THE WORLD CHALLENGE: OPEC and the New Global Order by Jean-Jacques Servan-Sehreiber

THE WORLD CHALLENGE: OPEC and the New Global Order

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Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber has made a name for himself in France as the representative of things American, beginning with his creation of France's Time and Newsweek, the flashy L'Express (his response to what he called in an earlier book The American Challenge). Servan-Schreiber is still keeping up, as this wedding of Henry Luce and Alvin Toffler makes clear. Taking the agreement struck by OPEC to tie oil production to technology-transfer from North to South as his starting point (the so-called Taif Manifesto), Servan-Schreiber justifies this policy through a capsule history of western exploitation of Third-World oil (the oil companies used to take 70 percent of oil profits to 30 percent for the producer nation; the figures are now 5 percent and 95 percent, respectively): he praises oil ministers and autocrats alike for asserting their new-found power. The rest of the story is a pitch for global cooperation toward the creation of an ""information society"" (as opposed to the current industrial one), through silicon chips and the computerization of all aspects of life. By developing this technology and sharing it with the Third World, as OPEC will force it to do in any event, the West will lighten its long-term need for oil and be able to make a transition into a new future (OPEC will get there too, since they will have the new technology by the time their oil runs out). Japan is the big new challenger in Servan-Schreiber's eyes, since they've taken the lead in the new micro-technology. Aside from the futurology, the thinnest part of his musings is his identification of OPEC with the Third World, disregarding as he does the havoc OPEC's prices have played with developing economies. And it's easier to call for dumping labor-intensive industries in favor of robots and micro-chips than it is to deal with the resulting unemployment (as the French are finding out in their own steel industry). The symbolic significance of an oil-starved but technologically advanced Japan will only go so far, and Servan-Schreiber doesn't stop in time. There's a kind of facile mindlessness at work here.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1981
Publisher: Simon & Schuster