Even the title of the book rests uneasily on a conceit. Friedman recounts meeting an Indian entrepreneur: "He said to me, 'Tom, the playing field is being levelled.'" A cliché of the business world, but Friedman's brain digests it thus: "What [he] is saying, I thought, is that the playing field is being flattened ... Flattened? Flattened? My god, he's telling me the world is flat!"
This leads Friedman to modestly compare his journey to Christopher Columbus - "Columbus sailed with the Nina ... I had Lufthansa business class" - and lay out a rambling theory about globalisation. It ends with dire predictions of looming international competition, where, in Friedman's terms, industrialised economies will need to produce chocolate sauce rather than vanilla ice-cream.
The dedicated reader - and they will have to be dedicated indeed to slog through 450 more pages - will find a few interesting anecdotes about the rapid growth of China and India, and the intricacies of just-in-time manufacturing processes. But for the most part The World Is Flat is a rewrite of Friedman's 1999 book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree
In the earlier book, Friedman argued that the world was undergoing a greater degree of globalisation, driven by rapid technological change and the collapse of political barriers such as the Berlin wall. That argument is slightly updated in The World Is Flat, though it contains no surprises for anyone who hasn't been locked in a cupboard for the past five years. Even casual readers of the Economist or the Guardian will be aware of the rapid industrialisation of China and the surge in outsourcing of call centres to India.
Friedman's argument, that these events... [continues]
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