Brian's Reviews > The Travels of A T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade

The Travels of A T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli
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's review
Mar 16, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: from-planetmoney, grbpp, goodreads-staff-library, goodreads-staff-library-nonfiction
Recommended to Brian by: planet money
Read from April 16 to 19, 2012

(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 parties changed sides from a protectionist stance to a free-trade stance and vice versa. But she explains it all quite well so it actually all makes sense.

I was worried this would be like those other journalist-written books where they stitch together 5 articles and fluff it up to 300 pages...especially since the impression I got from the title was that she'd just take us to each of the factories that touched her shirt and give her impressions of what she saw. But turns out she's actually a business school professor, and she really did her homework.

Other tidbits I liked:
* US textile industry lobbied to get customs officers trained to spot illegal socks (this on top of their usual duties of finding weapons etc.)
* Francis Cabot Lowell as industrial espionage, stealing secrets of British power looms and other technological advances to jumpstart the US textile industry and the American industrial revolution

I don't think her style of injecting commentary about feedback from the first edition is the best. It's kind of weird to read a book that's referring to itself. I guess I would've preferred that she just put that in a preface or afterward for the edition. But it wasn't too disruptive.

I was also entertained to hear her mention two economists, Economy and Cline, and (late 18th century physician and) activist Percival (three of us who sit near each other at work have these surnames as well ;) ).
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07/06 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by rivka (new)

I was also entertained to hear her mention three economists/activists: Economy, Cline and Percival
That's almost as funny as an economist named Economy. ;)

message 2: by Brian (last edited Apr 19, 2012 11:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brian Elizabeth Economy is an economist! :) Actually so is Cline; the activist was Mr Percival. :)

updated review accordingly. ;)

message 3: by rivka (new)

rivka It would appear that is her birth surname (from what I find on Google), which is even better. :D

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