The Lexus and the Olive Tree
#0385499345) is a book by two-time Pulitzer Prize
recipient and National Book Award
winner Thomas Friedman
, which explores globalization
and how it affects the world, in an economic, and perhaps more importantly, social sense.
Friedman talks about today's shrinking world, where the global markets are becoming ever more interconnected and thus all the more interdependent. This interdependency means that even smaller economies can sometimes have a great effect on larger ones; A small ripple can sometimes cause an unexpected riptide.
However, a much more important emphasis is this book is the effects that globalization has on non-industrialized nations. From the book's title, the "Lexus" is a symbol that represents a modern, post-industrial consumer worldview; The "olive tree" represents older, embedded cultures, more resistant to change. Friedman postulates that as globalization spreads, there will inevitably be conflict between the two.
Lest anyone suspect otherwise, Friedman is by no means against globalization; rather he thinks it's inevitable. The Lexus and the Olive Tree is strongly pro-capitalism, noting that no other mechanism ever established has promoted such a degree of wealth and freedom within a nation. Friedman is recognizant, however, that resistance is inevitable, either from cultural backlash, or the resultant "growing pains" that come from joining the world economy. Friedman stresses that a large part of globalization is global awareness, and that as nations are brought into the global community, some moderation and restraint need be shown - lest we see the backlash come back to haunt us, through more invasive and violent means. Although the first printing of this book came out before September 11th, Friedman had already mentioned bin Laden. In hindsight, his predictions have been eerily accurate.
Since the book has come out, it has show a bit of age -- Friedman's Golden Arches theory has since been somewhat disproven, following the wars in Serbia, although Friedman admits, in a later pressing, that he didn't expect the theory to hold steadfast, for years. Furthermore, throughout the book, Friedman praises Enron, which, as we all know, has since had its own share of mishaps.
Subjectively speaking, if there's one downside to this book, it's the inevitable existance of Friedman's many "cute" names for his theories. I've already mentioned the "Golden Arches theory". Then there's the "Golden Straightjacket", and "DOSCapital", and then the "Electronic Herd". They all do an adequate job of describing his ideas, but smack something of "too much Nutrasweet", after a while.
Overall, however, it is an interesting read, and will give the reader a better feel for how the inevitable global change is occuring, and will occur in the future. It's not perfect, and surely many people have differing beliefs from what Friedman has said. However, in publishing this book, he has, at very least, made people more aware of what is coming down the road.