Summary and book reviews of The Lexus and The Olive Tree by Thomas Friedman

The Lexus and The Olive Tree

by Thomas Friedman

The Lexus and The Olive Tree
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  • First Published:
    Apr 1999, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2000, 255 pages

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Book Summary

An engrossing and original look at the new international system that, more than anything else, is shaping world affairs today: globalization.

As the Foreign Affairs columnist for The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman has traveled to the four corners of the globe, interviewing people from all walks of contemporary life--Brazilian peasants in the Amazon rain forest, new entrepreneurs in Indonesia, Islamic students in Teheran, and the financial wizards on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley.

Now Friedman has drawn on his years on the road to produce an engrossing and original look at the new international system that, more than anything else, is shaping world affairs today: globalization.

His argument can be summarized quite simply. Globalization is not just a phenomenon and not just a passing trend. It is the international system that replaced the Cold War system. Globalization is the integration of capital, technology, and information across national borders, in a way that is creating a single global market and, to some degree, a global village.

You cannot understand the morning news or know where to invest your money or think about where the world is going unless you understand this new system, which is influencing the domestic policies and international relations of virtually every country in the world today. And once you do understand the world as Friedman explains it, you'll never look at it quite the same way again.

With vivid stories and a set of original terms and concepts, Friedman shows us how to see this new system. He dramatizes the conflict of "the Lexus and the olive tree"--the tension between the globalization system and ancient forces of culture, geography, tradition, and community. He also details the powerful backlash that globalization produces among those who feel brutalized by it, and he spells out what we all need to do to keep this system in balance.

From Chapter 1:
Tourist with an Attitude

When I speak of the "the Cold War system" and "the globalization system," what do I mean?

I mean that, as an international system, the Cold War had its own structure of power: the balance between the United States and the U.S.S.R. The Cold War had its own rules: in foreign affairs, neither superpower would encroach on the other's sphere of influence; in economics, less developed countries would focus on nurturing their own national industries, developing countries on export-led growth, communist countries on autarky, and Western economies on regulated trade. The Cold War had its own dominant ideas: the clash between communism and capitalism, as well as détente, nonalignment, and perestroika. The Cold War had its own demographic trends: the movement of peoples from east to west was largely frozen by the Iron Curtain, but the movement from south to north was a more steady flow. The Cold War had its own perspective on the globe: ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

The New York Times - Richard Eder

...a spirited and imaginative exploration of our new order of economic globalization.... The author uses his skills as reporter and analyst to conduct a breathtaking tour, one that possesses the exhilarating qualities of flight and the stomach-hollowing ones of free fall.

Business Week - Christopher Farrell

Friedman is a card-carrying global optimist, and he excels when analyzing how a new international system is replacing the old cold-war system. His book contains a stinging rebuke to protectionists, isolationists, and others who want to stop the process of globalization for their own benefit--and to the detriment of most of the populace.... The global economy is still evolving, and Friedman's work in progress is a timely read.

The New York Times Book Review - Josef Joffe

Friedman knows how to cut through the arcana of high tech and high finance with vivid images and compelling analogies.... a delightfully readable book.

The New Yorker - Nicholas Lemann

He has a born reporter's inextinguishable interest in everything, and a great sense of the telling detail. His experience of the world's societies may be broad and thin, yet he quite often finds a fresh, memorable nugget in service of his view that globalization is the "One Big Thing" in the world today.

Reader Reviews

Deepak Patel

This is a bible for anyone researching on globalisation.

Kristian, Norway

I read the book as part of mye international marketing studies, and I am impressed with Friedman's ability to explain in an understandable way the mechanisms of Globalization. The book is easy to read, and incredibly interesting. It is intelligent ...   Read More

Kimberly Fox

My teacher in college informed me of this bookand it is a great book. I could read it over and over again.

Rebecca Collins

A good read, but an incredibly biased take on globalisation.

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