As just about anybody who reads knows, columnist Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has a new book out, "The World is Flat," another bestseller, this one about how globalization is "flattening" the world, and a recent review by Matt Taibi in NY Press perfectly summed up the reaction of much of my generation to the latest Friedman screed and its clunky metaphors.
I want to make two things clear before I get into this. First off, if you want to learn about globalization, read something by Jagdish Bhagwati or Paul Krugman or, hell, even Friedman's earlier "Lexus and the Olive Tree." These works have a great deal of insight, relevance, and originality. Secondly, Friedman can often be an excellent and insightful analyst of international affairs, and he is undoubtedly one of the world's most important, impactful columnists, so I don't want to seem to think the man a total fool.
Having said that, "The World is Flat," which argues that new technologies, increased international trade and the proliferation of democracy and open markets have led to a world that is more interconnected and, essentially, smaller. Somehow Friedman, in his endless dunderheadedness, is inspired by an Indian CEO, who tells him how the playing field is levelling, to equate this progression with a flattening. Now, as Taibbi's review mentions and my friends and I have endlessly pointed out, the metaphor is wrong from the get-go. Not only is a flatter world less interconnected and create greater distances between nations and businesses than a round one, but the concept, the image of a flatter world is, in one's mind, so antiquated and outdated as to clank against the pomo concept of advanced globalization and super-duper technologies. It's not only inaccurate, I mean to say, but completely inappropriate. And so those of us who have read Friedman almost religiously over the past decade or so -- and enjoyed and agreed with the majority of his work -- are now embracing the shaudenfriede wholeheartedly.
In the future, my guess is that old Tom with lose the "flat" metaphor toute de suite, and soon thereafter begin to speak of globalism and its effects with considerable insight.