This is one of the most important books concerning the study and the complete understanding of globalization, what it is, how it works, and in what way it affects the lives and the conditions of people all around the planet.
According to the author, the world is now inside a globalization era that is virtually changing every aspect of life as we once knew it, and because of this ongoing process, everything is moving differently compared to what was happening during the post-Cold-War world; now processes move according to a fast and more clear pace. This can be seen in the various aspects of the markets, the money movements, and the sharing of information, which have inevitable effects on the political life, the business relations, the cultures and the ways of life of everyone in any corner of our planet.
Globalization is not simply a trend or a fad but is, rather, an international system. It is the system that has now replaced the old Cold War system, and, like that Cold War system, globalization has its own rules and logic that today directly or indirectly influence the politics, environment, geopolitics and economics of virtually every country in the world (7).
The book is divided in four parts that deal with different aspects of the issue of globalization. The first part, Seeing the System, attempts to explain the concept of globalization, how it came into life and how it functions on a global scale.
The world has become an increasingly interwoven place, and today, whether you are a company or a country, your threats and opportunities increasingly derive from who you are connected to. This globalization system is also characterized by a single word: the Web. So in the broadest sense we have gone from a system built around division and walls to a system increasingly built around integration and webs. (8).
The first part tends also to go through subjects such as the negative impacts of globalization on the cultures forming the rest of the world (of the countries that are not part of the Western world).
In what concerns libraries and bookstores, we find a clear explanation of how the concept have changed today because of the internet, as the author explains that everyone of us can now have his/her own library at home; “you could be living on a block with three bookstores Barnes & Noble, Crown Books and Borders,” and he refers to the fact that now each one can be guided inside the virtual library, such as Amazon.com, according to his/her specific buying habits , and that now we have “a twenty-four-hour-a-day bookstore, where you can shop anytime and the whole store is dedicated just to you” (80).
The second part, Plugging into the System, discusses the way in which we, in our communities and cities and countries work within the structure created by globalization. It discusses the elements needed for any country to enter in the new era and to become an active part of it.
For all these reasons there is now a growing awareness among leaders of developing countries that what they need in order to succeed in die globalization system is not just an emerging market but what former U.S. ambassador to Hungary Donald Blinken called “an emerging society.”… It is critically important that more investors and politicians begin to broaden their definition of what constitutes a healthy emerging market, by looking at what constitutes a healthy emerging society (162).
In this part, we find a clear indication to how globalization changed the concept of ‘library’, referring to the internet, as the author states that “we now have a common global library, where we can all go to do research” (141).
Even if the third part, The Backlash Against the System, is supposed to explain the negative effects of the globalization processes on different societies and countries, the reader will certainly get the opposite impression as in different parts of this part, we find the author defending the new system and, in many cases being offensive regarding those who find it difficult to adapt to the new reality:
[There is] a whole generation of people around the world today who feel threatened by globalization because they fear that they just don’t have the skill sets or the energy to make it into the Fast World. I call them “the turtles.” Why? Because high-tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley always like to compare their supercompetitive business to the story about the lion and the gazelle in the jungle (331).
The fourth part of the book, America and the System, describes, in depth, how the United States is involved in the development and is responsible, in a way, for the success of the new system. Friedman explains that there is a responsibility each citizen of the world to make this new reality succeed and turn into a positive factor for all.
“Globalization is always in the balance, always tipping this way or that. Our job as citizens of the world is to make certain that a majority of people always feel that advancing issues are leading the declines. Only then will globalization be sustainable. And no nation has a greater responsibility and opportunity to ensure this than the United States of America” (433).
The Lexus and The Olive Tree is, without a doubt, an in-depth research, from all angles, in globalization, and it is certainly a useful and interesting book.
Friedman, Thomas L. The Lexus and The Olive Tree. New York: Anchor Books, 2000.