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The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century Hardcover – April 5, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (April 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374292884
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374292881
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Before 9/11, New York Times columnist Friedman was best known as the author of The Lexus and the Olive Tree, one of the major popular accounts of globalization and its discontents. Having devoted most of the last four years of his column to the latter as embodied by the Middle East, Friedman picks up where he left off, saving al-Qaeda et al. for the close. For Friedman, cheap, ubiquitous telecommunications have finally obliterated all impediments to international competition, and the dawning "flat world" is a jungle pitting "lions" and "gazelles," where "economic stability is not going to be a feature" and "the weak will fall farther behind." Rugged, adaptable entrepreneurs, by contrast, will be empowered. The service sector (telemarketing, accounting, computer programming, engineering and scientific research, etc.), will be further outsourced to the English-spoken abroad; manufacturing, meanwhile, will continue to be off-shored to China. As anyone who reads his column knows, Friedman agrees with the transnational business executives who are his main sources that these developments are desirable and unstoppable, and that American workers should be preparing to "create value through leadership" and "sell personality." This is all familiar stuff by now, but the last 100 pages on the economic and political roots of global Islamism are filled with the kind of close reporting and intimate yet accessible analysis that have been hard to come by. Add in Friedman's winning first-person interjections and masterful use of strategic wonksterisms, and this book should end up on the front seats of quite a few Lexuses and SUVs of all stripes. (Apr. 5)

More About the Author

Thomas L. Friedman has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize three times for his work with The New York Times, where he serves as the foreign affairs columnist. Read by everyone from small-business owners to President Obama, Hot, Flat, and Crowded was an international bestseller in hardcover. Friedman is also the author of From Beirut to Jerusalem (1989), The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999), Longitudes and Attitudes (2002), and The World is Flat (2005). He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

Thomas L. Friedman does a great job on describing how the world has become flat.
Avid Reader
As much as I like Friedman style, the book is way too long for a couple of ideas that he has on the subject.
Lena
For the ones who have a harder time getting things, this is a great book that will open their eyes.
Benjamin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

206 of 225 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Bradley on September 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Tom Friedman is a well connected journalist. His columns appear on the op-ed pages of the New York Times and his previous works LONGITUDES AND ATTITUDES and THE LEXUS AND THE OLIVE TREE are part of the "conventional wisdom" of most American decision makers. This new book, THE WORLD IS FLAT will also find its way into the "conventional wisdom." Unfortunately, it is at best a misdiagnosis of the factors that have lead to the ability to substitute labor across geographical boundaries. However, although it is as wrong as could be, many of our power elites will read or hear of this, and will base their decisions on the assumption that this book contains the truth. The reason that you should read it is that it is conventional wisdom and you are perhaps better off understanding this and how it is wrong.

Friedman's explanation is a simple one - the world has transformed from a three dimensional phenomenon, a sphere, to a two dimensional flat plane where there are no entry barriers into the labor market. So, a radiologist in Boston can be easily substituted for a radiologist in Bangalore. Oh, how it would be nice if it were this simple. But alas it is not. Friedman, I believe, is well intentioned, but he mistakenly believes that he can find the truth through anecdotes. So, his empirical evidence comes from stories of things that he does not understand instead of the use of reliable demographic and economic databases.

He believes that 10 exogenous forces can explain how "the world became flat." While doing this, he solely looks at the labor market and ignores the effects of the consumer, monetary, raw material/energy, and fixed investment markets. He cannot distinguish between a symptom and a cause.
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1,411 of 1,584 people found the following review helpful By John Zxerce on April 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I'd forgotten the pleasure reading good prose brings. Friedman not only writes well, but does so on an important subject- globalization. He states, "It is now possible for more people than ever to collaborate and compete in real time with more people on more different kinds of work from more different corners of the planet and on a more equal footing than at any previous time in the history of the world."

He claims, "When the world is flat, you can innovate without having to emigrate". But, how did the world `become flat'? Friedman suggest the trigger events were the collapse of communism, the dot-com bubble resulting in overinvestment in fiber-optic telecommunications, and the subsequent out-sourcing of engineers enlisted to fix the perceived Y2K problem.

Those events created an environment where products, services, and labor are cheaper. However, the West is now losing its strong-hold on economic dominance. Depending on if viewed from the eyes of a consumer or a producer - that's either good or bad, or a combination of both.

What is more sobering is Friedman's elaboration on Bill Gates' statement, "When I compare our high schools to what I see when I'm traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow. In math and science, our fourth graders are among the top students in the world. By eighth grade, they're in the middle of the pack. By 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring near the bottom of all industrialized nations. . . . The percentage of a population with a college degree is important, but so are sheer numbers. In 2001, India graduated almost a million more students from college than the United States did. China graduates twice as many students with bachelor's degrees as the U.S.
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407 of 463 people found the following review helpful By P. Petersen on August 15, 2005
Format: Audio CD
An enlightening essay on the nature of the business world and how the global interconnectedness and outsourcing has leveled the playing field. Completely wrong, and based on an oversimplified and factually inaccurate premise, but well-written and enlightening. In Friedman's "flat" world, it's possible for a call center in India to take orders which then get processed by a shipping service in Indiana which forwards the order to a warehouse in Oakland that stores merchandise made from parts made in Taiwan and assembled in Malaysia. All this is written in such a way as to make the Corporate Executives of the world look like the good guys for somehow coming up with a win-win scenario whereby they bring jobs to third-world countries, at the same time saving themselves money while increasing their productivity and efficiency - a fine premise in the ideal, but hopelessly impractical on several realistic human levels.

The book is very well-written, but Friedman fails to take into account the realities surrounding the fact that in order for such a system to work with any kind of sustainability it needs to create jobs to replace the ones that have been outsourced. Friedman's answer to this is that creativity and inventiveness will take the place of the grunt-work that's been outsourced, an idea that looks good on paper but fails to consider that our society's most financially successful businesses have never invented or innovated anything, instead relying on finding new ways to produce an existing product in a way that's cheaper and faster than their nearest competitor - thus fostering an environment that's not very conducive to innovation. The developers of new technology rarely if ever are the ones to reap the majority of financial benefit from its sale.
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