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A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Promise of Globalizationby John Micklethwait
Synopses & Reviews
Once or twice a day, the rural calm of the Bruderhof's retreat near Rifton in upstate New York is shattered by the pounding of a heavy truck. The Bruderhof is an Amish-style religious community of four hundred people. The brothers (as they style themselves) have no patience with the godless modern world. They have banned radios and televisions, forbid divorce and homosexuality, and practice "Christian communism," renouncing private property and raising their children collectively. Each family has its own quarters, but the community usually eats and performs most chores together, with the women, who wear head scarves to preserve their modesty and routinely defer to their menfolk, performing the bulk of the domestic labor.
The brothers regard the spread of American culture around the world with suspicion. Hollywood preaches immorality, they argue; the Internet corrupts children's minds with pornography; and both, by stimulating materialism, distract people from the really important things in life. Every-where they look, the brothers see simple communities like their own being destroyed by the onward rush of industry and pop culture. One of their longest-standing relationships is with another anticapitalist island, Cuba, where they often send their children for holidays.
Yet the Bruderhof, no less than Cuba, are having to open the door to the modern world. The group's history has always given it an international edge. It was founded in Germany in the 1920s, but the brothers' communist principles and unorthodox approach to education inevitably attracted the wrath of the Nazis. Their flight from persecution scattered them across the world, with some ending up in southern England and others migrating first to Latin America and then to the United States. Most of the group's 2,500 members now live either in England (where there are two settlements) or the northeast United States (with six). They have always tried to counteract this geographic separation by moving members from one community to another and running their affairs collectively. Modern technology has made this process less cumbersome: Rather than relying on letters and the occasional phone call, the group is thoroughly wired, with a constant flow of phone calls, faxes, and e-mails among the eight settlements. (Unlike their ideological cousins, the Amish, the Bruderhof can tolerate modern technology so long as it is used strictly for work.)
The other thing that has drawn the far-flung brotherhood closer together is, ironically, commerce. Since the late 1950s, the members of the Bruderhof have supported themselves by making superbly crafted children's toys through a company called Community Playthings; in the 1970s, they added another business, Rifton Equipment, which makes equipment for the handicapped. Since the brothers insisted on involving all their communities in the production process (and also excluding outsiders), the educational toys were expensive, but their niche seemed safe. This illusion lasted until the late 1980s, when the brothers began to run into competitors, many of them from abroad, who used new manufacturing techniques to combine the quality of handicraft with the efficiency of mass production. They had also en-countered bottlenecks in their own production.
The brotherhood held a series of crisis meetings around the world. Some members argued that, since they had taken vows of poverty, it hardly mattered that
Addressing the major concerns about globalization, the authors defend the emergence of the new world economy, arguing that it will ultimately improve the human condition. Reprint. 25,000 first printing.
John Micklethwait oversees coverage of the United States for The Economist, where he was previously New York bureau chief and business editor. He has won a Wincott Award for financial journalism. He has appeared on NPR and the BBC and written for the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times.
Adrian Wooldridge is a Washington correspondent for The Economist and was its West Coast bureau chief, based in Los Angeles. He is the author of Measuring the Mind: Education and Psychology in England, 1860-1990. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, and The Times of London, and has appeared on NPR and the BBC.
The authors can be reached online via www.afutureperfect.com; www.johnmicklethwait.com; and www.adrianwooldridge.com.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
Pt. 1. The Remarking of a Borderless World. 1. The Fall and Rise of Globalization — pt. 2. The Three Engines of Globalization. 2. Technology as Freedom. 3. The Dirty Dollar. 4. The Visible Hand. 5. Sex, Death, and the Welfare State — pt. 3. One World: The Business of Globalization. 6. The Five Myths of Globalization. 7. Managing in a Global Age — pt. 4. The Politics of Interdependence. 8. The Strange Survival of the Nation-State. 9. The Failure of Global Government. 10. The Closing of the Global Mind — pt. 5. Winners and Losers. 11. Silicon Valley and the Winner-Take-All Economy. 12. The Cosmocrats: An Anxious Elite. 13. Outside the Red Lacquered Gates: The Losers from Globalization — pt. 6. A Call to Arms. 14. The Enemies Gather: The Backlash Against Globalization. 15. Membership Has Its Responsibilities. 16. The Ant and the Silversword: Working and Investing in the Twenty-first Century — Conclusion: The Hidden Promise: Liberty Renewed.
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