The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization
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The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  5,403 ratings  ·  342 reviews
A brilliant investigation of globalization, the most significant socioeconomic trend in the world today, and how it is affecting everything we do-economically, politically, and culturally-abroad and at home.

As foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman crisscrosses the globe talking with the world's economic and political leaders, and reporting, a...more
ebook, 469 pages
Published June 15th 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1999)
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I really do not understand the appeal of Thomas Friedman. I don’t think his writing is very good, and I think his political commentary is inane. I cannot believe smart people take this man seriously.

My synopsis of standard Friedman socio-economic analysis:

I am a genius able to see developments in the world economic order before anyone else. I went to Southeast Asia, because I am a man of adventure with large expense account from a big newspaper. A South Asian man rowed me in a boat. He had a cel...more
May 15, 2008 Angus rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those that want to stop every paragraph and wonder where people like this come from.
Thomas L. Friedman is a fuck. The copy of this I have has so much highlighter ink in it that the pages look like rainbows and the only reason I took the time to do that is so that I could easily find all the backward and sometimes down right stupid things he said in it. "..the easier it is to fire workers, the more incentive companies have to hire them." What he should have said in other words: flexible labor market = lower wages (and higher profits). "Air power alone couldn't work in Vietnam be...more
This book is so appalling in so many ways that I cannot understand why it is so popular. I had to read it for a class in school (my Costa Rica sustainable development course) and basically everyone in the class agreed that Friedman had a very disturbing view of globalization. He seems to think that globalization benefits everyone in its race to the bottom because it makes goods and services cheaper and better. Guess what buddy? If everyone is getting paid crap they have no money for those goods...more
I had read this book before--or at least had read parts of it, but I came across it the other day and thought I would give it another look. It was published in 2000 and I was shocked as I read to realize how much things have changed in just 12 years. The basic premise still holds--globalization is happening and it changes a lot about our lives, and gives some people (the Olive trees) a lot of angst--but the examples--how things have changed! Of course the big change was when the Olive Trees real...more
friedman has a realistic point of view of the world, but comes from a purely capitalistic mind frame. he has a good perception of how the world works, but then resigns himself to dealing with it by saying 'this is how it is; things will never change.'
what sux is that he points out all the bad crap that happens from free-mkt globalization, and instead of offering good social net solutions, says 'it is what it is, so either play the game this way, or you lose.' nothing about how the rules of the...more
Joseph Gagnepain
Drawing on his experience as a foreign correspondent, Tomas Friedman gives a comprehensive view of the modern worlds state of globalization covering every conceivable angle from multi-national corporate strategy, effects on smaller states as they battle between keeping up with the world and not sacrificing their culture, to how modern capitalism is effected by the integration of state intertwining technology. What I love about Friedman is how unbiased his assessment is. Friedman isn't trying to...more
May 29, 2008 Ed rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Robber Barons
For reasons I cannot understand, this book is treated as canonical in high school economics classrooms across the country. Friedman presents an argument that is not only exceedingly hypocritical but asserted almost entirely through a jungle of personal anecdotes. The Lexus and the Olive Tree is not so much an explanation of globalization as it is a laundry list of interesting people that Friedman knows and you do not. Methodology aside, the arguments Friedman makes are more often than not deeply...more
Thomas Friedman is hands down the resonant expert on globalization. He is also the most entertaining in describing it. I read his book The World is Flat first (almost out of order from his writings), this is my second book of his I have read. I will be re-reading The World is Flat again but after I read his next book Longitudes and Attitudes. Next on my list is latest Hot, Flat and Crowded.
The reason I like him so much is his colorful ways to describe what is going on and the references he uses...more
Nuno Martins
Um livro que nos mostra com uma linguagem simples e acessível, o advento da globalização, dos mercados livres, da internet, das comunicações e o seu impacto nas vidas de todos nós.
Thomas L. Friedman através da sua experiência como jornalista dá-nos a ver toda uma década de mudança, os anos 90 do século passado e aborda uma enormidade de temas que fazem parte do nosso dia a dia, desde o boom do mercado livre, com todas as suas implicações socio-económicas, o grande desenvolvimento e velocidade na...more
A simple and interesting read. NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman is fond of using simple metaphors for large concepts. The Lexus symbolizes technology, commerce, and globalization while the Olive Tree symbolizes tradition. He discusses the relationship and tension between the two.

Friedman takes a pretty positive view of globalization, if for no other reason than its inevitability. He claims that trying to stop globalization is like trying to "stop the sun from rising." He asserts that it would...more
Feb 10, 2008 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: econ nerds, econ teachers, businness students and business-minded people, social scientists
I felt it was my duty as an econ nerd and (newly!) certified economics teacher to see what Thomas Friedman is all about. From his New York Times column to the Sunday morning political talk shows, to documentaries, Friedman was everywhere I turned, and I knew nothing about him.

Friedman, it turns out, is both a brilliant scholar of the globalization wave that is quickly sweeping across the globe; he is also the system's main cheerleader. He describes the new world order all the way from a birds-ey...more
This book by Thomas Friedman is about globalization and how it affects us. Basically, Friedman believes that Globalization, in sum total, is good for the world, notwithstanding its negative effects.
Friedman's primary thesis is that the cold war politics conditioned the behavior of nation states till 1990. Now, it is 'Globalization' and its inexorable movement forward that shapes nations and their behavior internally as well as one another. Friedman introduces the term 'the Electronic herd' in ex...more
I didn't like this book at all...infact one of those rare books that I decided to leave without finishing.
The biggest problem with the book is the condescending tone of the author; rather than treating his readers as mature well informed adults, he writes as if his reader base is made up of school going kids. The analogies that he uses insults the intelligence of his readers.
There is too much name dropping, like Manmohan Singh said this to me, or the Shah of Iran told me that; Friedman seems t...more
Oct 05, 2008 Andrew rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: delusional capitalists
Thomas Friedman is a very smart, well-experienced, well-traveled columnist for the NYT. I really respect his insight and his opinions, and this is why I was very disappointed with this book.

Part of this may be because it was written in 1999 (it was only 9 years ago, but this country has really taken a nosedive since then). In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Friedman is constantly giddy about the new globalization system that has come to replace the Cold War system. The "globalization" that he des...more
Aug 30, 2008 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anoyone interested in economics, globalization, or the Internet
Recommended to Kate by: Found it at random in a bookstore in Itaewon (Seoul, South Korea
The Lexus and the Olive Tree is an overview of economic globalization in the post-Cold War era. The author is Thomas L.Friedman, who more recently wrote the bestseller The World Is Flat. I haven't read that one yet, but I hope to get to it if my to-read stack ever starts going down.

My copy of Lexus is the 2000 edition. I'm still in the habit of thinking anything from 1999 or later is quite recent-- it's a little jarring to realize that the first edition of this book came out ten years ago. It's...more
Required reading for those of us who aren't economics majors. Easy read, educational and thought provoking.
"The driving idea behind globalization is free-market capitalism-the more you let market forces rule and the more you open your economy to free trade and competition, the more efficient and flourishing your economy will be. Globalization means the spread of free-market capitalism to virtually every country in the world. Therefore, globalization also has it's own set of economic rules - rule...more
Anything from this guy, especially this book, needs to be reframed in terms of the realities of free-market capitalism before reading becomes a valuable exercise.

His explanation of the origins of Globalization feel about right, you could probably guess what he'll suggest as the leading causes before even cracking the cover. He of course, as a proponent, doesn't look at the side of corporate-cooperative political agents that have played a major, if not necessary role in explaining the terrors of...more
Not really my favorite kind of writing and at odds with many of my feelings about globalization (that it screws just has many people as it helps) but still a mostly interesting read. Friedman has been bashed repeatedly about his views, which I won't contribute to in great depth, but this does feel oddly Utopian, especially the parts that seem to equate industrialization and westernization with peace (The Golden Arches Theory). It's easy to see why a certain type of reader--one who has benefited...more
Andrew Lubin
It's a big world. While America is a part of it, we're no longer the only part of it - and union workers like the UAW and incompetent management like that of GM need to realize that they've priced themselves and their lousy products out of it. Oh yeah...and thankfully the Chinese, Japanese, and Taiwanese are a part of it also...America needs to borrow a lot of money from them in order to stay afloat.

As the weasels on Wall Street continue to rape America's pocketbook, this book is well worth rea...more
Novem Auyeung
Disclaimer: I admit that I might be biased in this review. It is a personal pet peeve of mine to read journalists (who are not trained in economics) from developed countries give economic development advice to developing countries.

As someone who grew up in the developing countries that Thomas Friedman talks about, I found his book overly simplistic. He seems to equate globalization with Americanization and tends to mention only American multinationals (e.g., McDonald's, Enron) while forgetting...more
Andrew Calderon
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I wouldn't take it as gospel but his insights into globalization as a geopolitical, geo-economic, and cultural movement serve as a reasonable launching pad for understanding current affairs on an international scale. I think many Goodreads commentators prior to me missed this point.

He out-rightly dubs himself a globalist, one who analyzes events as multidimensional entities, requiring the synthesis of varying and disparate perspectives to portray a seemingly sing...more
Matt Strohmeyer
I felt a bit like singing "Amer...ica is awesome..." to the Tune of the Lego movie. That said, Friedman's ethnocentric bent is reasonably well supported though he gives lip service to the innate institutional problems within the American system that currently threaten to tear her apart from within (he writes in 2000, the problems are admittedly a bit more obvious now). His thesis that to balance the Lexus and the olive tree (intractable problems of globalization) we should look to the American w...more
Imagine you open up a book. Inside that book is a bevy of anecdotes in which a random dude floating atop a charmed existence speaks to you in the second person. In that book he claims that the end of trade barriers and the rise of globalization will solve the problems. Sure, you and me might do them slightly differently, depending on the clothes we wear (and here the bad analogies really begin to pile up-you wonder if that drunken three way with other clueless tourists has gotten to your head)we...more
Overall, I truly enjoyed this book. My forays into nonfiction and economics are proving useful.

However, there is one point that Friedman makes (or fails to make) that has been bugging me so much I feel the need to come back and address it despite finishing this book two weeks ago. He discusses the importance of stringent capitalism in a new global system and looks down on welfare states. However, towards the end, he champions "social safety nets" to protect people who struggle or suffer the blow...more
C.S. Boag
By Thomas Friedman
What a mess this book is!
Like a TV evangelist Friedman uses gimmicky phrases and anecdotes to prove what he thinks he believes- that the internet is good for the world because it is good for business.
Of course he pays lip service to humanity, but it is sleight of hand, largely the boy is terrifically conflicted.

Having spent just about the entire book saying how wonderful everything is, toward the end (Page 400), he suddenly rages against hackers (they are internet fundamental...more
By:Thomas L. Friedman Pages:512

The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization is a book that looks at people from modern and past times. The story is a mixture of contemporary methods of globalization and past methods. The author is looking at both points of view and seeing how Globalization has remained the same, and at the same time is very different. Many references are made to the past and civilizations that were successful in Globalization. The comparisons are interesting and ar...more
Beau Johnson
"Half the world seemed to be emerging from the Cold War intent on building a better Lexus...And half the world - sometimes half the same country, sometimes half the same person - was still caught up in the fight over who owns which olive tree."

This book is a great pre-cursor to "The World is Flat" which outdoes Friedman's more recent book "Hot, Flat, and Crowded." This book is a good introduction to globalization, but not as good (or as interesting) as The World is Flat. But, where as The World...more
In a nutshell: read "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman instead. While I'm sure "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" was an insightful book when published, it has since lost its relevancy and "The World is Flat" essentially repackages and updates Mr. Friedman's thoughts on globalization first presented in this work. In "The Lexus and the Olive Tree", Mr. Friedman marvels at global production, a new era of communication technology, changes in global finance, and all of the sweeping global changes th...more
Omar Halabieh
Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1- "While there are a lot of similarities in kind between the previous era of globalization and the one we are now in, what is new today is the degree and intensity with which the world is being tied together into a single globalized marketplace and village. What is also new is the sheer number of people and countries able to partake of today's globalized economy and information networks, and to be affected by them."

2- "As...more
This is Friedman's treatise on Globalization. I think I gained more from this book reading it 13 years after its original publication than if I had read it in 2000. I was surprised how many of his technological and political predictions came true. Friedman clearly understands the global economic and political climate in the post-cold war world.

Friedman argues that there are two forces in the post-cold war world: commerce (the Lexus) and traditions/culture (the olive tree). The internet has conn...more
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Thomas Lauren Friedman is an American journalist. He is an op-ed contributor to The New York Times, whose column appears twice weekly and mainly addresses topics on foreign affairs. Friedman is known for supporting a compromise resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, modernization of the Arab world, environmentalism and globalization. He is considered to be a pluralist and most of his comm...more
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“You can be a rich person alone. You can be a smart person alone. But you cannot be a complete person alone. For that you must be part of, and rooted in, an olive grove. This truth was once beautifully conveyed by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner in his interpretation of a scene from Gabriel García Márquez’s classic novel One Hundred Years of Solitude: Márquez tells of a village where people were afflicted with a strange plague of forgetfulness, a kind of contagious amnesia. Starting with the oldest inhabitants and working its way through the population, the plague causes people to forget the names of even the most common everyday objects. One young man, still unaffected, tries to limit the damage by putting labels on everything. “This is a table,” “This is a window,” “This is a cow; it has to be milked every morning.” And at the entrance to the town, on the main road, he puts up two large signs. One reads “The name of our village is Macondo,” and the larger one reads “God exists.” The message I get from that story is that we can, and probably will, forget most of what we have learned in life—the math, the history, the chemical formulas, the address and phone number of the first house we lived in when we got married—and all that forgetting will do us no harm. But if we forget whom we belong to, and if we forget that there is a God, something profoundly human in us will be lost.” 15 likes
“ No policy is sustainable without a public that broadly understands why it's necessary and sees the world the way you do...” 6 likes
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