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The Travels of A T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,599 Ratings  ·  219 Reviews
The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy takes the reader on a fascinating, around the world journey to reveal the economic and political lessons from the life story of a simple t-shirt. Over five years, business professor Pietra Rivoli traveled from a Texas cotton field to a Chinese factory to a used clothing market in Africa, to investigate compelling questions abo ...more
Paperback, 258 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by John Wiley & Sons (first published 2005)
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Nov 12, 2015 Lyn rated it liked it
Very interesting economics study.

A Georgetown U. economics professor attended a protest demonstration and listened to one of her students speak from a bull horn deriding the plight of third world sweat shop workers. She asked, "Is that true?" and so she spent the better part of three years researching and documenting her studies.

Rivoli describes the history and application of cotton agriculture, trade with China and Southeast Asia and the evolution of the global textile industry. Finally, we l
Feb 16, 2011 Pera rated it liked it
Untuk orang yang sangat awam tentang ekonomi seperti saya, buku ini nyaman dibaca. Isi dari buku ini mengupas tentang Ekonomi Global dan perdagangan bebas.

Metodenya sederhana.
Bercerita tentang perjalanan hidup T-Shirt. Latar belakang pencarian kisah hidup T-Shirt tersebut diawali oleh kegusaran seorang profesor bisnis, Pietra Rivolli,terhadap celotehan aktifis yang menggugat perdagangan bebas. Dari mana dia(aktifis) tau?.
Untuk membuktikan ocehan aktifs itu, si Prof pun menggali asal muasal T-S
Apr 19, 2012 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: planet money
(4.5) Surprisingly good, though not surprisingly not much actually about the path of her T-shirt

In-depth investigation of the history and politics of the industries that touch T-shirts: cotton production, processing, apparel manufacturing, shipping, recycling. She traces the history of each of these industries from their birth to today, then picks apart the current trends driving the industries today. Particularly eye-opening were the fights over tariffs and import quotas on apparel...many parti
Cathy (cathepsut)
There is a prologue and a lengthy prologue to the prologue, before we get into the details of Texas cotton farming and being thoroughly educated on the history of cotton farming in the US. That is followed by a very brief chapter about China that focuses on sweatshops, giving the impression that there is nothing else there. Then follows an over-detailed and way too long chapter on trade policies, quotas and politics. At that point I nearly tossed the book, because it was not only painfully borin ...more
Garrett Burnett
Apr 09, 2009 Garrett Burnett rated it it was ok
An economist follows the life of her t-shirt in painful detail. Rivoli starts in the cotton fields of Texas and ends up in Tanzania in the rag and second-hand clothing market. She spends plenty of time in Asia along the way, specifically China, and shares a somewhat dispassionate assessment of sweat shops.

Rivoli spends way too much time talking about the textile lobby in the United States. Throughout, she presents her analysis in a narrative form, and therefore focuses on specific characters an
Jun 01, 2013 Rachel rated it really liked it
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything asks clever questions and explores them in clever ways. It's a fun read. But if you're going to read just one popularized economics book this year, I recommend The Travels of a T-Shirt. It breaks the major rule of economics-qua-science: it is an extended anecdote with frequent detours into cultural history and popular biography. As my scientist friends like to remind me, and as Rivoli herself is at pains to point out, the p ...more
Apr 25, 2011 Sue rated it really liked it
Pietra Rivoli bought a souvenir T-shirt, and then she wrote a book about it. Inspired to explore the lowly T-shirt by an anti-WTO rally, she determined to look at the issues related to cotton farming, to clothing manufacture, and ultimately to the used-clothing trade.

If there is one message in this book, it is that free trade in the world of cotton is myth. With one exception, that is. More about that later.

First Rivoli traces the story of cotton as a critical commodity. The preeminence of the U
Jul 03, 2007 Aditya rated it really liked it
This is long, carefully researched and well written book about the history, geography, culture, politics and trade in cotton and cotton textiles in particular and trade in general. The author gives an excellent overview of how politics, culture and money interact to create complex trade policies in US and around the world. Although a cotton T-shirt is the last thing you would expect governments and interest groups to fight over, it is surprising to find the number of lives it affects. It is fasc ...more
Sep 17, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
There has been a lot written recently in blogs and traditional media about the environmental impact of a cotton T-Shirt. This book is the granddaddy of all of them.

In a well-written and succinct book, Prof. Rivoli tells us about how this most ubiquitous item of western attire is created, used, and disposed of - once, twice, and maybe a third time. Using both objective facts and personal anecdotes, this book is both educational and enjoyable.

Although I read it a little while back and the book its
Alvaro Berrios
Mar 17, 2013 Alvaro Berrios rated it it was amazing
What a superb book. Whether you’re a free trade supporter, a staunch protectionist, or a fierce labor activist you need to read this book! This is hands down the most unbiased book I have ever read from the perspective that all sides of the debate are tdiscussed or addressed. And whatever your beliefs are, I guarantee that you will find something in this book that will cause you to stop, and possibly re-think or tweak some of your own ideals.

The book is well-written, immensely informative and t
Nov 21, 2014 Jacqui rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
This book had so much promise- I found the idea of tracing the history of a particular t-shirt from source to end product compelling (and I'm not usually one to be that interested in economics). There was a lot here to consider: the complex interplay between politics and capitalism, the pros and cons of globalisation etc.

Unfortunately, Rivoli spends a lot of time focusing on the US. That's not to say that this isn't valid or interesting in and of itself, but it means that the sections which deal
Feb 24, 2013 Daniel rated it it was ok
This book shows you a bit of the lives of several people along the supply chain and trade routes of T-shirts, including American cotton farmers, Chinese factory girls, trade lobby etc. This is the main contribution of the book and probably also what makes it appealing to many people. However, I found many of the points made quite obvious. American cotton farmers compete based on technology, machinery and generous subsidies, Chinese textile manufacturers on low wages...
Another weakness of the boo
Feb 26, 2013 Michelle rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, nonfiction
An engaging read and a good book even if you only have a layman's understanding of economics. Very interesting to hear about the people she met along the way while researching.

I disagree with some of the author's conclusions in the last section but there was a lot of good information in here to consider. She believes that the path to world peace is the free market, and believes that it empowers everyone it comes in contact with. I'm unsure that she's in an unbiased position to make such broad st
May 29, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I think this book should be required reading for schools from HS and up. Many, many people only repeat the propaganda put out by activist groups (ie: anti-trade) without any real knowlege of what they are saying. This book would help to clear up their incorrect thought processes and open their eyes to at least some as to what is really happening in the big picture of trade. I learned so much from this book even having a financial background. I told my friend it was like taking a college class wi ...more
Jan 27, 2016 Ari rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-books
There was a horrifying moment when I was reading this book about economics and politics and boll weevils where I found myself laughing out loud. Who am I.

I did actually enjoy reading this book, even though the economic and political topics are not always my favorite. But I'm reading this for a sociology course and the class discussions definitely elevate the book. And the voice of the author was compelling and engaging enough to keep me turning the pages (without falling asleep) and make me laug
Bibhu Ashish
Sep 26, 2015 Bibhu Ashish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was wonderful to read the book and get so much insight into how the global trade works. Though the book is all about the cotton and apparel industry, it can be applicable to any industry in this world of globalization. It throws a lot of light on how politics affect the global trade.

Another interesting aspect which the book dealt with so nicely was that it is not the globalization which hampers the local economies, but it is the political reaction, political response and political involvemen
Roy Smith
May 28, 2015 Roy Smith rated it liked it
This book was presented well and was the initial inspiration for my Policy Brief written for my AP Language and Composition class. The book made a lot of sense and the introduction had brought the audience to a clear understanding of the context and the setting of the area that Rivoli is studying for her book. However, I personally felt that the book spend an ample amount of time on the cotton industry and the history of cotton, mainly focusing on the slave trade in America and the Caribbean. Th ...more
Jan 05, 2015 Jennyb rated it liked it
This one's for economics geeks -- it's not for the faint of enthusiasm. However, if you are one of those odd birds who really digs econ and trade policy, you'll enjoy this. For the most part, I did. I thought the beginning, which describes how the US cotton industry has maintained market dominance for hundreds of years while its pre-eminence has evaporated in numerous other areas, was really interesting. The middle section, in which trade policy is addressed rather at length (ahem) drags a bit, ...more
May 30, 2014 Jacob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy follows the production of a simple t-shirt from the growing of the cotton to the final stages of marketing, and provides an economist's insight into the situation. The book is entertaining, yet provides a great insight into such issues as tariffs, sweatshop labor, and globalization. It it gives a first hand look into all parts of production by associating faces with the jobs they perform. The author also interviews workers first hand. This book was ...more
Sarah Mansour
Apr 16, 2014 Sarah Mansour rated it liked it
Pietra Rivoli takes you on a trip of a T-shirts production, distribution, usage and re-usage.
She starts off with the very basic farming of the cotton, covering its history in the US and its chronological development following the technological revolution. She then goes on and gives possible scenarios of where the cotton ends up to be made into garments and t-shirts. For that, she visits the main production site: China. In China you get exposed to various aspects of the t-shirt production starti
Brian Keller
Jan 07, 2013 Brian Keller rated it really liked it
An even-handed look at globalization. My views on protectionism and off-shoring were, to say the least, uninformed prior to reading this book. Now, through the lens of this industry, I can see more of the complexity of interaction between the workers, the government regulation, business, and the customers. I highly recommend this book to everyone. The only weakness is also the book's strength, that is, the author's coverage of the topic is so thorough that it becomes tedious in spots.
Mar 12, 2014 Jeremiah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a long, strange trip a T-shirt takes. Told through both a history of cotton production and the individual stories of people in the t-shirt supply chain, I kept expecting to be bored but was continuously fascinated...perhaps because I am a supply chain professional.

As an academic, the author does a nice job of qualifying her insights, and provides great context both in the fascinating history of cotton production built on the backs of slaves to the innovations that have emerged and why the e
Cameron Samodai
Jan 03, 2014 Cameron Samodai rated it really liked it

I received the book The Travels of A T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli as a gift from my aunt and uncle, who are both aware that I’m very interested in economics. I was drawn to this book because I don’t read nearly enough on economics in physical book form, and so often the sources provide inaccuracy. A physical book’s sources are checked, because the publisher has a reputation to uphold. That, and books cost money to produce, while an Internet post just takes time. Going into thi
Dec 30, 2010 Jason rated it it was ok
Thought it'd give more insight into the economics of globalism, but ended up with more knowledge about cotton production than I ever really cared to know about.
Feb 14, 2014 Barrett rated it really liked it
I honestly found this book a bit simple, especially in its analysis of apparel production in China. But four stars. Because 1) there is a great chapter that provides historical and economic context for Texas Cotton (after reading Rivoli, I am now certain this is a proper noun) and 2) there is a chapter about the second-hand clothes market!! For anyone who has shopped in – and has questions related to – the second-hand clothes markets the in developing world, Rivoli digs into the second-hand indu ...more
David Barie
Feb 05, 2016 David Barie rated it really liked it
Written by a professor whose course in finance I took many years ago when I was pursuing a MBA at Georgetown University, this was a fascinating portrayal of the global economy as seen through the production and distribution of a t-shirt, but more widely, textiles and clothing. It analyzes the historic and intimate global involvement of government protectionism, the process of cotton production in west Texas and export to China, the historic and current evolution of textile mills, and finally, th ...more
Feb 07, 2014 Jeff rated it really liked it
This book, although older, was surprisingly good. It's well written and the story is current enough to still be applicable. I found it abandoned on a bookshelf at work and thought it might be good to sift through for some tid bits on economics. The author does a great job of taking a trivial item, a random t-shirt, to create and interesting analogue on the good and bad of the global economy. I was most surprised by the overwhelming amount of politics involved. This book was a business book of th ...more
Yilin Peng
Aug 25, 2015 Yilin Peng rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, politics
Found this book from the reading list of next year's Trade module and it's been an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

Great story telling, touches upon some of the most heated debates of globalization -- path-dependency, free trade vs fair trade, winners and losers of protectionism, etc. (which reminds me of last year's Development module and my Why Nations Fail read) -- with references to some other great books on the topics. While it may start by contradicting some beliefs on the street, e.g
Sep 28, 2015 Marilyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, business
One thing is certain - if we took everything foreign off our backs and out of our houses, most of us would be standing nearly naked in empty rooms. Even as we consumers all like to pay less for products, we don't understand near enough about the costs.

Though likely a bit dry for most people, this is a terrifically interesting topic. The T-shirt’s journey shows how economic forces react to obstacles, fighting off the U.S. textile industries, Southern congressmen, and a labyrinth of tariffs and q
Justin Tapp

Rivoli is an economist at Georgetown Univ. who decided to take up a sweatshop protester's challenge and find out where her t-shirt was made. What follows is a journey through the supply chain and an in-depth look at the complicated rules and regulations on trade.

It's a great historical look at how the U.S. has developed its production, labor standards, and comparative advantages. How America's domination of the cotton market is partly through creative ingenuity and a free enterprise system and p
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