The Square and the Tower

The importance of networking since time immemorial is the central theme of Niall Ferguson's latest work.

The great British historian asks whether networks are loosely constructed corporations.

For example, why do traders with common themes need to meet unless the aim is profit?

Collective networking as Adam Smith observed is only necessary for ‘conspiracy against the public'. Others use networking for different reasons – politics in all its manifestations, Stalin a notable example with his invisible steel threads of intimidation and murder for control.

Totalitarianism in Hitler's Germany was another egregious example of control by networking. Sometimes evil empires network to spectacular results.

In the summer of 1943, when Sicily fell to the Allies, Mafia kingpin Lucky Luciano mediated to restore the island to its traditional power base – a deal he had worked with the US government, a sound case for plea bargaining since he was serving time.

In this case, and here democracy operates at its tactile convenience, the Mafia operated within its own network and code of honour, from the criminal perspective.

Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State in the Nixon/Ford administrations, was his country's networker supremo.

This refugee from Nazi Germany, a Harvard professor, defied the common rule that professors study everything but should never be put in charge.

Through his networking, Kissinger became a famous figure towards the end of the Cold War, but who became embroiled in the fag ends of Vietnam.

To those fascinated in contemporary history and how the world really operates Niall Ferguson has produced another absorbing study.

The Square and the Tower. By Niall Ferguson - Hbk £25.00

-Phil Campbell (Guest Reviewer)

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