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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Bookshop – Globalisation Books

 

Everything bad is good for you, Steven Johnson Penguin 2006
Someone called Mark Thompson who runs the BBC called this a must-read. Impressive. So I read it. This is a very coherent argument that far from dumbing down that popular culture and the media that mediates it is getting smarter. No wonder the DG got on board so sharpish. Music to Aunties ears. The increasing complexity of the narrative structures of TV, the willingness of audiences to follow complicated stories and to construct meaning where few clues are given. This is a classic defence of how the media is getting smarter and so are we. Detractors will still claim that there's too much filth and that morality has been thrown to the winds. Johnson's answer is that the media isn't intended to be a mirror but a place where societies value can be explored and played with. We don't ban cowboy films for being 2 dimensional and unreal, why should we ban reality shows which push real people into unreal situations for endless public debate. Its a persuasive argument. What I liked about it is that unlike the sophistry of a Malcolm Gladwell or a Blink, Johnson keeps focussed and his punches keep landing. Too early to call it a classic but you really ought to read it so you have something to say when your mum asks you why you watch that awful rubbish on Big Brother. Or East Enders. Or Weakest Link. Answer Because its the future mum!
 
 
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Change the world for a fiver, Eugenie Harvey Short Books 2004
I have rather cheekily put this in the Globalisation section but this puts it alongside Anita Roddick's work and arguably this is about global rather than organisational change. There's a whole community of collaborators behind it including some rather familiar names from Adland including Ken Hoggins, Chris O'Shea, Steve Hanry and Paul Twivy. Our very own Russell Davies gets a mention too. It has a very simple structure 50 ideas (one a week?) which won't cost a bundle but will make a big difference. And it sells for a fiver (of course) which seemed clever at the time but as Eugenie told me when I met her - became a bit of a limitation when the book took off and the retailers all wanted their full 50% margin thankyou very much. It has been just launched in Australia .... by the Prime Minister who first got recommended it by his good friend Gordon Brown. So go on buy yourself 5 copies, and give em away this Christmas - this project has gone viral and is gonna run and run. They're just putting Mark 2 on the skids. Its called the We are what we do project. Because we are.
 
 
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Globalinc, Medard Gabel Henry Bruner 2003 The new press
Great idea this book - shame that inevitably it has dated so quickly. This is an atlas of multinationals. Unfortunately most of the data comes from around 2000/2001. I'm sure you've heard that more than half of the largest economic entities in the world aren't countries they're corporations. But when this data was collected no less than 75 of the top entities were corporations. Shock horror. But then the stock market crashed - GDPs stayed the same and all of these overvalue multinational stocks lost nearly half their value. It serves to show the dangers of trying to equate cap value and GDP. There's a breakdown by market type of some of the biggest categories with a profile of some of the leaders - who aren't leaders anymore by the way. Saatchis is there WPP is not. That's how fast it can change. And although the graphs are very colourful you do wonder what is served by showing where the head and regional offices are - what's their point? They are after all global organisations. But it's an accessible way to browse through and thinkabout the implications of globalisation.
 
 
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The corporation, Joel Bakan 2004 Constable
This is an all out attack on the corporation. Amd they've managed to find a quotation on the cover from the Economist which concedes that they've got a point. Well it's at best one and a half points but it does get rather repetitive by the end. There are 2 accusations - one that the corporation (or limited company they treated as the same - is a tool for maximising profit - that's all it does and is designed to do. And the second is that the corporation is in effect a psychopath which will act in self interest to the exclusion of all else. Let me take the first. I know I'm going to sound like the National Rifle Association - guns don't kill but people do. But surely a company is there to do whatever you want it to do. Cars weigh a quarter of a ton and kill people but that isn't their purpose. There's nothing intrinsic to running a company which says you have to grab as much money as you can. Which leads to the more substantive accusation - that corporations are pathologically self interested and that one that isn't is betraying it's owners. They'll also trying to dump the costs of processing on other people, subvert law and order etc etc. Fair point but isn't this what dictators and nation states will also do if they can get away with it? Surely we have a regulatory order of checks and balances to keep one another in order because left to ourselves we will indeed act in our own self interest. I used to get very annoyed when I had to write letter to the local council to object to planning applications because if they had to ask me then local government must be failing until I realised that my writing the letter was how local government worked. And the national executive and the legislature are there to be able to call corporations to account. If they don't then the citizens need to protest. The US can get away with ignoring global warming for a while but the pressure through all channels is mounting - you can't make a nation state co-operate but you can influence. I just wasn't convinced that the pathological argument was unique to corporations. If you have a bunch of pyschopaths you control them with legislation. You lock up the dangerous ones and you confront the pathological ones if you think they will change their behaviour when confronted with it.
 
 
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Take it personally, Anita Roddick 2001 Thorsons
This is a very useful and accesible introduction to a whole raft of issues around the antiglobalisation movement. What I liked about it was that it was well edited. None of the articles is more than a few hundred words in length and considerable effort has been made to keeping the whole thing very readable. So very easy to dip in and out which considering the complexity of the issues is impressive. There 's still a fair amount of rhetoric - which I struggle with. Demonising the opposition doesn't help very much - Monsanto treating honeybees as pollen thieves is a good headline but I'm certain that's not how Monsanto would put it - you have to make your case in terms that would be recognisable by the people you are opposing - parallel universes aren't helpful - the worlds have to collide and make sense to one another.
 
 
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See also corporate culture


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