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How it all began

A delightful work sets out to remind the world that globalisation is older than the WTO.

By Balaji Chandramouli | Print Edition: August 12, 2007

Bound Together
Nayan Chanda
Penguin Viking
Pp: 391
Price: Rs 525

The absence of a single sharp definition is perhaps what makes globalisation a challenging topic to grapple with. From the trivial happenings around you to momentous geo-political events, 'globalisation' finds mention in almost every conversation. The task becomes only tougher when you look in the rear view mirror. And, this is what Nayan Chanda, a journalist-turned-scholar, has attempted in his book Bound Together.

Bound Together
Bound Together

Tracking the four key forces that connected the world from the dawn of civilisation-traders, preachers, warriors and adventurers-Chanda trawls through the annals of history. His unflinching quest to stitch together events that otherwise appear unrelated is nonpareil. Tracing coffee's global journey with the Ottoman conquest of Yemen, Chanda takes the readers to its pre-eminence in European coffee houses.

It is this effort that provides a refreshing perspective to globalisation; freeing it from the time warp it currently suffers from-1970s to present. Plumbing the depths of time, Chanda goes for the kernel. The author pieces together the first imprints of human proliferation across the globe. That the epicentre of this globalisation drive was Africa and not West Asia, where several early civilisations flourished, appears to be discordant. It is, however, reaffirmed by modern scientific research that the author, liberally, takes recourse to-marrying genetic science and archaeology.

History through the author's prism offers a constant reminder that the basic forces of globalisation have not changed, only the context has. Chanda often vaults back and forth in time to bring home this point, be it cost reduction, labour management, or business development. The variety and scope of examples in this regard add to the richness of the book. For example, Chanda argues that Hong Kong was born in one of the first wars of globalisation, with the confluence of British traders, Indian opium and Chinese tea. In a sense, Chanda's six years of research is seminal in nature. It lays the foundation for economic historians to revisit trade and commerce with a new lens-that of globalisation.

As Chanda approaches time zones that have been viewed well through the lens of globalisation, as we know it, his approach is refreshing. In their offerings, economists like Jagdish Bhagwati and Joseph Stiglitz have laboured on the nuts and bolts of globalisation, the intricacies of the trade deals that countries have struck over the last few decades. Chanda has chosen a wide lens to approach the same issue. Drawing on his skills as a reporter who covered the Vietnam war, the author details the changing fate of labour over the last few decades. Chanda ends on a note of concern: that we need to nudge towards a more harmonious course.

Ignited

By Vince Thompson
Pearson Power
Pp: 293
Price: Rs 499

It's a story that most managers stuck in the middle level of an organisation would be familiar with: The bosses want you to deliver more every quarter, while the executives below don't want to push themselves more than before. The person taking the brunt is, of course, the middle manager. Vince Thompson, a principal at consulting firm Middleshift Consulting, thinks the time is opportune to turn this adversity into an opportunity.



"A new, genuinely empowered generation of managers can steer their companies off the paths that have led so many into scandals, unnecessary layoffs, catastrophic misreadings of the market, and other disasters," he writes. Thompson's solution is three-fold: Get more power, get more purpose, and get more success. The first offers some basic tools for improving the thinking and behaviour of managers; the second tells you about seven 'ignition points' that can help managers create unique value; and the third, is about "making a life even as you are making a living". Thompson writes for an American audience, but his advice is as relevant to managers in India. The good part about Ignited is that it doesn't demonise bosses. Instead, it tells middle managers how they can work within their constraints to make their work and workplace more meaningful. Just the sort of attitude every middle manager needs to thrive in the modern day corporation.

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