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Mon 22 Oct 2007 04:51 PM

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Connected: 24 hours in the global economy

According to the blurb, Connected is "a breathtaking journey through more than a dozen cities, gathering points of view [on globalisation] from moguls, ministers, migrant workers and central-bank governors, as well as men and women on the street."

According to the blurb, Connected is "a breathtaking journey through more than a dozen cities, gathering points of view [on globalisation] from moguls, ministers, migrant workers and central-bank governors, as well as men and women on the street." The author intends to create a snapshot of the interconnected and interdependent modern world in order to get a better impression of how it all fits together. Likening the global economy to what is essentially a giant watch, Altman carries the metaphor on to demonstrate his aim of freezing this mechanism in order to see how a cross-section of the cogs of varying sizes fit together to make the whole run smoothly.

As book concepts go, this is a unique one. Plenty of academics have commented on the effect that globalisation has been wreaking on the worldwide population and the diversity of these effects on different societal sectors. Yet few have seen fit to interview the real people, about whom they theorise, preferring instead to rely on indices and economic indicators. Connected uses each chapter to illustrate an economic theme, incorporating ideas and opinions from a diverse range of people in a number of different countries. In doing so, the author broaches appealing questions regarding (amongst others) the speed of development and whether it is a good thing, the place of corruption in economies and whether crises are valuable in helping sustain competitiveness.

Given this brief, the resulting book is arguably a little simplistic but that is what makes it a compelling read. Though it is unlikely to set the scholarly community on fire, it makes bite-sized and informative reading for those with a more casual interest. It indecisively fails to fall on the ‘for' or ‘against' side of the globalisation argument but is refreshing for precisely that reason. Instead of being a soberly intellectual book (not that there is no place for such tomes), the author concentrates on the inextricably linked disposition of the present-day economy, celebrating the fact that we must understand and embrace this in order to reap rewards from the machine.

What makes it truly accessible is the decision to take fourteen individual news headlines (extending back to 2005) and disembowel them to reveal both the micro and macro-economic workings of the market to the uninitiated. Accusations of superficiality have been levelled at this format, but the stories help both to illustrate the theory and to steer the content away from the traditionally more stilted and weighty direction that economics books can take.

In this sense, the publisher's assertion that the book is an "absorbing, accessible, and essential road map for every citizen of the global economy in the twenty-first century" is true. Choose it if you are after an informative book that isn't going to tie your intellect up in overly complicated academic knots. Don't choose it if you're an conomist looking for an incisive or groundbreaking assessment of the globalisation phenomenon.

Daniel AltmanFarrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

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