Book Review of
Connectography: Mapping The Future of Global Civilization
Parag Khanna, Random House, NYC 2016
By Hazel Henderson © 2017
This book is bad news for President Trump’s chief advisor Steve Bannon and his colleagues at Breitbart Media. Author Parag Khanna’s meticulous mapping of our planet’s human-designed infrastructure cannot be deconstructed neither can its administrative apparatus of global agreements and deal making—short of a nuclear holocaust. Parag Khanna, PHD from the London School of Economics, Professor at the National University of Singapore has advised the New American Foundation, the Brookings Institution and the US National Intelligence Council, and worked in Iraq and Afghanistan for US Special Operations Forces.
In Connectography Khanna traces his own extensive travels around this planet, basing his thesis that humanity’s global connective infrastructure now requires a new approach and a field of study beyond traditional geopolitics and geo-economics. Khanna’s model takes us beyond nation states, their jealously-guarded sovereignty and borders—always competing for advantage and spheres of influence. This traditional view stems from the famous Treaty of Westphalia, which launched this nation state sovereignty system in 1648.
In his travels Khanna describes in compelling detail the new world of supply-chains, corporate strategies of Apple (AAPL), Aramco, Coca-Cola(KO), DHL, Google(GOOGL), Huawei, Maersk, Shell(SHOI:US), Xiaomi, China Mobile and many others from Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton to Brazil’s VALE and many digital innovators. He shows how these companies interact with cities, trade routes, internet and communications-based networks, all cooperating in a hyper-globalization beyond conventional analysis.
Khanna’s “Connectography” is stunningly buttressed by 18 fascinating cartograms mapping this new world, it’s cities, networks, populations, Special Economic Zones (SEZ’s), supply-chains, FDI flows, trade volumes, poverty, greenhouse gas emissions and economic geography. These illuminating maps also include Eurasia’s New Silk Roads, Europe’s changing patterns, Pax Arabia, Pax Asiana, Pax Africana, China’s Megacities, America’s Next Map: from NAFTA to a possible North American Union, a South American Union, and the New Arctic Geography. These maps are engrossing and include global data-flows, human migration, global hubs as demographic melting pots, as well as maps of fragile ecosystems and a 4 degree Celsius temperature rise and its effects.
I found “Connectography” invaluable and compelling reading. It reminded me of Jane Jacobs granular descriptions in her “The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ (1961) and “The Economy of Cities”, (1969). This book will dispel any ideas of closing borders, building walls to exclude immigrants or pursuing old goals of military superiority and spheres of geopolitical influence. Khanna sees nations’ declining influence giving way to leadership by cities, such as the C40 founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg—now with many more sharing solutions for energy efficiency and renewable resource-use. States and regions are cooperating with cities across old borders, just as corporations do with their supply chains and trading patterns.
The Trump trillion dollar US infrastructure plan needs to be illuminated and re-contexted within this kind of deep understanding of globalization—–along with a re-think of his “America First” vision and Bannon’s fanciful “economic nationalism” as well as Breitbart’s nostalgia for a, “white Christian nation”. I outlined a new version in “Greening Trump’s Infrastructure Plan”. This book should be required reading for anyone in the White House who may actually read books, as well as by asset managers looking for new models.