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This review is from: The Lexus and the Olive Tree (Paperback)
Globalization is a new international system with its own rules of logic, pressures and incentives that influence politics, environment, business, and economics in virtually every country; it is the dominant world system that shapes everything else. The new rules are so different from what has gone before and the different threads are intertwined in such a complicated manner that few understand them. Who would have thought that the 1997 collapse of the Thai currency would ultimately lead to the collapse of Long-term Capital Management in the US where two economists had won the Nobel Prize the previous year for their contribution to managing risk? The global market place has become an electronic herd of anonymous traders and investors connected by screens and networks; a herd that knows only its own rules and that will crush any one - and even governments - that stand in its way. Globalization is not a choice but a reality, but the problem is that no one is in charge.
Globalization is not new. Round I of globalization took place before World War I and was founded on cheap transportation. There was a period of relative calm until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism triggered Round II which is founded on cheap telecommunications. We can now reach further, faster, cheaper and deeper than ever before. Previously non-tradable services such as accounting, telephone answering and engineering design can now be transferred to low wage countries; production, research and marketing can be located where strategically most advantageous. The Berlin Wall did not just fall in Berlin; other walls came down in other countries at roughly the same time. Three changes caused the walls to fall - how we communicate, how we invest and how we learn. These changes allowed Thailand to move from being a low wage rice producer to the world's second largest producer of pick up trucks and the 4th largest manufacturer of motor cycles in 15 years. These changes give individuals more power to influence markets and nation states than at any time in history - as occurred when investors brought down Indonesia's Suharto in 1998. These changes allowed Jody Williams to win the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for an international ban on land mines by organizing human rights groups by e-mail. These changes allow us to tune into almost any public or private TV station worldwide so we can now see and hear through almost every conceivable wall. These changes allow a company like Cisco to close its books within an hour and to operate without paper.
Lexus in the title stems from a visit to a Toyota car factory where 66 people and 310 robots produce 300 Lexus sedans daily. Lexus represents our drive for improvement, prosperity, modernization, and innovation. The Olive tree stands for stability, family values, and a sense of belonging. The anonymous, transnational, homogenizing, standardizing forces of the Lexus are the biggest threat to the olive tree. Our challenge is to find a healthy balance between the two while recognizing that competitive pressures oblige us to build a bigger and better Lexus every day. Globalization can be likened to a race that you have to run day after day after day. However many times you win, you still have to run again next day. If you lose by a fraction of a second it is as though you lost by an hour. By just entering the race you threaten the very existence of your own olive tree. By not entering the race you may not even be around to enjoy your olive tree.
We cannot hope to understand and manage globalization without reference to all its components and how they interact with each other. Friedman has provided us with a guidebook giving the various components of globalization and suggestions on how we might go about managing globalization. This book is essential reading whether you want to be a Lexus or an olive tree.