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The subject of Commanding Heights is the globalization of world trade in the 20th century. It does so in three-two hour installments. Part 1 shows how the world moved from market economies to planned economies and back to market economies in a century. Part 2 shows the impact, sometimes painful, of moving to market economies. Part 3 addresses the current and future problems of a globalized world. That's the structure. The brilliance here, and there is much, is how clearly, thoroughly, and excitingly the stories are told. This is not an economics lesson; this is high drama that impacts peoples lives. Commanding Heights shows that it is people who create the ideas, it is people who accept or reject them, it is people who profit or suffer by them. The series travels to the locations where events happened, and in many cases, interviews the people who made them happen, from Bill Clinton to Milton Friedman to workers in various countries. The pacing of the series is also excellent. It is amazing how many topics are covered in little time, yet, the pace does not seem rushed. Even if you have no interest in business, Commanding Heights is still fascinating to watch. There is also an accompanying website with background information on the history, people, and ideas presented. Commanding Heights is a triumph.
Globalization is a polarizing topic. This documentary was made at a
time obviously before the obvious nadir for free market economics of
this year, 2008. With the fall of Lehmann Brothers, Bear Stearns,
Chrysler, GM and the precarious situation of many other large
conglomerates the hypotheses have been discredited slightly that have
been presented here.
A new era is dawning as I write this. The cycles that have been depicted here in Part 1 are continuous and the "Austrian School" cycle is in its last days, in my humble opinion. This documentary shows, truthfully, how Keynesian economics was discredited and replaced in the Western Economies after the turbulent decade of the 1970s. What isn't mentioned is that several other western powers did not embrace the market-solutions of the USA and UK. France, Germany, Scandinavia and Japan all continued to follow certain Keynesian parameters. The miracles of Hayek-style solutions is portrayed with little counterbalancing examples of its negative sides.
PBS has really tried hard to give an extensive depiction of the development of globalization since the war. There was much here that I did not know before. The many interviews with Sachs, Clinton, Cheney, de Soto and numerous Heads of State or former Heads of State from Asia and Europe. However, the skew in favour of the process of globalisation is all too evident. Few dissenting opinions are detailed or extensively dealt with. The usual arguments of pulling several people out of poverty, and the industrialisation of the developing world are constantly reiterated to imply, cleverly, that globalisation is an irreversible and beneficial process to everyone. However, I am well versed in this topic, and my reading does not extend to Naomi Klein and Michael Moore, but the problems and difficulties that accompany globalisation are not really even hinted at in this documentary.
What this film shows is a good start. A good basis for knowledge for beginners about globalisation. However, my advise is get out and read, get out and discover. There are many issues left untouched in this documentary. It is amazingly interesting to look back at this film after the failures of the Bush administration and watch Richard Cheney say that few people have been harmed in the process of globalisation. We all know now that Cheney is not exactly someone who really has altruistic instincts as his core beliefs.
I'm giving this documentary 7 out of 10 because its technical quality and depth with the amount of information and many interviews. However, its rightward tilt slightly unnerved me. Yet it does deliver a rational argument, despite being incomplete, about the whole discussion that does dominate a lot of contemporary political debate. So watch it and start reading.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This documentary reminds me of the English journal The Economist: It's
slick, has contributions from men and women with big brains, and it
looks free of bias from both the left and rich, but in the end, it's a
significant and insidious piece of ideological warfare. Co-authors
Yergin and Stanislaw (Y&S) gloss over whatever events don't fit their
thesis, and as a result their work is an inaccurate portrayal of the
last few decades. Take, for example, their handling of the 1970s. Y&S
discuss some economic problems, and there's some discussion about how
Nixon and the people surrounding him dealt with those problems, but
there's somehow no mention of Nixon bringing us out of the Bretton
Woods System (system devised by Keynes, White and others at the end of
WW2 which regulated capital flight, etc), one of the most significant
events of the past 50 years. Also, they have a hard time separating
fact from fiction, and what politicians say and what they do. For
example, they give the usual line about how Thatcher and Reagan were
for "free markets" yet don't actually look at their records. Reagan,
for instance, was the most anti-market president in American history,
and by far the most protectionist. But again, since dealing with
history truthfully would not help their piece of ideological
propaganda, it's simply ignored. Y&S also ignore how most technology
develops (hint: it's not through investment and what's jokingly called
"free trade") there's no mention of the state sector driving
development, even though that's how the US develops its technology.
All in all, a terrible piece of work. Despite the slick presentation and nice documentary footage, The Command Heights is one of the worst documentaries I've ever seen.
This movie is a prescribed study material in one of the courses at my
b-school. Even though I was aware of general macro and micro-economic
principles, I never thought much about the Economy in the political sense.
This documentary drives home an important point: Economic policy is slave
I was totally taken aback by the number of examples and the extent of re-creating the scenarios that takes place. The soundtrack is really superb, which helps in no small measure. Inspired by Commanding Heights, I just finished reading Hayek's Road to Serfdom and it was a treat and an eye-opener to the thought-processes more than half a century back!
If you want to understand the world better, this movie comes a 10/10 recommended!
One of the best documentaries i have seen in my life.
This cult movie was part of our course in macro-economics at a b-school in hyderabad, and was shown during coffee breaks and a special screening midway through the course.
The music, the interviews, the chronological style of the documentary all make for fascinating viewing, never have I enjoyed a required reading for a course so much in my life.
This movie is highly recommended for all who have often ruminated over questions such as Capitalism vs Communism, what is macro economics and why did the south American and south east Asian currency crises occur.
Don't miss it, simply exceptional !!!
I feel that this is one of, if not the, best documentary I have watched. As an introduction to the political economy, poverty and globalisation, it is a must-watch for anyone who is interested in current events, or is entering university/college doing anything in economics, international affairs or politics. The reason why this documentary is so good - apart from the production quality, huge amount of interviewees - is that it takes at times complex economic arguments and policies and boils them down in such a way that anyone can understand the concepts. While it is a rather large documentary, it is well-worth the look for anyone who has an interest in contemporary affairs.
a see worthy documentary,a wonderful chronological research...In my opinion a man who is interested in the history of economics must see this documentary.Capitalism,Fascism,Bretton-Woods system,New Delhi,Thatcherism,Keynes vs.Hayek...if you are interested in these heroes and subjects you have to see.Also you may hear some very useful comments from Friedman's own speech.As an economics students I appreciate everyone who have contributed this wonderful masterpiece.And I could not understand why only about 80 persons voted for this movie.Is the science of economics and political history so boring and annoying. See it and appreciate me and the producers.
This should be required viewing for everyone; freely, of course. As an
economist, this was pure unadulterated pleasure. The professionalism,
photography, music, editing, and storytelling were so superb I'm stunned
its quality and power to rivet everyone to their seats. If this is the
documentary you ever see, please see this series, you'll bless the day you
did and you'll stun everyone at cocktail parties with your grasp of the
important ideas and the history of the last century.
This series was especially powerful after having just returned from a tour of Eastern Europe and seeing the Museum of Communism in Prague, and the physical ravages of Communism in the Eastern Block which are still very evident even after 14 years of freedom. We, as Americans, have no idea how incredibly lucky we are. This series will help you understand.
When I saw the intro to this documentary, I was flabbergasted; the
first four minutes were dedicated to promote giant corporations like
FedEx, BP and EDS. Also, the John Templeton Foundation (a promo for
free-marked solutions) was one of the major contributors to the making
of the movie.
The movie portraits communism and planned economy almost as something evil, using a "red filter" effect and scary music when filming Kreml in Moscow.
This documentary is mostly propaganda, and should not be used for educational purposes. In fact, this movie does not deserve to be called a documentary, as it is "paid and made" by the corporations/bourgeoise.
As one can easily tell from the beginning of this film with its sponsors, the ones talking to you are the individuals who run corporations and third-world sweatshops. The documentary covers the debate between Liberal and Conservative (neo-liberal/capitalist) economics, claiming that this is the centralized economic battle that results in protests, riots, and social unrest. On the contrary, this social unrest has little to do with either of these establishmentary positions. The narrator calls it "a century-long battle over the economy." Sorry to burst your bubble, but the arguments over economy were MUCH HOTTER in the 1800's at the dawn of the industrial age than they are now. "How will we best organize our economy?" the narrator asks. He does not discuss Libertarian Socialism (George Orwell), social democracy (August Bebel), cooperatives and syndicates (Rocker, Bakunin, Goldman), etc., etc.. The only two options for world economy organization are the two that most closely resemble each other on the key principles: the value and necessity of an authoritarian regime, an enormous division of the two classes into a small elite with complete power and a vast, poverty-stricken majority, and the idea that the economy must be directed by the private interest of corporations. On the contrary, this isn't so much a documentary about what economic organization best suits human needs -- it's a documentary about what economic organization best suits THEIR NEEDS.
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