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The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization Paperback – May 2, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 490 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (May 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385499345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385499347
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (429 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #491,579 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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

A very well written book about globalization.
Ahmed Bahey Alashram
Through his analogys of the Lexus and the Olive Tree, Freidman describes the new global system and makes it interesting for his readers.
Thomas R Robertson
No doubt this book has come into the public consciousness because of Mr. Friedman's position, but not due to its merits.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

425 of 497 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 A Customer on October 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
There can be no doubt that The Lexus and The Olive Tree is a very interesting and, probably, important book. Globalization has become a household word, yet there are few, including me, who really understand all of its ramifications. Not since Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digtal has a book come along that helps us understand the real meaning of globilazation as well as does The Lexus and the Olive Tree.
Friedman see globilization as the defining theory of the post-Cold War world. The lexus, to Friedman, is the pinnacle of high-quality production, and high-quality production is what makes globilization possible. The olive tree is seen as the symbol of wealth in pre-modern, "slow" economies.
Friedman defines globilization as that cluster of trends and technologies (the Internet, fiber optics, digitalization, satellite communications) that have served to increase productivity and speed up international business since 1989, the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall. During this period, the cost of communications has declined with more and more people now accessing sources of finance and technology. In fact, anyone who has ever used the Internet for research or simply sent or received an email is a part of the "democratization" of globilization.
Virtually every page in the book contains information so important you might want to keep a pencil handy to underline. For example, Friedman tells us that, as far as globilization is concerned, the most frequently asked question is, "How fast is your modem?"
Friedman does wax a bit grandiose at times. He is certainly a name-dropper extraordinnaire. The man, however was foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times.
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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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