by Misha Glenny
The post-World War II order began to crumble in the first half of the 1980s. Its dissolution followed no obvious pattern, occurring instead as a series of seemingly disparate events: the spectacular rise of the Japanese car industry; communist Hungary’s clandestine approach to the International Monetary Fund to explore possible application for membership; the stagnation of India’s economy; President F.W. de Clerk’s first discreet contacts with the imprisoned Nelson Mandela; the advent of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in China; Margaret Thatcher’s decisive confrontation with Britain’s trades union movement.
Individually, these and other events seemed to reflect the everyday ups and downs of politics; at most they were adjustments to the world order. In fact,powerful currents below the surface had provoked a number of economic crises and opportunities, especially outside the great citadels of power in Western Europe and the United States, that were to have profound consequences for the emergence of what we now call globalisation.
There was one development, however, which had its roots firmly in America an din its primary European ally, Britain. The world was taking its first steps towards steelier of international financial and commodity markets. American and European corporations and banks had begun to prise open markets that had hitherto maintained strict controls on foreign investment and currency exchange.
Then came the fall of communism in 1989, first in Eastern Europe and then in the mighty Soviet Union itself. Out of ideas, short of money and beaten in the race for technological superiority, communism fizzled out in days rather than years. This was a monumental event which fused with the processes of globalisation to triggerman exponential rise in the shadow economy. These huge economic and political shifts affected every part of the planet.