“The Uses of Adversity”

One of the reasons that the Parsi in India, the East Asians in Africa, the Chinese in Southeast Asia, and the Lebanese in the Caribbean, among others, have been so successful, sociologists argue, is that they are decoupled from the communities in which they operate. If you are a Malaysian in Malaysia, or a Kenyan in Kenya, or an African-American in Watts, and you want to run a grocery store, you start with a handicap: you have friends and relatives who want jobs, or discounts. You can’t deny credit or collect a debt from your neighbor, because he’s your neighbor, and your social and business lives are tied up together.

The Uses of Adversity: Can underprivileged outsiders have an advantage?” By Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker, November 10, 2008

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