Nesi is a third-generation Italian businessman. Under his leadership, his family’s textile business went bankrupt. Today, he is a successful writer. Here, he chronicles the sad story of free trade’s impact on “his people” in the town of Prato, capturing the distinctive pain of a modern European left behind, a cultural stranger in his own land. The Chinese have demolished Italian firms like Nesi’s, a process Nesi blames on the neoliberal economists and trade negotiators who hailed unconditional globalization without understanding how global market competition actually works. In his view, the embrace of free trade spelled the end of a postwar Italian society of dynamic small enterprises that produced custom goods in a way that distributed wealth and skills fairly, rather than concentrating them in the hands of a few. It is painful to read about family-run artisanal businesses being supplanted by filthy sweatshops allied with criminal groups. Yet there is an unintentional irony here as well, since not only what Nesi dislikes but also nearly everything he loves is the fruit of globalization. His family business rested primarily on exports to Germany and sales to the global clients of famous Italian designers. The films and ideas that inspire his metaphors come from Hollywood and Harvard, not his own country.
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