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The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century
by Thomas L. Friedman
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Editorial Reviews:
Thomas L. Friedman is not so much a futurist, which he is sometimes called, as a presentist. His aim, in his new book, The World Is Flat, as in his earlier, influential Lexus and the Olive Tree, is not to give you a speculative preview of the wonders that are sure to come in your lifetime, but rather to get you caught up on the wonders that are already here. The world isn't going to be flat, it is flat, which gives Friedman's breathless narrative much of its urgency, and which also saves it from the Epcot-style polyester sheen that futurists--the optimistic ones at least--are inevitably prey to.

What Friedman means by "flat" is "connected": the lowering of trade and political barriers and the exponential technical advances of the digital revolution have made it possible to do business, or almost anything else, instantaneously with billions of other people across the planet. This in itself should not be news to anyone. But the news that Friedman has to deliver is that just when we stopped paying attention to these developments--when the dot-com bust turned interest away from the business and technology pages and when 9/11 and the Iraq War turned all eyes toward the Middle East--is when they actually began to accelerate. Globalization 3.0, as he calls it, is driven not by major corporations or giant trade organizations like the World Bank, but by individuals: desktop freelancers and innovative startups all over the world (but especially in India and China) who can compete--and win--not just for low-wage manufacturing and information labor but, increasingly, for the highest-end research and design work as well. (He doesn't forget the "mutant supply chains" like Al-Qaeda that let the small act big in more destructive ways.) Friedman tells his eye-opening story with the catchy slogans and globe-hopping anecdotes that readers of his earlier books and his New York Times columns will know well, and also with a stern sort of optimism. He wants to tell you how exciting this new world is, but he also wants you to know you're going to be trampled if you don't keep up with it. His book is an excellent place to begin. --Tom Nissley

Where Were You When the World Went Flat?

Thomas L. Friedman's reporter's curiosity and his ability to recognize the patterns behind the most complex global developments have made him one of the most entertaining and authoritative sources for information about the wider world we live in, both as the foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times and as the author of landmark books like From Beirut to Jerusalem and The Lexus and the Olive Tree. They also make him an endlessly fascinating conversation partner, and we'd happily have peppered him with questions about The World Is Flat for hours. Read our interview to learn why there's almost no one from Washington, D.C., listed in the index of a book about the global economy, and what his one-plank platform for president would be. (Hint: his bumper stickers would say, "Can You Hear Me Now?")

The Essential Tom Friedman

From Beirut to Jerusalem

The Lexus and the Olive Tree

Longitudes and Attitudes

More on Globalization and Development

China, Inc. by Ted Fishman

Three Billion New Capitalists by Clyde Prestowitz

The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs

Globalization and Its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli

The Mystery of Capital by Hernando de Soto

Book Description

When scholars write the history of the world twenty years from now, and they come to the chapter "Y2K to March 2004," what will they say was the most crucial development? The attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the Iraq war? Or the convergence of technology and events that allowed India, China, and so many other countries to become part of the global supply chain for services and manufacturing, creating an explosion of wealth in the middle classes of the world's two biggest nations, giving them a huge new stake in the success of globalization? And with this "flattening" of the globe, which requires us to run faster in order to stay in place, has the world gotten too small and too fast for human beings and their political systems to adjust in a stable manner?

In this brilliant new book, the award-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman demystifies the brave new world for readers, allowing them to make sense of the often bewildering global scene unfolding before their eyes. With his inimitable ability to translate complex foreign policy and economic issues, Friedman explains how the flattening of the world happened at the dawn of the twenty-first century; what it means to countries, companies, communities, and individuals; and how governments and societies can, and must, adapt. The World Is Flat is the timely and essential update on globalization, its successes and discontents, powerfully illuminated by one of our most respected journalists.

Download Description
The Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist gives a bold, timely, and surprising picture of the state of globalization in the twenty-first century

Product Details
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; edition (Sep 1, 2023)
  • ISBN: 0374292884
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 Based on 268 reviews.
  • Sales Rank: 3

Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

4Excellent Summary and History, Flawed Conclusions, Aug 31, 2023
Friedman provides an excellent summary of recent changes that have created today's intense global economy. However, his conclusion that this is good for the U.S. - based on anecdotal evidence supplied by outsourcing supporters - is dead wrong.

Broader data show massive deterioration in U.S. workers' healthcare and pension coverage, and opportunities to use and develop higher-level skills (eg. software, engineering, production management, technical skills). The most recent data even show a decline in inflation-adjusted incomes. (Not only are the areas outsourced directly impacted, but so are career areas that displaced individuals move into.) Meanwhile, the areas being outsourced continues to grow to now include tutors, and drug trials.

Friedman observes that Asian competitors are quick learners, moving up the "food chain" from simple production managed by Americans to designing new sophisticated equipment and parts and then manufacturing them under local management. What he fails to note is that sooner or later they will also take over total control and financing - leaving only U.S. distribution to Americans. Thus, most of those that now support outsourcing will eventually find themselves also outsourced. (Median salary and cash bonuses for U.S. CEOs in office for at least a year was $2.3 million in '03, vs. $88,117 in India, according to the Wall Street Journal, 7/19/05)

Friedman does have a recommendation for America in the "flattened world" - substantially improve education and pupil achievement. Unfortunately, even if accomplished (30+ years of reform efforts have yet to come close), it would be of little help. Experts have concluded that Oriental IQs generally average 10 points higher than those of Americans. China and India graduate a combined 500,000 scientists and engineers a year, vs. 60,000 in the U.S., according to Business Week (8/22/05). China alone has about four times the U.S. population, and then there's India, Pakistan, South America, etc. - earning as little as 5% of what Americans bring in. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. computer science students is DECLINING - as a result of unemployment caused by outsourcing.

In addition, American corporations are hobbled by having to pay high healthcare costs, vs. other nations' much lower costs - largely born by government. And finally there are the government restrictions on genetic research that American firms are hobbled with - possibly precluding significant participation in a potentially booming new area.

If the preceding examples do not set off alarm bells, there's always the latest news that the brightest Indian immigrants in the U.S. are now starting to return to India. At the same time, the volume of those coming here is declining - reportedly because of "better opportunities" in India. Meanwhile, improved technology and reliability acerbate the job problem by further reducing opportunities.

Clearly the mathematics are against us and the inevitable result is that our standard of living is headed for a substantial fall - unless some other solution is found. Rome, Spain, and England proved that a nation's strength is not permanent. Friedman summarized the factors eroding America's - unfortunately, he failed to look clearly into the future or to find a solution. And those should be America's main concerns

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

5Good book, Aug 30, 2023
We need to understand the global impact of everything we now do. This book is a pretty good wake up call for many. We are not alone anymore and the more information we have about the global economy, cultures, organizations - the better our chance of doing well in the coming times. I highly recommend this book. Another excellent book I just read is called the System by Roy Valentine. He has an interesting way of looking at globalization.

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

3How to pack a 10 page paper into a 300 page book, Aug 30, 2023
Some very good insights and ideas, but Tom Friedman loves to hear himself talk in the most self-congulatory fashion and uses 25 words when 3 would suffice.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

4Cogent Overview of 21st Century (so far), Aug 30, 2023
Tom Friedman is simply the most important columnist (ok foreign affairs editor to be exact) writing today. While the left flames him as kowtowing "globalization" at any cost free trader, and the right suspects his motivatons (and politics) lean in the general direction of the Democrats, Friedman, like a great chess player, sees moves 3 and 4 ahead while the rest of us are slapping our foreheads years later saying DUHHH.

The World Is Flat essentially makes the case that the technological explosion that accompanied the "Internet Boom" years has made collaboration and work processes that until recently were done locally (or at least nationally) to be outsourced internationally, where thousands of eager young people are looking for their slice of the middle class. It is a persuasive argument, made all the more telling by Friedman's first hand reporting from places like Bangalore and Beijing. There is no question that the teens of America will have to scratch and claw for the prestigious science/engineering/technology jobs of tomorrow.

Friedman's true genius though is in extrapolating and weaving together these threads of the "flat world" into the policy prescriptions that America needs to implement. For example, he was the first to come out and identify the fact that the US is funding both sides of the war on terrorism - the fighting of that war through our tax dollars, and the subsidization of the radical madrasas in the Middle East that we indirectly pay for through our oil consumption. It's powerful stuff and within this lengthy narrative is a true cautionary tale about the future of America. One that has become beholden to foreign oil and weakened through less investment in science could easily become a "second rate" power whose only strength derives from the extraordinary stockpile of deadly weaponse we've amassed.

The final part of the book, where Friedman discusses the "dark side" of world flattening, the ability of terrorists to reach out and strike with the force of a nation is really where Friedman shines. His analysis of Middle East politics is still the best in the business. Indeed, if I had one criticism of the book (and it's a mild one) it is that it "feels" about 100 pages too long. The middle section bloats a bit on the lengthy case studies of companies like WalMart and Dell, but that said, this is still an important book for any person interested in world politics and economics circa 2005.

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:

5Beautifully written!, Aug 30, 2023
Mr Friedman has essentially distilled what we have lived through but may not have thought much about into this wonderful book.

The 10 flatteners are really a wake up call to all of us living in a flat world. Indeed it is with these flatteners that one can begin to empower himself to make his world a better one.

Therein lies the seeds to the rest of the book, whereby the author describes coping mechanisms and postulates what would happen if we can't. I had felt a distinctively American viewpoint (I live in Singapore) but yet find myself agreeing because I am a privileged member of flat earth.

Read this book only if you are ready to face up to the challenged confronting flat earth!


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