CAREER: Consultant, speaker, and journalist. KTTV/Fox Television, Los Angeles, CA, business trends analyst, c. 1994; Planning Center, Costa Mesa, CA, senior advisor; Prime Ventures, Santa Monica, CA, director of content. Visiting lecturer, Southern California Institute of Architecture, Los Angeles. Author of monthly column "Grass Roots Business," Sunday New York Times; Inc. magazine, West Coast editor; Los Angeles Business Journal, columnist.
AWARDS, HONORS: Golden Mike Award for Best Business Reporting, 1994; Irvine fellow, New America Foundation; senior fellow, Davenport Institute for Public Policy, Pepperdine University; research fellow, Reason Public Policy Institute; senior fellow, Milken Institute.
(With Paul Grabowicz) California, Inc., Rawson, Wade (New York, NY), 1982.
The Valley (novel), Bantam (New York, NY), 1983.
(With Yoriko Kishimoto) The Third Century: America's Resurgence in the Asian Era, Crown (New York, NY), 1988.
Tribes: How Race, Religion, and Identity Determine Success in the New Global Economy, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.
The New Geography: How the Digital Revolution Is Reshaping the American Landscape, Random House (New York, NY), 2000.
The City: A Global History, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2005.
Also author of Can Cities Be Saved?, Milken Institute. Contributor to Inc., Washington Post, New Republic, Weekly Standard, American Enterprise, and Wall Street Journal. Los Angeles Times opinion section, contributing editor.
Kotkin's works have been published in Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and German.
SIDELIGHTS: A journalist and consultant on global economy, Joel Kotkin is also the author of numerous books about the world economy, as well as a novel. His articles have been featured in such periodicals as Inc., American Enterprise, and Wall Street Journal, and he is the Irvine fellow of the New America Foundation.
Kotkin's first book, California, Inc., coauthored with Paul Grabowicz, deals with the interaction between California and the powers emerging on the Pacific Rim. After publishing his first novel, The Valley, for Bantam in 1983, Kotkin cowrote The Third Century: America's Resurgence in the Asian Era with Yoriko Kishimoto. The title discusses the idea that the American entrepreneurial system and American diversity ensure continued strength in the American economy as compared to the rest of the world. It also stresses what qualities enable American companies to successfully compete with Asian companies.
Tribes: How Race, Religion, and Identity Determine Success in the New Global Economy turns the focus to ethnic powers in the world economy. Studying five groups: British, Chinese, Indians, Japanese, and Jewish Diaspora, Kotkin argues that strong identity, passion for knowledge, and global networks give groups power. He also mentions the growing identity of the smaller diasporas of Armenians, Koreans, Mormons, and Palestinians. "Tribes gives a first look at a 21st century in which China and India, guided not by local politicians but by kinsmen from overseas, emerge as leading economic powers," explained Michael Barone in U.S. News & World Report. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that while Kotkin "often argues his thesis persuasively" the book is an "intriguing, sometimes frustrating, survey." In a review in Commentary, Peter L. Berger also noted his frustrations with Kotkin's theses, commenting: "Though his book has some value in drawing attention to a number of valid issues often ignored by professional analysts of the international economy, it falls far short of an adequate discussion of these issues."
Other critics found little fault with the title, and pointed out the insights Kotkin introduces. "Occasionally a book comes along that is so fresh, so brilliant and so convincingly argued that it changes one's way of looking at the world," wrote Martin Sieff in his review for Insight on the News, adding that Tribes "is that kind of book." Reviewing the title for Fortune, Louis S. Richman commented that "Kotkin's emphasis on family values, while not original, yields a keen insight: It is this strong family feeling extending to the whole community … that has played the greater role in Japan's economic success." According to Francis Fukuyama in the New Republic, Kotkin "makes the bold and suggestive assertion that global economic life in the twenty-first century will come to be dominated by 'global cosmopolitan tribes,' that religion and ethnicity will be the grounds for economic success."
In The New Geography: How the Digital Revolution Is Reshaping the American Landscape Kotkin argues that, in spite of a global economy, place remains an incredibly important factor for businesses. He puts forth the idea that businesses will locate where highly educated workers will want to live. He noted that the three most likely locations for businesses in the new geography are revamped city centers, "nerdistans" (communities of self-contained suburbs surrounding places of business), and "Valhallas" (small towns in scenic areas). A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that the book feels as though it is composed of articles Kotkin has contributed to various periodicals, noting that these articles are combined into a "calculatedly provocative thesis." As a reviewer for the Economist noted, "The strength of The New Geography is that it is rooted both in current observation and in historical context." Booklist contributor Mary Carroll noted that "readers who care about the urban landscape will want to check out his vision of the future." Rex Roberts, writing for Insight on the News, added that Kotkin "brings a sense of history to his analysis, comparing the emerging landscapes in the United States to their counterparts in ancient Greece and Rome, during the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution." A Business Week reporter concluded, "Overall, though, Kotkin's insights are on target—as are his warnings."
The City: A Global History features a general history of cities, from concept to creation, featuring specific examples from ancient Carthage to Amsterdam of the 1600s to modern New York. One of the concepts important to the text is that monoculturalism often leads to the downfall of cities. Considered "a thoughtful survey, of interest to students of urban affairs and of world history alike" by a Kirkus Reviews critic, The City is a "gentle rebuke to those who never saw the good side of a city." Frederick J. Augustyn, Jr., writing for Library Journal, wrote that "this lyrically written reflection is recommended for all libraries."
Kotkin's ideas for The New Geography and The City had formed even before he had finished his work on Tribes. In an interview in Leader to Leader Kotkin was asked how leaders can latch into the global mind-set. "Businesses that flee our cosmopolitan centers lose contact with the changing cultural environment and certainly are out of contact with the world environment," he explained. "They're no longer stimulated by the sort of spontaneity that is characteristic of a metropolitan environment, and I think it can be very stultifying."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Enterprise, March, 2001, Martin Morse Wooster, "Info Age Evolution," p. 54.
American Spectator, May, 1993, Christopher Caldwell, review of Tribes: How Race, Religion, and Identity Determine Success in the New Global Economy, pp. 62-64.
Booklist, November 15, 2000, Mary Carroll, review of The New Geography: How the Digital Revolution Is Reshaping the American Landscape, p. 591.
Business Week, December 4, 2000, "Why Cyberspace Is Great for City Space," p. 22E8.
Commentary, April, 1993, Peter L. Berger, review of Tribes, pp. 60-62.
Economist (U.S.), March 14, 1998, review of Can the Cities Be Saved? pp. S3-S4; November 11, 2000, "American Society and the Net: Place Matters," p. 106.
Foreign Affairs, September-October, 1994, Francis Fukuyama, review of Tribes, p. 143.
Fortune, March 8, 1993, Louis S. Richman, review of Tribes, pp. 136-137.
Insight on the News, May 24, 1993, Martin Sieff, review of Tribes, p. 24; February 18, 2001, Rex Roberts, "E-town, USA," p. 26.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2005, review of The City: A Global History, p. 167.
Leader to Leader, fall, 1996, "The Global Power of Tribes: An Interview with Joel Kotkin."
Library Journal, March 1, 2005, Frederick J. Augustyn, Jr., review of The City, p. 98.
National Review, July 5, 1993, Frederick Lynch, review of Tribes, p. 56.
New Republic, April 19, 1993, Francis Fukuyama, review of Tribes, p. 41.
Pacific Business News, March 16, 2001, Rob Kay and Jeff Bloom, "The New Digital Geography," p. 35.
Progressive, February, 1994, Adolph Reed, Jr., "The New Victorians," pp. 20-22.
Publishers Weekly, November 30, 1992, review of Tribes, p. 40; October 9, 2000, review of The New Geography, p. 79.
U.S. News & World Report, February 15, 1993, Michael Barone, review of Tribes, p. 55.
U.S. Newswire, November 15, 2000, "Hudson Institute Book Forum to Showcase Author Joel Kotkin's New Book," p. 100832.
Whole Earth, fall, 1998, Peter Warshall, review of Tribes, p. 13.