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The Lexus and the Olive Tree Hardcover – April 21, 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (April 21, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374192030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374192037
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (430 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,001,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

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

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.

More About the Author

Thomas L. Friedman has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize three times for his work with The New York Times, where he serves as the foreign affairs columnist. Read by everyone from small-business owners to President Obama, Hot, Flat, and Crowded was an international bestseller in hardcover. Friedman is also the author of From Beirut to Jerusalem (1989), The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999), Longitudes and Attitudes (2002), and The World is Flat (2005). He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

Overall a very insightful book and highly recommended for ease of reading.
Hooman Kazemi
Parts One and Two of this book are actually quite strong as Friedman remains mostly objective in describing the rise of globalization and where things stand today.
Some people may like his continuous optimism, but I couldn't help feeling that Friedman 'doth protest too much'.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

428 of 500 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on February 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
The writer of this book, Thomas Friedman, has impressive credentials as a globetrotting journalist and expert on international economics. I'm sure that on the job he is required to be objective and impartial. But that's not the case in this heavy-handed and very arrogant book on globalization. You may find this book informative and fun to read, but beware that you're not getting anything close to the full story on this phenomenon.
Friedman's writing style is mostly conversational and easy to read, though he tends to talk about his own friends and adventures way too much. Also, Friedman can't stop making up his own terminology, like Golden Straitjacket, Electronic Herd, Globalution, Glocalism, and the especially irritating DOScapital. The problem is, Friedman merely throws these terms at numerous and scattershot examples of phenomena that may possibly lend them meaning, but fails to adequately describe them himself.
Parts One and Two of this book are actually quite strong as Friedman remains mostly objective in describing the rise of globalization and where things stand today. He also includes a surprising amount of coverage on the negative effects on the environment and non-Western cultures (for the time being). Unfortunately, this book collapses into a firestorm of arrogance in Part 3, which is misleadingly titled "The Backlash Against the System." Here Friedman actually spends more time criticizing those who can't or won't jump on the sacred globalization bandwagon. He uses the derogatory term "turtles" for people who are being left behind by the new economic realities around the world, and doesn't care if it's not their fault. He demeans concern for disadvantaged peoples and countries as "politically correct nonsense" (pg. 355).
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Justin Mccarthy on March 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
I give it 2 stars because there is some useful information in the book.

Friedman is a New York Times columnist, and his book is somewhat of a darling in the business school I attend. It is rare not to hear some professor refer to his book as though it were the bible of globalization. His ideas and interpretations of the world make up a good part of the bedrock in my curriculum. Aside from some of the substance issues, something always irritates me about Friedman's style and I hadn't been able to pin it down exactly until I plowed through a few hundred pages of his book.

The most glaring problem is his inane way of explaining any phenomenon through personal anecdote. He couldn't tell you that Walmart earns plaudits in the business community for its revolutionary management of the supply chain, he has to tell you a story about lunch he had with a Walmart executive and what the waiters shoes looked like. But he won't stop there; he will go on to recount a couple of shopping stories to make a pretty simple point. It is probably meant to be compelling and accessible, but it comes off as insulting and egotistical.

The second problem he has is with metaphor. His metaphors are always a hodge-podge of cliché. A good metaphor is a lens through which we can more clearly understand the world. It should filter out complexity and confusion that prevent us from fully understanding something. The problem is you have to be careful not to filter out so much complexity and confusion that the model no longer meaningfully relates to the world. Friedman applies half baked metaphors to everything, and often when they are unnecessary. Or to put it another way, many things he describes are not so complex or noisy that you can't understand it without a metaphor model.
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64 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Bill Godfrey on December 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
A very wide ranging book written by an experienced journalist about the dilemmas created as globalisation transforms the world around our local communities and cultures. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting as bureau chief in Beirut, and it is this background from which the analogy of the olive tree comes. He explains how his career has enabled him to slowly come to see the many different dimensions of globalisation, how they link, and what we can do about it. It is a very systemic perspective. (Thurow, Lester: Building Wealth is complementary to it. Korten, David: When Corporations Rule the World provides a 1995 counterblast. Any of the books and pamphlets by Robert Theobald and also Harman, W.: Global Mind Change provide creative ideas on how globalisation can be redirected to achieve societal ans well as economic ends.)
The book is in four parts.
Part one explains how to look at the system we call globalisation and how it works.
Part two is a discussion of how nation-states, communities, individuals and the environment interact with the system.
Part three is a good look at the backlash.
Part four is an even better look at the unique role of the USA in this new world.
To understand and convey the complexity of what is going on, Friedman believes that he had to learn to combine six dimensions or perspectives in different ways and weights to understand the systemic interrelationships at play and then tell stories in order to explain it. This is what he does in the book. He also identifies what he believes to be the key driving forces to globalisation and the conditions necessary for a society to succeed in a globalised world.
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