The Lexus and the Olive Tree

“A brilliant guide for the here and now.” — The New York Times Book Review

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.

Finding the proper balance between the Lexus and the olive tree is the great drama of the globalization era, and the ultimate theme of Friedman’s challenging, provocative book – essential reading for all who care about how the world really works.


“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 York Times Book Review, Josef Joffe

“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.”

The New Yorker, Nicholas Lemann

“…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.”

The New York Times, Richard Eder

“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.”

Business Week, Christopher Farrell

“A wellspring of economic common sense that will inoculate its readers against the ‘globaloney’ so prevalent in popular discussions of the subject. …Readers in search of a window onto the problems of the cyberspace-driven ‘virtual world economy’ of the twenty-first century are unlikely to find a better place to start.”

Foreign Affairs

“All of us are groping to understand what’s going on. For a useful first pass on history, consult Thomas Friedman.”

Business Week

“Required reading for anyone who still thinks of the Internet as little more than a gimmick for computer nerds – deftly accomplishes the impressive task of encapsulating the complex economic, cultural, and environmental challenges of globalization with the sort of hindsight that future historians will bring to bear upon the subject.”

The Christian Science Monitor

“Friedman writes in straightforward language that should make globalization’s complexities comprehensible. There’s a great deal of wisdom in this book. Friedman reminds us that the world has grappled with this phenomenon before…At his best, Friedman represent a direct, and enjoyable, challenge to the white-shoed Council on Foreign Relations types who treat international affairs as inherently the province of ‘gentlemen’ rather than lay-people… This really is an owner’s manual for a globalized world.”

–David Lynch, USA Today

“This is an important book; not since Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital has a volume come along that so well explains the technical and financial ether we are all swimming through…There is hardly a page in the book without an underlineable passage …[Friedman] has used his remarkable vantage point to provide a readable overview that no academic or narrow-beat reporter could have given us…[A] genuinely important book.”

–Scott Whitney, Salon

“In the Cold War, the most frequently asked question was ‘How big is your missile?’ In globalization, the most frequently asked question is ‘How fast is your modem?'” So writes New York Times Foreign Affairs columnist Friedman (author of the NBA-winning From Beirut to Jerusalem), who here looks at geopolitics through the lens of the international economy and boils the complexities of globalization down to pithy essentials. Sometimes his pithiness slips into simplicity. There’s a jaunty innocence in the way he observes that “no two countries that both had a McDonald’s had fought a war against each other, since each got its McDonald’s.” For the most part, however, Friedman is a terrific explainer. He presents a clear picture of how the investment decisions of what he calls the “Electronic Herd” – a combination of institutions, such as mutual funds, and individuals, whether George Soros or your uncle Max trading on his PC–affect the fortunes of nations. The book’s title, in its reference to both the global economy (the Lexus) and specific national aspirations and cultural identity (the olive tree), echoes Benjamin Barber’s Jihad Vs. McWorld. Like Barber, Friedman takes note of what may be lost, as well as gained, in the brave new world: “globalization enriches the consumer in us, but it can also shrink the citizen and the space for individual cultural and political expression.” The animating spirit of his book, however, is one of excitement rather than fear. Some of the excitement is the joy a good lecturer feels in making the complex digestible. Writing with great clarity and broad understanding, Friedman has set the standard for books purporting to teach Globalization 101.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Friedman catalogs the benefits and pitfalls of globalization in a text so clearly written and with so many examples that one easily forgets that this is a book about economics. Reader’s of Friedman’s column will recognize many of these concepts. Well written, cogently argued, thought-provoking, and very highly recommended.”

–Patrick J. Brunet, Library Journal

“A brilliant guidebook to the new world of ‘globalization’ by Pulitzer-winning New York Times columnist Friedman (From Beirut to Jerusalem, 1988). In simplest terms, Friedman defines globalization as the world integration of finance markets, nation states, and technologies within a free market capitalism on a scale never before experienced. Friedman’s discussion is wonderfully accessible, clarifying the complex with enlightening stories that simplify but are never simplistic. Artful and opinionated, complex and cantankerous; simply the best book yet written on globalization.”


“Friedman explains in wonderfully clear language just what globalization is, how it is affecting people and nations, and why a backlash is both inevitable and healthy. He uses great anecdotes from street vendors in Asia to bankers in Europe to crisply explain each point.”

World News Guide |

“INSIGHT AND ELOQUENCE characterize Freedman’s foreign affairs columns in the New York Times and they elevate this book. He has exceptionally good judgment and the energy of an intrepid traveler, so there is a street-truth to his arguments, illuminated with vivid stories.”

–Global Business Network