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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

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  1,735 Ratings  ·  227 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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Community Reviews

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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
John and Kris
Jun 12, 2009 John and Kris rated it really liked it
I receive two notices monthly from local charities willing to pick-up gently used clothing items from my front porch on specific days. Last year I donated, on multiple occasions, giant garbage bags of button down shirts, polo shirts, dress slacks, and t-shirts, many, many t-shirts. How do Americans acquire so many t-shirts? Think about your closet. Now think about your t-shirts. How many t-shirts do you really wear on a regular basis?

The average American throws away 68 pounds of clothing and te
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
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.
Jan 07, 2011 David rated it really liked it
New concerns about globalization have far outpaced Rivoli's ability to produce revisions of her book. The second edition claims to address today's concerns about trade's impact on climate change and multinational offshoring, but to do so adequately would require a far more comprehensive revision. Her book's primary motive was to address turn-of-the-century concerns about unfettered market competition leading to a race-to-the-bottom in labor conditions. These concerns seem quaint today as America ...more
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
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
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
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
Mar 08, 2012 Anton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: globalisasi
Agak lucu juga nemu buku ini. Sekitar sebulan lalu aku dapat kaos oleh-oleh dari bos di kantor yang baru pulang dari Belgia. Seumur hidup sampai sekarang, baru kali ini aku dapat kaos dengan logo fair trade di belakangnya. Ada logo Max Havelaar dan keterangan bahwa kaos itu diproduksi dengan menerapkan prinsip-prinsip fair trade.

Menurut organisasi fair trade sedunia International Federation of Alternative Trade (IFAT), fair trade adalah perdagangan yang berdasarkan pada dialog, keterbukaan dan s
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
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
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.
Sam Lee
Feb 06, 2013 Sam Lee rated it really liked it
This book got me to really rethink my position on second hand clothes on Africa. It resented the economics of the world of T-shirts in a convincing way by journeying through the lifecycle of a T-shirt, from cotton to Cameroon, and explored all the steps in between.

My original belief about second hand clothing was that people in the developed world donated old clothes to make themselves feel better, but those clothes then go to saturate the market in African countries and destroy their domestic T
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
In this revealing study of the "life" of an ordinary t-shirt, Ms. Rivoli shines a light on international trade and trade policy in a way that few other books can. The book starts with cotton production in East Texas and then moving around the world to show how a t-shirt is made and traded, often times in ways that both support and refute free trade critics and supporters alike. It was very interesting to read how greatly trade policy and U.S. subsidies influence the market in both good and bad w ...more
Mary Anne
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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
Jul 09, 2013 Ita rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, audio
With the recent collapse of a building in Bangladesh which killed ~1100 people, Planet Money (NPR) had several programs about garment manufacture. They plan to do an in-depth series on what goes into making a T-shirt, which prompted me to get this audiobook.

Since I'm more of a fiction reader, I was surprised to find this book *very* interesting. The author intersperses a lot of facts and figures into an entertaining narrative. She also included a lot of behind-the-scenes politics. I realize my d
Nov 16, 2013 Ahmed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: got-from-library
By delving into the past of a single artifact (a t-shirt), digging deeper and deeper into its origin, this magnificent book forces all those facile judgements, explanations, and proscriptions that we have as liberals/conservatives, socialist/Democrats/Republicans/libertarians, rich/poor, etc., to just melt away in the face of such a complete picture of our world. All my ideological conventional wisdom is---not so much "debunked" as shown to be hopelessly inadequate given the intricate reality.

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
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
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
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
Nov 21, 2014 Jax 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
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
Oct 24, 2016 Akshay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book! Highly recommended for those in Textile industry, readers interested in global trade and economics or in general a curious soul like me.

Things I did not know before reading the book -

1. Agriculture (subsidies and technological revolutions in the seeds and farming area)
2. Textile production ( Economies of scale in China and US south, social structures deciding workforce, and human rights)
3. Voter blocks, lobbyist, politics of quota and relations between countries that d
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