am 27. Mai 2000
Friedman clearly isn't the first to discuss the implications of globalization; others have come before him -- Omaehe (The End of the Nation State), Barber (Jihad vs MacWorld) and Fukayama (The End of History).
Friedman's thesis thus isn't incredibly original -- but at least he tells it with wit and spunk. The reading can fun, but consistently interrupted by the introduction of new metaphors. In every other chapter, he tries too hard to coin new terms. There must be more than two dozen spots in the book where he goes... "I call this XXX."
It gets painful to read after a while.
The fact is, everyone who's plugged into Amazon already has a good idea of how technology has changed the way we buy and sell. Don't get too excited to buy this book.
But if you're interested in his coverage of Middle East politics, "From Beirut to Jerusalem" is a fine account.
am 9. Juni 2004
I liked the book. It opens me a new horizons into the worlds politics and economy. I liked the little stories, author uses for explanation. The only thing i did not like ist the "America is the best" approach, what can be very provocative for an European (or other).
am 23. Juli 2000
Thomas Friedman's book about globalization, The Lexus and The Olive Tree (2nd. ed, 2000), is a fascinating explanation of the forces - the pre-eminence of market capitalism, the information and telecommunications revolutions, the rise of an "Electronic Herd" of capital, and countries' adoption of "operating systems" to attract capital - that make up the system of globalization that is sweeping the globe. He writes about how more and more countries have accepted what he calls a "Golden Straightjacket" of policy prescriptions - open markets, balanced budgets, deregulation and privatisation, free trade, elimination of corruption, subsidies and kickbacks, etc., - in order to be part of the developing global system.
Globalization brings promises and threats, and has evoked strong responses. I feel like a new convert, who urgently wants others to share revelations offered by the Book. When I told a close relative and a good friend about the book, both were deeply suspicious. Neither has read it. One has read reviews in the left-wing journal The Nation and elsewhere, that refer to Friedman's line as "triumphalism." That means an arrogant view that US-driven market capitalism has decisively repudiated communism and socialism, and the tide of globalization, with McDonalds, Taco Bells, cellphones and so on, is a rising tide that will raise all boats. The other of my critics is angry about the gap between rich and poor, Reaganism and the dismantling of the social safety net. He angrily rejects the notion that market capitalism really proved its superiority to communist regimes that were able to provide universal literacy and healthcare for poor populations in Russia, China and Cuba. To him, a book that purports to depict globalization as a seemingly inexorable tide of progress, and fails to focus on the immorality of capitalism and disparities of wealth, is deeply immoral.
These critics want explanations that are consistent with their sympathies, and that repudiate what they consider to be evils: for indigenous cultures; against McDonalds; against the hegemony of American English and American culture; for trade unions; for Third World debt relief; for micro-lending; against SUVs; against attaching structural conditions to development loans; against American power; against pressures to reduce taxes, balance budgets and eliminate tarriffs and trade barriers. And so on.
Can you see where I'm headed? Its my arrogant conceit: I'm the rational, sensible, informed one, seeking truth with an open mind. I read the book to learn about globalization. I am eager to read other books that put in question Friedman's assumptions and conclusions; until I'm persuaded to the contrary, I accept his book as a contribution to knowledge. I do not favour global cultural homogenization and Americanization, and I would like to see markets help to create wealth and distribute wealth more broadly. However, I am not inclined to shoot the messenger who says that free market capitalism is the preeminent system for creating and distributing wealth, and that in spite of the disparities, it may do more for poor people than alternative systems could.
Some people prefer moral righteousness. It is no doubt more satisfying to be angry and morally righteous, than to have pious assumptions put in question by inconvenient facts.
am 3. Februar 2000
Friedman accepts the inevitability of globalization. He defines globalization as the merger of technology, financial markets, nation-counties and states. He symbolizes the Lexus as the drive for wealth and the Olive Tree as the humanistic need for spirituality and community. The title of which derives from his visiting a Lexus robotic assembly line, then soon after, reading about Israelis and Palestinians fighting over olive trees. The globalization system that he describes clearly threatens to destroy the rich diversity of cultures and environments. This book ponders this conflict and addresses the co-existence between the "Lexus" and the "Olive Tree". Friedman is a humanist who really cares about people and cultures. In his book, Friedman affirms the need for safeguarding the olive tree that is being engulfed by globalization.
Friedman breaks the book into four digestible parts: Globalization and how it works; The worlds interaction with Globalization; Reverberation of Globalization; and The role of USA. For most of us globalization is a difficult concept to grasp. Friedman's career has afforded him the ability to travel and give him a first hand view of the many dimensions of globalization. The strength of The Lexus and the Olive Tree is that it is not a difficult read. Friedman writes clearly and helps the reader understand seemingly complex issues. I would recommend this book for highschooler who are studying economics and history. He also offers a mini history lesson of the Cold War and discusses how globalization has changed the world by bringing it closer together. For ease of understanding he offers story stories to help explain by example. Friedman's book is relevant for today's society and it explains how the globalization movement is changing the political, social and economic environments.
I learned a great deal about commerce, E-commerce, international trade and open market. Friedman is knowledgeable and uses many factual events to support his premise. I was very impressed by the revelation that no two countries that both have a McDonalds have ever gone to war against each other. If finance is the driving force for war than the potential key to world peace may be found through open markets. Consumers will not allow a war with an important trading partner as the demand for their goods outweighs any "illogical" reasoning associated with wars. Definitely food for thought!
Friedman defines and redefines the term globalization until you absolutely understand it! This book is insightful because it allows you to visualize a more global economy. You will benefit most from the book if you read it, dialogue with others who have read it and then read it again.
am 9. Januar 2000
In "The Lexus and the Olive Tree", Thomas Friedman describes and defines globalization (the current "international system") in terms of its contrasts with the previous Cold War system. The unique defining imagery of the two systems highlights these contrasts: the perspective of division (Cold War) vs. integration (globalization); the symbol of the wall vs. the world wide web; the document of "The Treaty" vs. "The Deal"; the anxiety of annihilation from a well-known enemy vs. destruction from an anonymous one; the defense system of the radar to expose threats from without vs. the X-ray to expose threats from within; and the connection of the hot line between the White House and the Kremlin- a symbol that we were all divided, but at least someone was in charge vs. the Internet- a symbol that we are all connected but nobody is in charge.
The Cold War power structure was exclusively a balance between nation-states, specifically between the two superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union. In contrast, Friedman details the three overlapping balances which define the power structure of globalization. These are the balance between nation-states; between nation-states and the global "Supermarkets" (the key global financial centers); and between "Super-empowered individuals" and nation-states. This last balance is not only the newest, but potentially the most threatening to global well-being. For while the combination of the fall of borders and the connecting of people through technology can and has empowered to great good, it also leaves avenues open for "Super-empowered Angry Men" (and Women) to use the powers embedded in globalization to act directly on the world stage without the previous era's mediation of governments, corporations or other institutions. As a result, this globalized world is a potentially more dangerous one than the Cold War world.
The "Golden Straightjacket" is Friedman's metaphor for a country's adoption of the economic and political rules that enable it to become a member of the globalized system. Donning this straightjacket has many implications for countries that do so; among them, Friedman observes, economies typically grow and politics shrink. Political choices are more limited, but transparency and openness increases. Those countries that put on the Golden Straightjacket are rewarded by the Electronic Herd- the traders and multinational corporations who constitute the funding sources in the world today. Those that don't are disciplined by the herd as it avoids investing or withdraws its money from that country. Thus, concludes Friedman, it is not necessarily inevitable that a country don the Golden Straightjacket and participate in globalization, however, the only place a country can go to get big checks is to the Electronic Herd. Countries' choices therefore include either donning the straightjacket and behaving in a way that is attractive to the herd, or not and living with the consequences.
The implications of donning this straightjacket extend even deeper, for the Electronic Herd's motivations in investing in a country are significantly different than the motivations of the superpowers during the Cold War. Cold War motivations revolved strictly around gaining and maintaining allegiances, of making more of the world "ours" and less "theirs". In contrast, the Electronic Herd's motivation is profit. Thus, transparency of financial data and transactions, reliable accounting practices, reduction of corruption and predictability of the business environment, freedom of the press, having a bond market, and democratization (to provide flexibility, legitimacy and sustainability) are key indicators of a countries' preparedness to provide a foundation for investment by the herd. Some of these indicators cut to the very core of a countries' existing socio-political culture. As Friedman concludes, "joining the global economy and plugging into the Electronic Herd is the equivalent of taking your country public" (p.141).
With metaphors and illustrative anecdotes dispersed liberally throughout the book, Friedman is able to maneuver the reader through the complexities of the overlapping influences of globalization on the world today. He has coined a number of new terms, some of which will certainly enter the permanent lexicon. All 382 pages are interesting reading that lead the reader to a greater understanding of the web of interconnectedness that defines the world today. Not only compelling intellectual content here, but a source of good cocktail party conversation as well.
am 6. Januar 2000
Friedman is a distinguished journalist. (He has won two Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting for The New York Times.) Over time, he has earned prominence as an interpreter of world affairs. His earlier book, From Bierut to Jerusalem, won the National Book Award in 1988. Curiously, what most reviewers of The Lexus and the Olive Tree have (as yet) failed to point out is that Friedman is also a moralist with passionate concerns about the negative impact of globalization. He really cares about individuals, families, villages and towns...indeed entire cultures...which, over time, forsake or have taken from them a unique identity. He accepts the inevitability of globalization; he does not accept the inevitability of homogenization. With all due respect to the superior quality of the Lexus automobile, Friedman affirms the need for preserving the olive tree amidst the "inexorable integration" of virtually everything within the world they share.
Friedman asserts that either human beings manage the system or it will manage them. The choice is theirs. Are there strategies and guidelines for such management? Yes. Are the separate cultures of the Lexus and olive tree necessarily mutually exclusive? No. Friedman concludes his brilliant analysis as follows: "A healthy global society is one which can balance the Lexus and the olive tree all the time., and there is no better model for this on earth today than America. And that's why I believe so strongly that for globalization to be sustainable America must be at its best -- today, tomorrow, all the time. It not only can be, it must be, a beacon for the whole world. Let us not squander this precious legacy." In remarks such as these, Friedman clearly reveals the passion of his convictions.
am 3. Januar 2000
Comfortably ensconced in his thousands-of-years old Jewish culture, New York Times Foreign Affairs Columnist Thomas Friedman travels the world meeting important people. He tells us about his journeys in this book, the title of which derives from his visiting a Lexus robotic assembly line, then soon after, reading about Israelis and Palestinians fighting over olive trees. These events triggered in Mr. Friedman's mind a blinding revelation. People are either rushing pell-mell into the future and embracing new technologies (Lexus), or clinging to the past with its traditions and old ways of doing things (the olive tree).
People who move forward confidently into the future are Globalists. Those who hang back fearfully are Glocalists. Sound confusing? Think Capitalism-Capitalist. Ok? Globalism-Globalist. Glocalism-Glocalist. Get it? Easy, once you think of it that way. But wait . . . what about Globalution? Sorry, I haven't room to explain everything. You just have to get the book and read it yourself.
Mr. Friedman writes clearly and tries his best to help readers understand complex issues. He draws repeatedly on his culture, citing stories from the Jewish Bible and listing past and present events in the Middle East. I offer Mr. Friedman yet another example to help his readers - think of Globalism as Goliath and Glocalism as David. Please understand, Globalism is very, very big. It reaches into every crook and cranny in our lives. To get the proper perspective, think of Communism. In fact, the similarity of Globalism and Communism may have been in the author's mind when he played off Das Kapital to get DOScapital. Could Thomas Friedman be thinking, just as Karl Marx brought Communism to the world during the past century, he will bring Globalism to the world during this century? Merely a matter of replacing the Dictatorship of the Proletariat with the Dictatorship of the Electronic Herd.
Just one question, Mr. Friedman. When Einstein fled Nazi Germany, he turned to the many local governments in the West, not to the global government much closer in the East. Where would Einstein flee now to avoid being trampled by the Electronic Herd?
But, that's enough heavy lifting for now. This olive-tree-hugging Anglo is driving his Ford pickup into town, ordering a pastrami-on-rye sandwich and Corona beer, then relaxing with a little poetry . . . Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough, A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse-and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness- And Wilderness is Paradise enow. (Thanks Omar and Ed)
am 8. Dezember 1999
A very wide ranging book written by an experienced journalist about the dilemmas created as globalisation transforms the world around our local communities and cultures. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting as bureau chief in Beirut, and it is this background from which the analogy of the olive tree comes. He explains how his career has enabled him to slowly come to see the many different dimensions of globalisation, how they link, and what we can do about it. It is a very systemic perspective. (Thurow, Lester: Building Wealth is complementary to it. Korten, David: When Corporations Rule the World provides a 1995 counterblast. Any of the books and pamphlets by Robert Theobald and also Harman, W.: Global Mind Change provide creative ideas on how globalisation can be redirected to achieve societal ans well as economic ends.)
The book is in four parts.
Part one explains how to look at the system we call globalisation and how it works.
Part two is a discussion of how nation-states, communities, individuals and the environment interact with the system.
Part three is a good look at the backlash.
Part four is an even better look at the unique role of the USA in this new world.
To understand and convey the complexity of what is going on, Friedman believes that he had to learn to combine six dimensions or perspectives in different ways and weights to understand the systemic interrelationships at play and then tell stories in order to explain it. This is what he does in the book. He also identifies what he believes to be the key driving forces to globalisation and the conditions necessary for a society to succeed in a globalised world.
As an analysis of the multiple forces at play and their interaction, The Lexus and the Olive Tree could hardly be bettered, and the comment that we know about as much about the globalised world that is emerging as we did about the Cold War world in 1946 really resonates.
I am less satisfied with Friedman's prescription, which is essentially that rape is inevitable - and may be pleasurable - so we may as well relax and enjoy it. That both under-rates the very real dangers posed by a large group of potential losers and, more important, absolves us from the need to search creatively for a third way that places more emphasis on the human spirit and sustainability and less on money as such.
It is notable how much of the business literature is beginning to focus on ethics, spiritual values and moral and ethical obligations. It is also notable how rapidly the various movements to reshape the world around more fundamentally human values are building strength. The balance is not just, as Friedman seems to suggest, between globalised progress and separatist stagnation, but other options need creative development, based on wider values than those that motivate the 'electronic herd'.
The conspiracy theorists claim that global business is consciously trying to promote the 'inevitability' of a system that happens to suit them very well. They would probably claim that Friedman has fallen into their trap. Whatever the truth or otherwise of a 'conspiracy', I am left with Russell Ackoff's phrase ringing in my head - 'If we don't work to get the future we want, we will have to learn to live with the future we get.'
Recognising the strength of the forces that Friedman describes so well, that is perhaps the issue. Are we clear about what kind of world we want and are we prepared to work for it?
am 3. Dezember 1999
Having worked in the so called Supermarkets, whose global power is so vehemently extolled by Friedman, I believe his analysis of present day globalization to be accurate and sound - yes, global investment acts as an invisible hand to direct historically domestic political and social concerns; yes, to participate in this market, a country must adapt its social framework as much as its 'hardware' and 'operating system'; and yes, globalization does provide benefits on an ABSOLUTE basis to many emerging economies.
While Friedman devotes a couple sparsely filled chapters to the backlash against this process, he clearly fails to highlight key issues: surely, RELATIVE poverty is a central concern to all of us in the rich world; surely, homogenization of values and culture is a great fear for everyone (yet Friedman believes social structure must be homogenized to work properly in the new market); surely, when barely 1% of our global population own a computer, people are being left behind - and yes, globalization does EFFECT everyone, but who makes the decisions - a tiny fraction of wealthy participants (you're average worker in Africa wants to eat his next meal, and is in no position to question this process - but of course, if you lay the rules down, he/she will jump as high as you say to get capital)....DEVELOPMENT of less fortunate economies is central....the market in its purest form is incapable of doing this! Ripple out effects of wealth simply do not work...wealth remains in the hands of a few super rich.
I am far from a socialist, but for all of our sakes (most of all the world's desperately poor) I hope people start to see that the pure market makes the rich even richer and the poor, even if better of (slightly) on an absolute basis, are way left behind.
But look at how passive Friedman is! Too much of a wimp in my book - explaining the process is important, but for goodness sake, how do we make it more equitable...one clue, the global electronic herd is not the answer. We need to shift our paradigm of thought and think proactively, not helplessly. Finding our own values (yes, there is more to life than consumption) is a step in the right direction.
am 20. September 1999
The globalization of the world's economy is a phenomenon of the world after the demise of the Soviet Union. Friedman gives a brilliant tour de force of the causes and results of worldwide financial markets acting in accordance with their own perceived self-interest, bestowing wealth and new investment in countries based upon their potential to return a profit to investers. But he also describes what happens when the "Electronic Herd" of investors get spooked by unanticipated threats to their investments. Because countries differ widely in their ability to absorb and efficiently use investment capital, there are wide fluctuations in investment, with consequential social and economic damage as capital moves across national boundaries with the speed of a mouse click. Friedman uses an anecdotal approach it illustrate his points, and in the end, they coalesce into his principal themes, that predictability, transparency, and accountability are the standards against which all investment will be measured, and those who are unable or refuse to abide by these norms will suffer accordingly. He also analyzes the impact of these fluid financial markets on traditional societies, and the tensions that fluidity impose on the traditonal order of things. People want both the wealth that the new order brings, but also want the community and values that this financial fluidity tend to undermine. Striking a balance between hopes and dreams for a secure future, and protecting traditional community values, and providing a safety net for those who are unable to compete will be the principal tasks of political and financial leaders now and in the distant future. This book should be on every thinking person's reading list as a Must Read.