Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

The Globalization Reading List

This small posting is the first in a series related to the impact of globalization on the Midwestern city. Globalization is here, it is real, and it isn’t going away soon. It affects, or should affect, every consequential decision a city or company makes. It should even affect a lot of the decisions we make as individuals, such as what education or careers to pursue.

It’s hard to know how to react to globalization if you don’t know what it’s doing. If you don’t know what’s going on in the world and what it means, you are at a huge disadvantage. A lot of American media is, as we know, very parochial. So you’ve got to choose your reading material wisely to make sure you are getting what you need to stay abreast of what’s going on. Here are some suggestions I have in that regard.

First, it is essential to have a proper international news source. In my opinion, there are only two choices you have: the Financial Times, which I’ve often touted here, or The Economist. I personally take the FT. It has excellent global news, business, and commentary, as well as targeted but quality arts and culture coverage. Their FT Weekend edition on Saturday is a must.

For magazines, there are many choices, but one that comes to mind is Monocle. This newish title is published by Tyler Brûlé, who also founded Wallpaper magazine and writes a weekly column called The Fast Lane for the FT Weekend that appears on the back page of the Life and Arts section.

Monocle is really a lifestyle magazine focused on travel, culture, fashion, and design, aimed at the transnational elite that globalism has spawned. I recommend it above other similar magazines because it also has good business and political affairs coverage, often profiling cities and locations that are overlooked. Its coverage is truly global in scope. What’s more, understanding what the international hipster elite is up to is important, because their desires form, right or wrong, the benchmark against which “world cities” or “creative class cities” are measured. It should come as no surprise that Richard Florida is working with the title. You don’t have to be megarich to read, though it helps if you actually want to buy anything it profiles, nor do you have to agree with its tone, but the understanding of the benchmark for what the transnational winners of globalization have is invaluable.

This month, July/August 2008, is a particularly good read because it is dedicated to the question of what makes a livable city. Indeed, they pick their 25 most livable cities, get perspectives from mayors around the world, and create their own checklist of must have items. It’s a must read.

One caution, subscribing to this magazine is not recommended because the subscription price is far higher than the newsstand one.

Moving on from periodicals, there are a few books I’d highlight. One is of course Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat. I’ve also mentioned many times before Richard Longworth’s Caught in the Middle, which deals specifically with the affect of globalization on the Midwest. These two tomes should get your started. As I identify them, I will pass along additional must-reads.

As the saying goes, without awareness, there is no choice. Educating ourselves and being aware of what is going on in the world and with the process of globalization is the first step in being able to make intelligent choices about how to react to it.

Topics: Globalization

16 Responses to “The Globalization Reading List”

  1. Priyanka says:

    What about reading online newspapers of other countries to stay abreast of their perspective on global issues. Cause often news sources originating in the same country might have similar mind sets and outlooks about situations.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The conventional wisdom that globalization is here to stay may be chronically challenged by what happens with energy supply and cost.

    If transportation costs soar due to rising fuel costs, local and regional production may become the new m.o.once again.

    Ownership and financing could remain in the hands of global interests. But I’m not sure that’s globalism as currently defined any more than it was when Great Britain underwrote great hunks of America’s western expansion in the 1800s.

  3. The Urbanophile says:

    Priyanka, foreign newspapers are good too. My favorite is The Guardian – but The Sun is a close second!

    anon, that may be, but hoping that things go back to the way they were is not the best plan in my view.

  4. thundermutt says:

    I like The Economist. Their perspective is global and they offer a good outsider’s view of US politics and policy.

  5. adam says:

    I really enjoy reading the Economist and The World is Flat is one of my favorite books. The energy crisis will not destroy globalization. The internet is a big mover in globalization and that won’t go away. Also, oil will not remain where it is at, as cars and electricty is made more and more from renewable sources then oil is freed up for transportation at a reasonable price. Also those technology gains can be applied to the transportation industry.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Globalization, as currently practiced, doesn’t work well when the money supply is inflated, the dollar sinks and the cost of imports substantially increase. Most importers now wish they were exporting. The globalization doctrine is the biggest scam since … global warming.

  7. Jefferey says:

    Economist is pretty good. They cover places that one never hears of in the US media.

    Der Spiegel has a good English language site.

    Another good German site is Sign & Sight:


  8. de-bug says:

    I think very few cities are aware of the need to compete at a global level. Because of mobility through telecommuting, a segment of the workforce has a very real opportunity to locate wherever they like.

    For example, I’m a downtown Indy resident, but I’m working remotely this month from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a beautiful little city which was just named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I figured that if I could work remotely from home, then why not work remotely from somewhere else for awhile? And so here I am.

    Many Americans I’ve met down here have relocated permanently and have no desire to go back to the USA. I appreciate many aspects of life down here, like a packed central plaza with musicians and food carts and vendors selling balloons and balls, pedestrian streets with centuries old fountains built into corner walls, and – especially – being able to afford a cook and a maid :)

    But in comparison, Indy offers an abundance of public parks, pools, kids activities, concerts, theaters and bike trails, cheap housing (houses downtown here are actually more expensive than downtown Indy) and some good options for public schools.

    I realize that I’m in a unique situation, but it wouldn’t have been possible even 5 years ago, and it’s only going to become more common. Cities need to offer reasons for people to live in them because there’s a whole world of other options out there.

  9. thundermutt says:

    So de-bug, I’m curious.

    Are you Gen-Y (23 or under), Gen-X (24-43), or Boomer (44-62)?

    Do you have kids?

    Do you consider your occupation “creative class” work as Richard Florida defines it?

    Would you consider emigrating to another country to raise your family?

    I realize these are kind of elementary questions, but I want to get my poor dumb Hoosier brain wrapped around this and hope you’ll write more about your outlook, views, and how you perceive your choices.

  10. The Urbanophile says:

    Jeff, thanks for the pointers to the German sites.

    debug, that was an excellent post. So many people just don’t get it when it comes to globalization and what it really means. And understanding the needs cities have to actually make people want to live there, particularly different kinds of people who might not have been the target market before.

    By the way, San Miguel is awesome. There’s one place there whose name escapes me that has awesome carnitas. And they filmed one of the great scenes in Once Upon a Time in Mexico in a bar there (the one where Johnny Depp’s fake arm plays a big part). Sit in his chair and kick back with a Don Julio Real and a cuban cigar. That’s living.

  11. de-bug says:

    I’m a Gen Xer with 2 kids (ages 7 and 3). My undergraduate degree is in architecture, and my graduate degree is in international business, but I work in IT. It’s not tremendously cutting edge or creative on a daily basis, but it’s definitely in the knowledge worker/business improvement space.

    I was one of those brain drain college kids who left the state after graduation and didn’t see any reason to come back home. But life events threw me for a loop and long story short I ended up in Indy. The number one reason I’ve stayed is because my family is nearby and my husband’s is within a tolerable drive. Still, I do like Indy as a city and would choose it over the other places I’ve lived, primarily Dallas , Phoenix , Minneapolis and Monterrey , Mexico (although if Minneapolis were warmer, it’d be my favorite hands-down).

    For people with jobs and knowledge like myself, options for working and living have increased dramatically. When I entered the workforce 10 years ago, working remotely wasn’t an option. Within the past 5 years, having the ability to work remotely has become a necessity. That paradigm shift opens up a whole host of other options, but when you’re accustomed to doing things based on the old paradigm, it takes time to refocus and see what they are.

    For example, I live just a couple of miles from work, but for 4 years, it never occurred to me to do anything other than drive because, well, that’s just how you get to work. But last summer I came back from a trip and missed being outside, so I started riding my bike to work. The option was always there, but I hadn’t seen it.

    Likewise, I’ve been working remotely in some form (usually from home one day a week) for the past 3 years, and we have other team members who work from home full time. One day I realized that if I can work from home, then why not from somewhere else? Why not from another country? The option has been there for years, but it’s not “done”, so I hadn’t seen it.

    I don’t think what I’m doing will ever be the “norm”, but I do think it will become more normal as people see the possibilities and the workforce composition changes. I think what I’m doing would be an especially attractive option for people without kids and/or those nearing retirement. I fully plan on (and am saving for) early retirement, but if I could spend a few months here and a few months there while working, I’d be much more inclined to keep my job than to outright stop once I turn 55.

    Urbanophile – I’ll have to find that movie as I may have been in that bar last Friday night, and it was the last night of its existence. There was a bar here called ‘El Manantial’ which was the oldest bar in the city, having been in operation since 1920. When I was there they told me it had been used to film scenes for various movies, and the actors had left their names written on the walls (painted over in a subsequent renovation a few years ago). It is now going to be turned into a restaurant…so sad because it was just what a little old cantina should be.

  12. thundermutt says:

    de-bug, thanks for being open.

    (I especially appreciate the validation about Minneapolis’ climate, if you have read my earlier comments on another post. I spent two winters there as a child and would never move back.)

    Tell us more, if you would, about the factors which would enter into a location decision for you. Clearly climate (or lack of extremely cold climate) is one of your factors as Phoenix and Dallas are at the other extreme.

    Would Indianapolis get extra (or primary) consideration because it’s close to extended family, or is it on a level playing field with “everywhere else”?

    What about Indianapolis is an attraction? What’s a turn-off? (Geez, this sounds like a personal-ad profile questionnaire…sorry.)

    What is “top of mind” about the city for you…i.e. when someone asks you about the city generally, what do you say first?

    Among people you’ve known in other places, what is their perception or response to knowing you’re “from” Indianapolis…what do they say first?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Ok, I’ll bite; I would like to know what type of broadband internet connections, software, etc, allow you to work from home effectively. I believe that our broadband infrastructure is seriously lacking in the US. All the other stuff doesn’t matter if our infrastructure is poor.

    I would never attempt to work from home, except on an ad-hoc basis, until said infrastructure improved dramatically. Maybe, I’m in the minority, but it is much too slow for me. I can barely tolerate my workplace with its slow servers, etc. With certain software, I have to sit and watch an hour-glass spin after nearly every single mouse click.

    By the way. I like Speigel Online, the Economist and Xinhua.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thomas Friedman is a hack journalist with a right-wing ax to grind. His assertion that technology,specifically the internet, would lead to China’s freedom. Not so (in fact, tech companies have supplied the Chinese government filters and spyware to censor and monitor the internet usage of the people). He also supported the Iraq War. Strike two.

    Technology is not some panacea that will save us. Corporations are content with the status quo so long as it makes them money, externalities and long-term interests be damned.

    Big Oil is not investing in new fuels because high oil prices are in their financial interests, global warming and air pollution be damned. The same applies to coal.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Globalization is not some natural economic transformation. It was enabled by government which approved corporate written trade deals. Many provisions of these “free trade” deals openly violate state and local government sovereignty and expedite the movement of manujfacturing to cheap labor nations with governments that actively suppress unionization attempts.

  16. The Urbanophile says:

    anon, don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel.

    While one can debate the merits of globalization, doing nothing is not an option. Globalization as a force simply is. It might have a lot of bad things about it, but what can a city do? Cities, the topic of this blog, cannot do much to derail globalization itself. Rather, they have to find ways to adapt to it.

The Urban State of Mind: Meditations on the City is the first Urbanophile e-book, featuring provocative essays on the key issues facing our cities, including innovation, talent attraction and brain drain, global soft power, sustainability, economic development, and localism. Included are 28 carefully curated essays out of nearly 1,200 posts in the first seven years of the Urbanophile, plus 9 original pieces. It's great for anyone who cares about our cities.

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Aaron M. Renn is an opinion-leading urban analyst, consultant, speaker, and writer on a mission to help America’s cities thrive and find sustainable success in the 21st century.

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