An eye-opening account of the informal economy around the globe, Stealth of Nations traces the history and reach of unregulated markets, and explains the unwritten rules that govern them.
Journalist Robert Neuwirth joins globe-trotting Nigerians who sell Chinese cell phones and laid-off San Franciscans who use Twitter to market street food and learns that the people who work in informal economies are entrepreneurs who provide essential services and crucial employment. Dubbing this little-recognized business arena with a new name—”System D”—Neuwirth points out that it accounts for a growing amount of trade, and that, united in a single nation, it would be the world’s second-largest economy, trailing only the United States in financial might. Stealth of Nations offers an inside look at the thriving world of unfettered trade and finds far more than a chaotic emporium of dubious pirated goods.
About the Author
Robert Neuwirth spent two years infiltrating street markets and networks of low-level smugglers around the world to write Stealth of Nations. He lived in squatter communities for a similar amount of time to write his first book, Shadow Cities. These globe-trotting ventures were supported, in part, by the MacArthur Foundation and the Fund for Investigative Journalism. His work has been featured in many publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Financial Times Deutschland, Forbes, Fortune, Foreign Policy, Harper’s, Scientific American, and Wired. Neuwirth has taught in the college program at Rikers Island (New York City’s jail) and at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He is also in demand as a public speaker, and his TED talk on squatters has been viewed by close to a quarter of a million people.
Praise for Stealth of Nations:
"Stealth of Nations is the most exciting shopping trip I’ve ever been on. I thought I knew what ‘the economy’ is, but I had no idea until Neuwirth filled me in."
—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed
"A valuable book because it challenges conventional thinking about what it means for an economy to develop."
—The Wall Street Journal
"[Neuwirth’s] exciting tour de force explains the economic underworld that dominates the economic stratosphere far more than we realize. . . . An impressive new book that reveals a global, informal economy, stretching from Africa to China to the United States. . . . The author’s sources are vast and the remarkable depth of his research cannot be overstated."
"An intrepid journalist examines the real world of wealth creation at the very bottom of the pyramid, where it matters most."
—Stewart Brand, author of Whole Earth Discipline
"A provocative argument."
"We are just beginning to understand that today’s advanced global economy rises along with a proliferation of informal economies. Nobody can document this better than the world-traveling journalist Robert Neuwirth. This is a must-read book."
—Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University, and author of A Sociology of Globalization
"After reading this book you will realize that working in an office, a shop, or in a factory, earning a steady salary, paying taxes and having health insurance and a retirement account is an anomaly. Most of the world’s workers operate in the informal sector and in this fascinating book Robert Neuwirth reveals how ‘The Stealth Economy’ works and what does it take to survive in it."
—Moisés Naím, author of Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy
"What he [Neuwirth] does—compellingly, readably, engagingly, and frequently, brilliantly—is give the reader a picture of how the world’s economies actually work, and a convincing argument that we need to respect and understand these economic systems. It’s a good read and an important book."
—Ethan Zuckerman, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University
"A vibrant picture of a growing sphere of trade that already employs half the workers of the world."
"Neuwirth explores the global significance of the ‘informal economy’ [and] makes a striking case for both the influence of System D and the need to engage it as a partner in economic development."
"For the last three years, we all have looked at the economy with fear and trembling. . . . But we forgot to look at the people who survive in the shadows of the official world. One person, the American journalist Robert Neuwirth, has spent the last decade of his life studying just this realm. He lived for months in slums around the world, traveled to every continent, and learned about the complex underground business models that drive a huge part of the global economy."
—MONO Magazine, Greece
"Robert Neuwirth spent four years roaming street markets around the world and came back convinced of the benefits of the parallel economy."
"A very daring hypothesis."
—Die Zeit, Germany
"Neuwirth does an excellent job of recognizing and celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit."
—How We Made it in Africa, South Africa
"The so-called ‘informal economy’ is often viewed with suspicion by the agents of the state, as an underground and even criminal community. In reality, it is what Robert Neuwirth, in his book Stealth of Nations: the Global Rise of the Informal Economy, describes as a do-it-yourself economy based on self-reliance and innovation."
—Daily Maverick, South Africa