One of my favourite books is The Lexus and the Olive Tree, which was a great introduction to the fundamentals of Globalization. After that I read two of Friedman’s books, Longitudes and Attitudes : The World in the Age of Terrorism and From Beirut to Jerusalem both excellent books. Now he has a new book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century.
The reviewer in WaPo writes
Friedman also does not have a compelling rebuttal for Harvard’s Michael Sandel, who calls Flat World’s new horizontal collaboration “just a nice name for the ability to hire cheap labor in India.” For instance, Indian techies had the manpower and ambition to do the “huge, tedious job” of fixing the West’s Y2K computer bug, giving India a surge of IT business that Friedman calls “a second Indian Independence Day.” But India’s Y2K windfall could be read just as easily as a sign of dependence, of reliance on tasks that American workers no longer want. Friedman rightly notes that “low-wage, low-prestige jobs in America . . . become high-wage, high-prestige jobs” when outsourced to India. But in an era where, as Friedman puts it, both pride and humiliation get served up to you via fiber-optic cable, it’s not at all clear we’ll like the long-term geopolitical consequences of having emerging powers reliant on scraps from the American economic table.
While The World Is Flat is not a classic like From Beirut to Jerusalem, it is still an enthralling read. To his great credit, Friedman embraces much of his flat world’s complexity, and his reporting brings to vibrant life some beguiling characters and trends. If his book is marred by an exasperating reliance on the first person and a surplus of catch phrases (” ‘Friedman,’ I said to myself, looking at this scene, ‘you are so twentieth-century. . . . You are so Globalization 2.0’ “), it is also more lively, provocative and sophisticated than the overwhelming bulk of foreign policy commentary these days. We’ve no real idea how the 21st century’s history will unfold, but this terrifically stimulating book will certainly inspire readers to start thinking it all through.