- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Anchor; First Anchor edition (May 2 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385499345
- ISBN-13: 978-0385499347
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.4 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 386 g
- Average Customer Review: 326 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #834,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization Paperback – May 2 2000
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One day in 1992, Thomas Friedman toured a Lexus factory in Japan and marveled at the robots that put the luxury cars together. That evening, as he ate sushi on a Japanese bullet train, he read a story about yet another Middle East squabble between Palestinians and Israelis. And it hit him: Half the world was lusting after those Lexuses, or at least the brilliant technology that made them possible, and the other half was fighting over who owned which olive tree.
Friedman, the well-traveled New York Times foreign-affairs columnist, peppers The Lexus and the Olive Tree with stories that illustrate his central theme: that globalization--the Lexus--is the central organizing principle of the post-cold war world, even though many individuals and nations resist by holding onto what has traditionally mattered to them--the olive tree.
Problem is, few of us understand what exactly globalization means. As Friedman sees it, the concept, at first glance, is all about American hegemony, about Disneyfication of all corners of the earth. But the reality, thank goodness, is far more complex than that, involving international relations, global markets, and the rise of the power of individuals (Bill Gates, Osama Bin Laden) relative to the power of nations.
No one knows how all this will shake out, but The Lexus and the Olive Tree is as good an overview of this sometimes brave, sometimes fearful new world as you'll find. --Lou Schuler --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
A brilliant guidebook to the new world of ``globalization'' by Pulitzer-winning New York Times columnist Friedman (From Beirut to Jerusalem, 1988). Like El Nio, globalization is blamed for anything and everything, but few understand just what it really is. In simplest terms, Friedman defines globalization as the world integration of finance markets, nation states, and technologies within a free- market capitalism on a scale never before experienced. Driving it all is what he calls the Electronic Herd, the faceless buyers and sellers of stocks, bonds, and currencies, and multinational corporations investing wherever and whenever the best opportunity presents itself. It is a pitiless systemrichly rewarding winners, harshly punishing losersbut contradictory as well. For nations and individuals willing to take the risk, globalization offers untold opportunity, yet in the process, as the Electronic Herd scavenges the world like locusts in the search for profit, globalization threatens to destroy both cultural heterogeneity and environmental diversity. The human drive for enrichment (the Lexus) confronts the human need for identity and community (the olive tree). The success of globalization, Friedman contends, depends on how well these goals can be satisfied at one and the same time. He believes they can be, but dangers abound. If nation states sacrifice too much of their identity to the dictates of the Electronic Herd, a backlash, a nihilistic rejection of globalization, can occur. If nation states ignore these dictates, they face impoverishment; there simply is no other game in town. Friedmans discussion is wonderfully accessible, clarifying the complex with enlightening stories that simplify but are never simplistic. There are flaws, to be sure. He is perhaps overly optimistic on the ability of the market forces of globalization to correct their own excesses, such as environmental degradation. Overall, though, he avoids the Panglossian overtones that mar so much of the literature on globalization. Artful and opinionated, complex and cantankerous; simply the best book yet written on globalization. (First printing 100,000) (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
Journalist Thomas L. Friedman's "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" uses a host of metaphors to housebreak international business, finance, culture, technology and the environment for his readers. Flows of capital are controlled by an "Electronic Herd" of investors who flow into lucrative markets (and slosh out just as quickly if they sense trouble, as several southeast Asian countries found to their chagrin in the 1990s). Friedman opines that a country has to have an advanced "operating system" (a predilection to capitalism) to increase its standard of living. The USA and Britian are at the top, followed closely by France and Germany. Korea is just below. These societies can put on the "Golden Straitjacket" of capitalist restraint and watch their economies zoom. But not, say, Russia. They've spend too long under a system by which the success of a bedframe factory is not profit, consumer satisfaction, quality or good shipped but amount of steel consumed, the most absurd, downside-up measure of success possible.
But any society--even one as free-market oriented as the USA's--can't leave tradition behind in the dust. Hence the tension between the "Lexus" (high-tech innovation) and the "olive tree" (tradition, pride, tribalism). Note well the current opposition to the WTO.
Our go-go technological climate even finds living application in this very book. In between the hardcover issue of "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" (1999) and the new paperback (spring 2000), computer maker Compaq lost its innovative edge to upstart Dell--Friedman explains why in the paperback.
This is fun, lively reading. It gives wonk subject matter like business & finance a good name. The amount of research is astonishing, most of it collected on-site, and surely generated enough frequent-flier mileage to get the author a free trip to Mars when the time comes. Friedman is a bit of a true believer--he is SURE that the American way is the right way--but he offers good arguments for his opinions. Time spend on this book will be time well spent.
I think he has done a commendable job of looking at the disparity between the "have" countries and the "going-to-have" and the definitely "have-not's." He also voices the concern that many people who visit Third World nations have; what can be done for those that are left behind by the technological rush. It's a heavy problem--are we pressuring countries like Thailand to do in a year what we have done in a century? This is one of the questions Friedman poses.
The book is amusingly written; I found many really terrific passages that caught my eye immediately (the description of Cold War posturing as an international Sumo match was priceless.) Many of his observations match up with what I saw in India and Thailand, so I can corroborate at least some of what he says.
My only objection to The Lexus and the Olive Tree is the organization of the book. It is kind of a patchwork of the many (good) thoughts Friedman had. A better editing job might have resulted in better organization and flow of the book. I found it hard to read in that it did not move smoothly from idea to idea. This is why I give it three stars, although I think for anyone doing international business in any way, it is a valuable book to read, and not at all dry or boring.
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