Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on November 16, 2002
I have been reading several books about globalization and I find Friedman's text to be both enjoyable and insightful. The book argues that "globalization is everything and its opposite." By this Friedman seems to saying that globalization has an extremely wide reach and includes politics, culture, technology, finance, national security, and ecology. Additionally, I think he is saying that globalization can be harnessed to bring about good or it can be allowed to benefit the few at the cost of many. It empowers good and ill intentions equally. As a result of the broad reach and empowerment, globalization must be shaped--today!--if we are to create a sustainable system. In the end, Friedman is a hopeful globalist. He sees the shift away from a cold-war system, to a global system, as essentially irreversible. Consequently, he ends the book by discussing (quite generally) how we can take a more active role in shaping the global system.
Friedman's style is clearly journalistic rather than academic. Many of his examples are anecdotal and the book is filled with analogies and metaphors. For these reasons, I think the book makes an excellent introduction to the topic. Though the anecdotes and quotes may not create an unshakable foundation for any individual argument, over the course of the book I came to realize that Friedman has tremendous experience and insight because of his work as the foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times. He sees globalization in very broad terms. I think we can learn quite a bit from Friedman's broad perspective and, when considering the book as a whole, I am inclined to appreciate the broad perspective rather than criticize it.
Throughout the book you are introduced to a range of interesting theories and comparisons. Maybe the most famous theory is the Golden Arches Theory of conflict. We find numerous comparisons to Michael Jordan and the NBA when explaining the USA as a hyperpower and our necessary relations with the rest of the world. These are but two examples of how Friedman takes a complex and important topic, and makes this topic readable, entertaining, and informative. The most important symbols, however, are found in the title. The Lexus represents the globalized, high-tech world while the olive tree represents that little bit of home and tradition we all love and refuse to let go of. The tension between global and local interests forms the centerpiece of this book.
I think this book might be an ideal starting point for learning about globalization. If you start with Friedman's book, however, I suspect you may not want not stop here. There are other texts that take a more thorough and scholarly approach to the topic. Reading this book will provide you with enough information to move on to other texts or have a better understanding of many current issues. And what more can we ask for from a nonfiction book? Intelligent, entertaining, and well written. I have to conclude that "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" is a good read.
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