The World Is Flat

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Critically evaluate the ‘World is Flat’ thesis put forward by Thomas Friedman.

Thomas Friedman in his recent book ‘The world is flat’ discusses a short history of globalisation in the twenty-first century. His discovering journey took him around the world to investigate the new concept in transnational business. He views himself as Columbus-like, but in a new modern word, in which he is searching for the sources of today’s wealth. Only to come to a rhetorical conclusion that the world is “flat” not round!

His book, ‘The world is flat’ has been a subject to much criticism. His work was highly criticizes by Aronica and Ramdoo, (2006) in their book ‘The World is Flat? A Critical Analysis of Thomas Friedman’s New York Times Bestseller’. They point to the fact that Friedman does not use a single table or data footnote in his book. Friedman makes arguments by assertion, based on not documented facts, but makes his assumption based on stories from his journey around the world, visiting few places, and selected CEOs he visits on his journey.(Aronica & Ramdoo, 2006)

Friedman in a research for his book visits India, where Nandan, the CEO of Infosys explains to him that; “the playing field is being leveled” causing Friedman to conclude that the world is flat. (Friedman, 2006 p.7) Friedman refers to a “flat world” in a metaphorical sense. He reiterates over and over again that “The world is flat”. In which he means that reducing barriers in trade and political and technical advances have made it possible to do business, instantly with any other businesses around the world, without the need to emigrate. It has allowed for parts of the world, which had previously been disconnected, like India and China, to compete in the world market. And that we are now connecting all the knowledge and expertise, using computers, email, fibre-optic networks and so on.

Friedman argues that there are ten major forces that flattened the world, and describes each of the following “flatteners”. The fall of the Berlin Wall; or the work flow software; uploading; outsoursing; offshoring; insourcing; in-forming; and lastly he talks about steroids. Next Friedman delve into what he describes that the forces of flatness have resulted in “the triple convergence,” three additional components that acted on the flatteners to create a new, flatter global playing field.

Friedman also states that “technology has made the world flat by removing geographical, hierarchical and other boundaries to trade”. In a flat world, Friedman writes, “you can innovate without having to emigrate. Yet, there are still many people in rural areas that have been left out and neglected of this global integration. People are migrating from rural areas to the big cities in search of jobs all the time, and this is what Friedman calls a ‘flat world’?

Richard Florida,(2005) in his article ‘The World is spiky’ argues that “the globalisation has changed the playing field but it has not leveled it.”, Richard talks about “uneven distribution of the world’s population, light emissions, focusing on ‘peaks’ as of the cities that drive the world economy, and ‘valleys’ – places with little connection to the global economy.” Both authors seems to be right, but they both missing the point, using misleading metaphors.

The paradox of these two metaphors is that the flattening of the world is creating a new prospect for even greater spikiness. Some would argue that it does not matter whether the world is spiky or flat. What does matter is where you live. Now, people have to compete and work harder than ever before. People in American are losing their jobs because someone on the other side of the world can do it faster and for less money.

Technology makes it all more possible today to bring the world closer and make it more interconnected and interdependent.(Friedman, 2006) However, technological innovation by itself will never flatten the world, instead it tends to...
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