but also to independence movements after World War II in India and Africa, and in Europe and Asia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Sometimes it was based on broad cultural characteristics—Gandhi, for example, unsuccessfully wanting everyone to look at themselves as Indians, not as Hindus or Muslims—and other times it was very narrowly defined—Serbs, for example, or Nazis.

Regardless of its forms, nationalism affected all of the major global events in the twentieth century. In both World War I and II, the aggressors were highly nationalistic. The independence movements following World War II were nationalistic. And the Cold War, because it pitted two opposing worldviews that were so strongly identified with the nations of the Soviet Union and the United States, was arguably a nationalist struggle as well. National pride was on the line. And in the end, superpower status was on the line, too.

By the late twentieth century, whether because of nationalism or not, there were a huge number of independent nation-states. Each former colony in Africa was independent. Lots of new countries formed from the old Soviet Union. What’s more, most of the countries were developing along democratic lines, though some along militaristic or Islamic theocratic lines, and capitalism seemed to be making huge gains after the fall of the Soviet Union, which leads us to the next question.

IS THERE CURRENTLY A CONVERGENCE OF CULTURES?

This is a tough question to answer. It could go either way, and if you study history enough, you can argue for both sides.

On the one hand, globalization is clearly occurring, and it’s been occurring for a long time. It’s just that now it’s getting a lot faster and it’s penetrating more and more hidden parts of the globe. Centuries ago, trade, conquest, and exploration were forms of globalization because they brought people together, essentially “making the world smaller.” Big movements like the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution can certainly be categorized as movements toward globalization because they weren’t culturally specific, but rather could be applied nearly anywhere around the globe. They brought people closer together because they led to certain ways of thinking that were attractive and accepted by different kinds of people. If people start to agree on how the universe is organized or how governments should be organized, that is most certainly a convergence of cultures.

In the twentieth century, globalization really got going. Aided by transportation, communication, and imperialism, anything produced in one country could be received in another. Popular examples of globalization are the appearance of the same multinational companies everywhere (seeing a McDonalds in Istanbul) and certainly the use of the Internet, but globalization is much broader than even these examples. Globalization led to and continues to lead to an interconnectedness of entire economies. The Great Depression in the 1930s proved that the economies of most industrialized nations were heavily intertwined. Today, the economies are so intertwined that a fall in stock prices in Tokyo will have an instantaneous impact on the stock market in the United States.

As more and more countries start to look the same (independent, democratic, constitutional), their economies function in similar ways (stock market, low barriers to trade, strong banking system), and their cultures look the same (educated people who know English, Hollywood movies playing at theaters, cell phone in their hands), it can be strongly argued that there is a convergence of cultures.

On the other hand, globalization doesn’t necessarily mean convergence. Globalization just means that everything is spread all around the globe all the time. It doesn’t mean that people accept, like, or want what’s being hurled at them. It just means that it’s available. Some argue that globalization will lead to an increase in the number of people who lash out against it, sometimes aggressively or violently. Globalization isn’t well received in Islamic fundamentalist countries, or in countries that are trying hard to maintain a historical cultural identity, like France.

But more significantly, it can’t be denied that the biggest movements of the twentieth century were rooted in self-determination and nationalism. The whole point of self-determination is for nations to chart their own course. If self-determination and nationalism mean that a country is going to use its independence to do what every other country does, then why be independent in the first place? Clearly, people want to chart their own course. They fought wars for the right to do so. They must have been doing so for a reason. So it makes sense that globalization will have its limits. And isn’t the world a whole lot less consolidated today than it was under European imperialism, when that small continent ruled the world? Doesn’t that suggest the opposite of global convergence?

In the end, there’s no right answer to this question. The challenge is not to accurately predict the future, but to have an understanding of history to make a reasonable, defendable argument about the direction that history seems to be taking. If you can discuss globalization, nationalism, and self-determination in the same essay or conversation without totally losing your mind, you have command enough of the issues and complexities to be confident in yourself. Keep reading, keep studying, and keep thinking.

IMPORTANT TERMS

Abdicate

Intervention

Allies

Isolationism

Armaments

Jihad

Armistice

Legislature

Atomic Energy

Liberal

Capitalism

Militarism

Cold War

Nationalism

Collective/Collectivization

Nationalize

Communism

Nation-State

Conservative

Natural Resources

Containment

National Socialist Party (Nazi)

Decolonization

Nuclear

Deposed

Radical

Democratization

Recession

Doctrine

Reform

Egalitarian

Reparations

Ethnic Cleansing

Revolution

Exodus

Rivalry

Fascism

Secular

First World

Sectarian

Front Line

Terrorism

Globalization

Third World

Global Warming

Totalitarian

Guerilla

Westernization

PEOPLE, PLACES, AND EVENTS

Apartheid

Korean War

Asian Tigers

League of Nations

Aswan Dam

Lenin, Vladimir (Russia)

Ataturk, Kemel Mustafa (Turkey)

Mao Zedong (China)

Ayatollah Khomeini (Iran)

Marshall Plan

Balfour Declaration

NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement)

Berlin Airlift

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)

Berlin War

OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries)

Bolshevik Party

Pahlavi, Shah Reza (Iran)

Castro, Fidel (Cuba)

Palestine

Chiang Kai Shek (China)

Rape of Nanjing

Churchill, Winston (England)

Six Days War

Cuban Missile Crisis

Stalin, Josef (Soviet Union)

Cultural Revolution

Sun Yat Sen (China)

Deng Xioaping (China)

Third Reich

Eastern Bloc

Treaty of Versailles (1919)

European Economic Community

Trench Warfare

European Union

Trotsky, Leon (Russia)

Fourteen Points

Truman Doctrine

Gandhi, Mahatmas (India)

Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR)

Garvey, Marcus

United Nations

Great Leap Forward

Vietnam War

Hitler, Adolph (Germany)

War on Terror

Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)

Warsaw Pact

Holocaust

Wilson, Woodrow (USA)

Hussein, Saddam (Iraq)

WTO (World Trade Organization)

IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)

World War I

IMF (International Monetary Fund)

World War II

Intifada

Young Turks Party

Iran-Iraq War

 

Iron Curtain

 

Israel

 

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