October 22, 2009

The World Is Flat ***

*** The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman, 2005

I read From Beirut to Jerusalem last year and gave it three stars. This book is 20 years newer but feels more dated because technology, and particularly the internet and telecommunications, have changed much more in the past 4 years than the Arab-Israeli struggle has in the last 20 years. Maybe even the past 50 years.

It's a long read, but it aced the elliptical test, causing me to exercise for an hour without realizing it in some sessions. It's about globalization and events and technologies that have led to a flattening of the world in the sense of more equal opportunity for success, regardless of location. He also talks about inhibitors to flattening.

But the most startling thing for me was this excerpt he included from The Communist Manifesto, which sounds like it could have been written by a 21st century capitalist.

All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere. The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodgedby new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.

The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians' intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.

Wow. That Marx guy seemed to know what the 21st century would look like 160 years ago.

Anther interesting thing was Friedman's Dell Theory of Conflict Avoidance, updated from his Golden Arches Theory. Check it out. And read this book in this decade!

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