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Many people associate James Bond movies with suave manners, gadgets, and dangerous liaisons. But, write David C. Earnest and James N. Rosenau, 007 didn’t just teach moviegoers the right way to order a martini (shaken, not stirred). In fact, the films serve as a prescient lesson on globalization.

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The tensions behind James Bond movies are predictable and modern, write Earnest and Rosenau: a sovereignty-free actor threatens society’s security. They compare James Bond villains with modern-day threats like terrorists or rogue corporations.

“The ironic message of these films is clear and present,” say Earnest and Rosenau. “States are better at protecting their citizens from the violence of other states than from the violence and exploitation of sovereignty-free actors, whether they be cults or corporations.”

This message is familiar to scholars of globalization, who witness trends and project the consequences of fragmented challenges to authority. But Earnest and Rosenau note that the very existence of these messages in 007 movies point to the public’s longstanding awareness of these trends in real life.

Even during the Cold War, they write, author Ian Fleming was able to identify chaotic forces and clashes between sovereign states and free actors before theorists did. “That a British author of fiction in the 1950s and Hollywood scriptwriters in the 1960s and 1970s identified themes that resonate so well—across not only four decades of movies but also across cultures—should stir humility in every international affairs scholar.”

Will those lessons continue into the 21st century with a Bond who uses cell phones and goes on rogue missions when threatened by global terrorism syndicates? That’s anybody’s guess—but perhaps we should keep an eye on the films for a glimpse into the future of globalization.


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Foreign Policy, No. 120 (Sep. - Oct., 2000), pp. 88-90
Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, LLC