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64 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant overview of globalisation. Essential reading
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...
Published on December 7, 1999 by Bill Godfrey

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428 of 500 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Even Close to the Whole Story
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...
Published on February 23, 2002 by doomsdayer520


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428 of 500 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Even Close to the Whole Story, February 23, 2002
This review is from: The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (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).
Some portions of this book are getting outdated, which is not Friedman's fault, but the gaps are very revealing. Several times he cites Enron as a strong global company with the world's best interests at heart, and failed to predict the tech stock crash of 2000 and how it would drastically slow down the US-led growth of the world economy (see chapter 17). This shows that Friedman's predictions in this book are already starting to fall apart. Friedman also completely avoids the issue of corporate domination, as rulings by the pro-corporate WTO have allowed multinational companies to supersede the laws of sovereign nations (such as the blatant disregard for Nigeria's environmental laws by Western oil companies). Finally, Part Four of this book descends into anemic boosterism as Friedman tries to convince us that American culture and corporations will solve all the world's ills as peoples around the world happily embrace globalization. By this point, Friedman has left objectivity far behind. His clear contempt for those who are concerned about globalization's destructive effects, and his apparent belief that American corporations only wish to solve the world's ills, prove that he has not succeeded in telling the full story. Not even close.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Friedman's Horseblinders, March 1, 2006
This review is from: The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (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. He uses metaphors to marginalize uncomfortable contradictions and distort reality to better fit his world view.

A third problem is his lack of empirical support for broad statements to explain what is going on in the world. He often assumes correlations between phenomenons that are not clearly correlated. (I will try to give a few examples off the top of my head when I recount a class discussion.)

And a fourth problem is that he marginalizes or dismisses any critics of how globalization is taking shape as neo-luddites. One example occurs around page 180 (I don't have the book in front of me so I can't look it up exactly.) He offhandedly refers to the Zapatista rebellion in Mexico as a group of people who are against globalization. That is not quite right, they are pissed because the Mexican government revoked article 27 of the Mexican constitution, which guaranteed the right of land to peasants, in order to approve NAFTA. That is what they are fighting against and Friedman just offhandedly dismisses their grievance, but he does this all the time. Anyone who questions his golden straight jacket doesn't want to get on the train of human progress. (His metaphors, not mine.)

His model of development, what he calls the golden straight jacket, has been roundly criticized by people of far weightier intellectual merit than he. I don't mean leftists like Noam Chomsky; I am talking about Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winning economist and former head of the World Bank. Or John Gray, a former economic advisor to Margaret Thatcher. In brief, the golden straight jacket means that governments deregulate their economy, open up their firms to foreign investors and ownership, and break down social safety nets. (Something Friedman couldn't explain without approximately 800 pages and 43 personal anecdotes.)

Stiglitz has a lot to say about these policies, and it isn't positive. And they are policies, not some force of nature blowing through the world. Anyway, to the main point: Stiglitz argues that when you look at developing countries, successful countries are ones that have rebelled against this model. This is true here too; the U.S. developed its economy with protectionism and subsidization. I will leave it mostly to Stiglitz and others that make the case by examining specific cases, but look at what happened in Argentina 2001 or the Cochabamba region of Bolivia to see what I am talking about. (Friedman would refer to Bolivian peasants that didn't want to spend half their pay checks on deregulated, skyrocketing water bills as people who are trying to stop the train of progress.)

The thing that was striking to me is the false associations from the class discussion and their shared world view. People assumed that democracy and free market theory are highly related. John Gray has commented on this, explaining that this is a product of New Right propaganda in the 1980s. There is no evidence to suggest that the two are in any way dependant on each other, and in fact are widely considered antagonists. Unfettered capitalism leads to vast inequality and the break down of civil society, no less a figure on the right than Alan Greenspan has repeatedly warned that the current wealth disparity in the U.S. threatens our system of democracy.

Another popular misconception, and this came directly from Friedman, is that wealth in the U.S. is diffusing or becoming more democratic. There are more people in the stock market today than ever before. This is counterfactual; the Federal Reserve just released a study (January 2006) that documents a net decrease in wages over the last 4 years. This continues a thirty year trend of stagnating wages for the working class with brief interruptions in the 1990s. But that is only a measure of income, when you look at wealth it is even worse. The U.S. scores terribly compared to other first world nations on a ratio economists use to measure wealth inequality called the Gini coefficient. The score is now at the level it was just before the Great Depression, as is the percentage of personal debt. (Wealth is a measure of assets, such as stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.)

It is not clear or a foregone conclusion that the current economic model is the ultimate method of development. There are some very ugly aspects of this system and indications that it is unsustainable. (I have elaborated on this topic before.) This is not surprising, nor should it be. The economy is a human institution and all human institutions evolve over time. There is every reason to believe things will change in the future, as they always have. Criticizing or working to change the current institutions is not an attempt to stop human progress, as Friedman insultingly suggests, it is precisely the opposite.

One last comment on the golden straightjacket, the thing about a straightjacket that escapes Friedman's attention is that when you stumble you can't put your arms out to balance yourself. And when you fall because of this, you can't put your hands out to break your fall so you end up on your face. That is a pretty accurate description of what has happened in many countries that followed the Washington Consensus in recent years.

In the Friedman tradition I will close with an anecdote about how I procured his book. I didn't buy it. One day after registering for classes and finding out I needed it for class; I was running and serendipitously found the book on the curb near a small apartment complex down the street. Someone was throwing the book out along with a pair of tattered cutoff denim shorts and some old issues of Newsweek. Something about that seems strangely appropriate to me now, and when I am done with this class I will likely pass the book along to the next reader via the street curb.
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64 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant overview of globalisation. Essential reading, December 7, 1999
By 
Bill Godfrey (Mt Stuart, TAS Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
As an analysis of the multiple forces at play and their interaction, The Lexus and the Olive Tree could hardly be bettered, and the comment that we know about as much about the globalised world that is emerging as we did about the Cold War world in 1946 really resonates.
I am less satisfied with Friedman's prescription, which is essentially that rape is inevitable - and may be pleasurable - so we may as well relax and enjoy it. That both under-rates the very real dangers posed by a large group of potential losers and, more important, absolves us from the need to search creatively for a third way that places more emphasis on the human spirit and sustainability and less on money as such.
It is notable how much of the business literature is beginning to focus on ethics, spiritual values and moral and ethical obligations. It is also notable how rapidly the various movements to reshape the world around more fundamentally human values are building strength. The balance is not just, as Friedman seems to suggest, between globalised progress and separatist stagnation, but other options need creative development, based on wider values than those that motivate the 'electronic herd'.
The conspiracy theorists claim that global business is consciously trying to promote the 'inevitability' of a system that happens to suit them very well. They would probably claim that Friedman has fallen into their trap. Whatever the truth or otherwise of a 'conspiracy', I am left with Russell Ackoff's phrase ringing in my head - 'If we don't work to get the future we want, we will have to learn to live with the future we get.'
Recognising the strength of the forces that Friedman describes so well, that is perhaps the issue. Are we clear about what kind of world we want and are we prepared to work for it?
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and comprehensible, March 21, 2000
By 
Todd J. Abrajano (St. Louis, Missouri) - See all my reviews
When dealing with a subject as broad as globalization, operational definitions can rarely communicate its scope. In May of 1997, The International Monetary Fund attempted to define globalization in World Economic Outlook as, "the growing economic interdependence of countries worldwide through the increasing volume and variety of cross-border transactions in goods and services and of international capital flows, and also through the more rapid and widespread diffusion of technology." Although this definition is operationally sufficient, it does not remotely begin to convey the primacy that the subject matter deserves in economic, political, environmental and social circles today. Fortunately for those of us that are not globalization experts, Thomas L. Friedman has penned what, quite possibly, might be the best book that has been published on the topic to date.
In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Friedman uses may analogies and illustrations from his travels as the foreign affairs correspondent for The New York Times to fashion a layman's understanding of the globalization process. Friedman initially notes that: "Globalization is not a phenomenon. It is not just some passing trend. Today it is the overarching international system shaping the domestic politics and foreign relations of virtually every country, and we need to understand it as such" (p. 7). The author argues that as a result of the end of the cold war, the world order has turned to globalization due to "the democratization of technology" (p. 41), "the democratization of finance" (p. 47), and "the democratization of information" (p. 54). Friedman goes on to point out that: "When it comes to the question of which system today is the most effective at generating rising standards of living, the historical debate is over. The answer is free-market capitalism... When your country recognizes this fact, when it recognizes the rules of the free market in today's global economy, and deciddes to abide by them, it puts on what I call 'the Golden Straitjacket' "(p. 86). It is the use of these clever analogies that makes the book so easy for Everyman to comprehend. By turning complex ideas into unforgettable memory aids, Friedman effectively makes the economic and political theories he examines intelligible.
Although Friedman spends the bulk of his 378 pages of main text purporting the benefits and advantages of globalization, he does a splendid job of reporting the downside of the process. Friedman cites: "There is no question that in the globalization system, where power is now more evenly shared between states and Supermarkets [Wall Street, Chicago Board of Trade, major foreign stockmarkets, etc.], a certain degree of decisionmaking is moved out of each country's political sphere, where no one person, country or institution can exert exclusive political control... Clearly, one of the biggest challenges for political theory in this globalization era is how to give citizens a sense that they can exercise their will, not only over their own governments but over at least some of the global forces shaping their lives" (pgs. 161-162). In addition, Friedman tackles the dissident arguments of "homogenization" of cultures (p. 238), that "income gaps between the haves and have-nots within industrialized countries widened noticeably" (p.248), and "instead of popular mass opposition to globalization, [what has been occurring] is wave after wave after wave of crime" (p. 273). Ultimately, however, the author concludes that: "Because we tend to think of globalization as something that countries connect to outside themselves, or something imposed from above and beyond, we tend to forget how much, at its heart, it is also a grassroots movement that emerges from within each of us. This is why we always have to keep in mind that... there is a groundswell of people demanding the benefits of globalization" (p. 286).
In my opinion, the most relevant truism in Friedman's work comes in the introduction. While explaining his feelings on the subject of globalization, the author states, "I didn't start globalization, I can't stop it... and I'm not going to waste time trying. All I want to think about is how I can get the best out of this new system, and cushion the worst, for the most people" (p. xviii). After reading this definitive work on the subject, one would have to conclude that Friedman succeeds in his goal.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good general picture of globalization with flaws, January 13, 2002
By 
Bruce H (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (Paperback)
Thomas Friedman has been a foreign correspondent with the New York Times for years, and as such has seen much of the world. Indeed, every single chapter has several stories from villagers in China, US government officials, to Silicon Valley executives.
Friedman's strength is composing analogies to make globalization comprehensible. He describes the collective activities of investors, large and small, using the Internet to move money around the planet quickly and sometimes irresponsibly as the "Electronic Herd." He describes the American-style free-market capitalism that best takes advantage of globalization as the "Golden Straitjacket." He describes economies using a personal computer analogy; the basic economic system (e.g. capitalist, communist, authoritarian etc) is the "hardware" and the legal system, free press, social attitudes etc compromise the "operating system" and "software" of an economy. If a country just has an open economy with no political stability, no stock market regulation etc, it is like a computer without a surge protector when lightning strikes; the result is a meltdown.
As far as Friedman's evaluation of globalization, I would describe his view as cautiously optimistic. Friedman himself states, "Generally speaking, I think it's a good thing that the sun comes up every morning. It does more good than harm, especially if you wear sunscreen and sunglasses. But even if I didn't care for the dawn there isn't much I could do to stop it. I didn't start globalization, I can't stop it - except at a huge cost to human development - and I'm not going to waste time trying." (xxi-xxii)
In terms of documenting his position, the single largest problem with the book is the near total reliance on anecdotes and interviews. There is no bibliography and no footnotes in the book (well, there are some internal footnotes), merely a one and a half page list of acknowledgements for all the people he interviewed. While these definitely make the book interesting to read and personal, one always can and should ask, "Are these people representative of what's happening?" I think this sort of material should be used for purposes of highlighting points or illustration rather than the main content of a book. To be fair, Friedman does include statistics and other such information from a variety of sources (but his documentation is spotty; sometimes he will just say "The Economist says")
Friedman's main thesis is that globalization is the _system_ of international relations that has replaced the Cold War system of nuclear weapons, East vs. West and the rest of it. While there is certainly strong points to support him in this (e.g. the Soviets are gone) and the greatly increased importance of international trade and the ability of markets to move capital around the world quickly, an ability made possible by new technologies (especially the Internet), I think he has probably overstated his case.
To explain the title of the book, the Lexus represents all the forces of globalization; the Internet, investors, the Golden Straitjacket and so on. The Olive Tree represents the home, national identity and all the things provide a person's meaning and value in life. There needs to be a balance between these two forces. Silicon Valley executives that demand all Lexus and no Olive Tree are going to produce people with no sense of identity or self and people that only have the Olive Tree are either going to become poor or remain cut off from the major sources of growth in the world today.
The economic aspect of the globalization is the primary focus of the book, so there is only limited content dedicated to the effects (positive and negative) on the environment and culture. Friedman is also _very_ critical of those who would criticize globalization; his main criticism can be summed up with this quote: "Like other ideological backlashers against globalization, Zjuganov had more attitude than workable programs, more ideas about how to distribute income than about how to generate it." (page 328)
Critics of globalization ought to take note; simply saying, "This is all wrong!" is just not enough anymore. Real, workable alternatives have to be provided. I think one good example of this is the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which actually provides alternative Government budgets.
Friedman concludes the book with a long discussion (Part Four: America and the System) of how America is the country best suited to take responsibility for managing globalization AND how America is the country that is ideally situated to benefit from it. He thinks that there has to some safeguards on the system to prevent it from harming too many people. It is interesting to note that Friedman added about 100 pages in this second version of the book, which is only about a year old. He needs to change it to take account of September 11, the collapse of Argentina and the bankruptcy of Enron, among other things.
I have not decided what I think about globalization just yet though; this is a good starting place to begin though. The next book I read on the topic will be, "The Globalization Reader," edited by Frank Lechner and John Boli (ISBN: 0631214771); it covers all aspects of globalization from a variety of perspectives; critics, optimists, and those who are in between.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Layperson's Guide to the World, June 12, 2000
By 
S. Roggendorf (Bettendorf, IA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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Friedman does an excellent job in bringing the experience and history of globalization to the general public; although Friedman is emphatic in his explanation that globalization is not a phenomemon or a trend. He provides excellent examples of what is occuring in the world in relation to politics and economics. He fully explains the title of the book and how it applies to globalization and the US pace that is set and how it is pertinent to our way of life at this moment. It was an experience to read his book and in doing so, opened my eyes to the placement of the US in the world scheme. I am not an individual that is usually intrigued by politics or economics on the world scale, but Friedman provides the links between events and outcomes of the past several years, that helped me to grasp where the US has been and where we are currently going. This book has been passed around to all my colleagues and business associates. I recommend this edition for those that have read the first edition of Friedman's and encourage those that may be hesitant to involve one's self into this topic, to just read the first chapter before coming to a decision.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "No one is in charge!", April 23, 2001
This review is from: The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (Paperback)
Those fearing this book is a treatise in economics, take heart. Lexus isn't about numbers or the arcane world of international banking - it's about attitude. If your attitude is open to global thinking, untrammelled by tradition or restrictive cultural ideas, you will surely succeed in improving your lifestyle. If you hold too tightly to traditional ideals, you will just as surely fail. Either way, you'd best buy, read, and understand this book. Friedman's analysis conveys the thinking of too many people. You cannot afford to ignore it.
With evangelical fervour, Friedman explains how the end of the Cold War unleashed American capitalism around the globe. While "free market" capitalism had been a weapon in those years of missile diplomacy, the breakup of the Soviet Union left the American economic model without a major opponent. The collapse of the Berlin Wall, coinciding with the rise of the high speed digital communications, led to a new era of global finance. Once, "the sun never set on the British Empire." Now the Internet allows investment activity continuously and without hindrance. The market is never closed as international financial transactions occur constantly, and at light speed. And the market is open to anyone wishing to participate.
Friedman argues that the American model of capitalism is the ideal version. Government must play a minimal role. Labour unions are to be quelled. No favours are to be shown to any not meeting the new performance standards. The "wounded" firm must be killed off to allow the successful to continue. There will be disruptions in peoples' lives, but emerging new businesses will pick up any slack. The reward will be growth and enhanced living standards. The system is so well established now, according to Friedman, that it can, is and will be exported successfully around the planet. Anyone it touches need only accept it without question.
Global acceptance, of course, is the rub. The world isn't [yet] American. Scattered around our planet are numerous cultures who either haven't seen the light or resist its premise. These are the peoples who cling to their "olive trees" in defiance of Americanization. Friedman recognizes their concern over losing what they feel is valuable. He should, his interviewees have told him so often enough. He doesn't want them subjugated to an American ideal, he wants them to buy into the system voluntarily. Many want what the new economic system offers, he stresses. They simply have to learn how to adjust their values enough to bring America's financial methods into their own culture. How are they to achieve this feat? Replace restrictive or unresponsive governments. How this is to be achieved in the face of the pace of globalization is left unexplained.
Friedman's eagerness is contagious. It seems cruel to refute a man who presents his case with such honesty and in such a readable style. He carries you along with finesse and you have no feeling of being duped by someone so forthright. He wants everybody to accept his assertions because he sincerely believes those who do will benefit from the new economics. He addresses every objection, meeting each head-on with convincing arguments. He admits, for example, that not everyone has access to the digital communications making globalization possible. Easily solved, he says. One cell 'phone per village is a good start. Even the environmental concerns are [briefly] touched - conservationists adopting capitalist tactics will save the rain forest. I'm not making this up! He means what he says.
What he fails to recognize is that high speed communication, instantaneous finance and rapid economic growth carries an exacting price. Consumption at the American pace over the whole planet means production to meet the demand. That level of production is reflected in the inroads being made on the world's resources. The pace of growth is faster than "environmentalists" can cope with. Environmental issues are brought to view only when it's too late. If people sit back, allowing unfettered capitalism to buy off their future, there won't be a world left for enjoyment of that enhanced lifestyle. Friedman rejoices in the assertion that "no one is in charge" because it means no fetters to American capitalist ideals. That lack of control may sound the knell of the ideal. Capitalism, as a philosopher once noted, carries the seeds of its own destruction. Sprouts from those seeds may be found in Mark Hertsgaard's "Earth Odyssey." Read Friedman, then immediately take up Hertsgaard. Only then can you realistically assess your own attitude.
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "From Beirut to Jerusalem" it ain't, July 1, 1999
By A Customer
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Friedman has written a passable guide to globalization for the uninitiated. He has a decent, if generalist, sense of of what's going on -- at least, as much as any of us do. He has few points to make, but he makes them clearly. So clearly, in fact, you will probably feel talked down to.
Too much of the book is taken up by explaining metaphors for concepts which are easy enough to understand by themselves. "The Electronic Herd" means global investors. Period. So why not just say investors? And the entire "DOScapital" chapter made me gag a bit. The ideas are sound, but quite simple, so why complicate them by encasing them in a layer of unnecessary metaphor? Just because you have a trite catchphrase that fits?
And one can't help but feel there's a little self-aggrandizement here, too. Many, many paragraphs begin with "[Insert name of important person here] once told me that..." or "when I was meeting with [important person], he said..." This was appropriate for "From Beirut to Jerusalem," which was a book about the Middle East, but also a memoir of Friedman's experiences in the Middle East. But the style falls flat here, unless this is supposed to be a memoir of Friedman's experiences on Earth.
Non-Americans may also be irritated by the American focus and US boosterism.
Oh, and Tom, IBM didn't happen to give you a free ThinkPad, did they? You mention yours suspiciously frequently.
But while it is certainly not a great book, it isn't a bad book either. It can make a reasonable claim to being the "Globalization 101," is purports to be on the back cover, and any High School student could understand it. If you're looking for depth, go somewhere else. But if you just want a broad, general introduction to a subject of paramount importance in today's world, this book is a worthwhile read and probably worth the US$14 Amazon was charging as of this writing.
Oh, and he's dead on about the freshman Republicans.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yes, Mr. Friedman's use of Enron is most unfortunate, March 7, 2002
By 
Victor Jang (San Jose, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (Paperback)
Just an echo to bcramer's comment. I bought this book last year,
found it very readable and providing very much food for thought.
However, yes. Friedman's frequent and, as it turns out, unfortunate use of Enron and its officers as models of a corporate adaption to the global economy now cast doubt on the validity of his authority.
One would think, given the prominence of Enron in the news
and the frequency of Friedman's NY Times columns and New Hour appearances that he would feel obliged to devote at least a column to the coporation that he has held up as a model.
But a Google search of "Thomas Friedman" and "Enron" turns up no direct comment from Mr. Friedman on Enron, at least for the
past two months. Almost as if he never heard of it.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Metaphors and parables on globalization, March 22, 2001
This review is from: The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (Paperback)
The Lexus and the Olive Tree is a pretty extensive explanation of just what is "globalization." But there was a lot in the way of style that I found... well, just annoying. The other reviews have already noted these things: the catchy terminology (Microchip Immune Deficiency, the Electronic Herd, The Golden Arches Theory... etc.), his op-ed writing style, his over-confidence and ego, and the simplicity of his arguments. Except for the last one, these are surface criticisms, but they affected my enjoyment of the book.
On the other hand, the material in the book is interesting enough. He discusses how the system of globalization developed from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of economies. His experience in journalism is an asset he uses in recalling conversations with economists, politicial leaders, and civilians and thus personalizing the effects of this new world order. He describes the advantanges that globalism brings to all people, in developed and undeveloped countries, but is fully aware of the dangers of letting a system so powerful go uncontrolled. His basic theme is that everyone must eventually bow down to globalism because it is inevitable, but everyone must also be conscious that it can remove and dislocate people from their pasts, which can have unstable results.
I gave this book three stars because somehow, I just wasn't very satisfied. Though it covered a lot of ground and I did find it insightful in many places, especially Friedman's analysis of the Cold War system versus the post-Cold War system, the op-ed style of writing and the too many parables and metaphors made the reading a little laborious. However, if you only have a vague idea about what globalism is, and you want a better understanding of how this system affects you and everyone else in the world, then by all means, I recommend it. I do think Friedman gets the job done, but I would have liked a little more depth and substance behind his arguments.
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The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization
The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization by Thomas L. Friedman (Paperback - May 2, 2000)
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