Abstract: Globalization, Antitrust, and "The Information Age" of Manuel Castells

Louis Galambos


The Information Age, a three-volume study by sociologist Manuel Castells, provides the platform for this paper. From that perspective, I explore the manner in which the United States attempted to spread its version of competition policy—essentially the antitrust policy—through the developed economies. In the short term and the middle term, this effort failed even though America had overwhelming military and economic superiority during the American Century from 1945 through 1970. In Germany and Japan, the United States could exercise its prerogatives as a conquering power, but even there, the host country could superficially accept the policy and then ignore it—as Japan did. Germany initially developed all the enthusiasm of a fresh convert, but in the rest of Europe, antitrust was a hard sell even when it was floated in with Marshall Plan money. The turning point in Europe came with the solidification of the European Community and the simultaneous turn in most of the world toward neoliberal (or neoconservative, if you prefer) ideologies. Still, national cultures and economies resisted along lines consistent with Castells' analysis of the role of identity in the post-1970 global economy. This was especially true when U.S. policy took a new turn and the global merger movement simultaneously threatened to absorb national champions and infrastructure firms in multinational companies with foreign headquarters. A revised version of the Castells paradigm, I conclude, provides a useful framework for business history today.