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A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Hidden Promise of Globalization Hardcover – May 9, 2000

3.9 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Globalization is the single most important force in the world today, write journalists John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, both of The Economist (and coauthors of The Witch Doctors):

The integration of the world economy is not only reshaping business but also reordering the lives of individuals, creating new social classes, different jobs, unimaginable wealth, and, occasionally, wretched poverty. From Washington to Beijing, politicians are increasingly defined in terms of their attitudes toward globalization. The key political arguments of the next few years--between Islam and the West, Euroskeptics and Europhiles, the new left and the old--will all be variations arising from one underlying conflict: the one between globalizers who want to see the world reshaped in their own image and traditionalists who want to preserve fragments of traditional culture and local independence.

Micklethwait and Wooldridge are advocates of the former, not the latter. In A Future Perfect--a rich synthesis of anecdote, analysis, and argument--they make a strong case both for globalization's economic benefits and its classically liberal underpinnings. They acknowledge frustration with public debates over globalization that "always seem to involve a shuttered textile factory in South Carolina, never a young African child sitting at a computer; always a burning Amazonian forest, never a young Brazilian investment banker; always The Lion King or the Spice Girls, never the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao." A Future Perfect relentlessly reports the upside of globalization--the book is full of stories--and makes the vital point that more than economics is at stake. At bottom, write Micklethwait and Wooldridge, the issue is freedom. They bemoan "restrictions on where people can go, what they can buy, where they can invest, and what they can read, hear, or see. Globalization by its nature brings down these barriers, and it helps to hand the power to choose to the individual." Like a good article in The Economist, A Future Perfect is well written and concise. It also renders complicated subjects understandable, and has the welcome effect of making readers feel smarter for having cracked its spine. Much has been written about globalization; this book may be the best of the bunch thus far. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

Despite the virtual blizzard of political rhetoric, statistics and rumors surrounding the topic of globalization, Micklethwait and Wooldridge (The Witch Doctors) wade into the fray and emerge with an accessible, up-to-the-minute report. In the tradition of classical laissez-faire economic philosophers Adam Smith, David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, they portray globalization as a savage but beneficial process that has already led to greater economic efficiency and individual freedom of choice. "Business people are the most obvious beneficiaries," Micklethwait and Wooldridge acknowledge, but they also argue that consumers profit from variety, innovation and lower prices. With a vast array of anecdotal evidence, they point out that the cheaper materials and labor and faster distribution now available in the global marketplace mean that innovative goods and services can come from an entrepreneur like Charlie Woo of Los Angeles (who created a niche in the highly lucrative toy market), from the startups of Silicon Valley and from Hollywood, which they praise for its flexibility, innovation and hyper competition. Yet in their impassioned advocacy of globalization, Micklethwait and Wooldridge do not allow themselves sufficient space to systematically address the extent of its destabilizing economic effects or the havoc it has wreaked on many countries--a significant flaw in what is otherwise an estimable effort. Agent, Sarah Chalfant, Andrew Wylie Literary Agency. Major ad/promo; 7-city author tour. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; 1st edition (May 9, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812930967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812930962
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,223,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I approached reading this book with the assumption that I would viscerally dislike it: I hate popular culture; I consider myself, at best, to be a technological agnostic; and my impression was the "globalization" is being generated by international-business buccaneers. However, I discovered that John Micklethwait and Adrian Woolridge, correspondents for The Economist, are adept popularizers of complicated contemporary concepts; they share a certain sense of humor; and, while championing globalization's purported benefits, they are willing to acknowledge some of its more serious problems. This book is, therefore, a solid, if not compelling, introduction to the subject.
Micklethwait and Woolridge do not offer dispassionate analysis of globalization and its impact on international business, politics, and culture. Indeed, the authors are advocates, and they are candid about their biases, declaring: "[T]he underlying message of this book is that globalization needs not merely to be understood but to be defended." The reason, according to Micklethwait and Woolridge, is: "Globalization has become, quite simply, the most important economic, political, and cultural phenomenon of our time." That's probably hyperbole, but, without debating that point, the first issue is: What is globalization? In its most basic terms, globalization is the trend toward integration of the world economy into a single market. And what drives globalization? Micklethwait and Woolridge answer: Technology, the capital markets, and management. They might have added: International financial institutions.
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Format: Hardcover
Since globalization is inevitably changing or affecting everyone's life and shaping our future, an open dialogue is crucial on how to ease the painful process of transformation and help people handle their new freedom and responsibility. But a dialogue will only be feasible if people stop to paint black and white and put themselves in the other parties position - on the one hand the cosmocratic elite that has no time left for politics since its members spend their busy lives in worldwide economic networks and, on the other hand, people who live in local communities and don't understand world economics.
By showing both sides, A Future Perfect can help people to understand other involved parties or at least encourage them to cross limited horizons, thereby fostering objective discussions about our mutual future.
The authors cite interesting examples and base their arguments on economic theories without turning to a business language that might be hard to understand for a non-MBA reader. It's not a book that will teach you all you have to know about globalization or offer the magic bullet but it allows you to understand the forces (technology, capital & management) that drive globalization and why the term globalization is a welcome scapegoat for mismanagement, regulation and corrupt politicians.
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Format: Hardcover
Future Perfect addresses what has become this era's equivalent of the Cold War; the discussion of whether globalisation is working for or against us. Bearing all traits of a classic media-fuelled conflict, i.e. simplification, exaggeration in all directions and, as always, a myriad of people taking a stand for others when they really have nothing to do with the issue at stake (compare the number of times when you've read thoughts on globalization by, for instance, a former child labourer, or an African farmer as opposed to the number of times you've seen well-dressed politicians delivering promises for change in the Third World or masked suburban kids tossing Molotov cocktails at policemen, all in the name of globalization). Refreshing then that John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge has opted for a different, and frankly more sober, view of this complex and politically charged subject matter.
Fans of Micklethwait and Wooldridge will recognize their style of writing from the brilliant "Witch Doctors", a critical analysis of the management thinker-industry, and on a superficial level Future Perfect is as enjoyable to read with a prose that shimmers with intelligence and wit whilst at the same time delivering insights into the many parts and people of the world that globalization has touched in one way or another. But referring to Future Perfect as "an enjoyable read" is as shallow as calling Schindlers List "a scary film". It is necessary to dissect certain parts of this work in order to better understand the argument that the authors present in favour of globalization.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book offers some ideas that I had not seen before.
For one thing, it is rare to see a book that is pro-globalization that discusses it as fragile and in need of nurturing. It is generally referred to as an overwhelming tide that either must be embraced or stopped.
The book discusses the results of globalization in several industries, and it takes the economic perspective that comparative advantage will continue to operate. But it goes beyond that and discusses the loosers as well as the winners.
The most interesting idea I found in the book was it's discussion of what they call "cosmocrats." An elite that is without geographic identity and more bound to others of their class than to their traditional communities. The book "Bowling Alone" documents the breakdown of traditional social networks. It is easy to see in Silicon Valley's libertarian culture the people who feel they are "self made" and do not feel a need for reciprocal relationships with their geographic communities. This belief, of course, is totally without foundation. However, the belief that a technical elite should run society has been tired in Germany, Russia and other places with horrible results. The books does not go so far as to raise that type of alarm, but the dislocation that they document is well worth considering.
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