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The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Tradeby Pietra Rivoli
Synopses & Reviews
In The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy, business professor Pietra Rivoli takes the reader on a fascinating around-the-world adventure to reveal the life story of her six-dollar T-shirt. Traveling from a West Texas cotton field to a Chinese factory, and from trade negotiations in Washington to a used clothing market in Africa, Rivoli examines international trade through the life story of this simple product. Combining a compelling story with substantive scholarship, Rivoli shows that both globalization's critics and its cheerleaders have oversimplified the world of international trade.
As Rivoli spoke with businesspeople around the world who played a part in her T-shirt's life, she was forced to confront her own assumptions about the political, economic, and ethical effects of globalization. Trained as a classical economist, Rivoli expected the story of her T-shirt to reveal the undeniable benefits of global free trade and the misguided ideas of the anti-globalization movement. Instead, she found that "free markets" usually aren't free; that even the staunchest allies of free trade regularly benefit from its restriction; and that the alleged "victims" of globalization are often its greatest beneficiaries. While the globalization debate remains centered on the perils versus the promise of competitive economic markets, Rivoli finds that the life story of her T-shirt turns as much on power and politics as it does on markets.
The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy uses a simple T-shirt to reveal the politics and the human side of the globalization debate. Within the fabric of every product are fascinating businesses, good and bad politics, revealing histories, and especially the hopes and dreams of real people. These people's stories ? and the story of the T-shirt that ties them together ? present the most nuanced look yet at the economics and politics of globalization.
"During a 1999 protest of the World Trade Organization, Rivoli, an economics professor at Georgetown, looked on as an activist seized the microphone and demanded, 'Who made your T-shirt?' Rivoli determined to find out. She interviewed cotton farmers in Texas, factory workers in China, labor champions in the American South and used-clothing vendors in Tanzania. Problems, Rivoli concludes, arise not with the market, but with the suppression of the market. Subsidized farmers, and manufacturers and importers with tax breaks, she argues, succeed because they avoid the risks and competition of unprotected global trade, which in turn forces poorer countries to lower their prices to below subsistence levels in order to compete. Rivoli seems surprised by her own conclusions, and while some chapters lapse into academic prose and tedious descriptions of bureaucratic maneuvering, her writing is at its best when it considers the social dimensions of a global economy, as in chapters on the social networks of African used-clothing entrepreneurs. Agent, Tom Power." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Into this contentious debate, Georgetown University economist Pietra Rivoli injects a charmingly simple book titled The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy, which provides a readable and evenhanded treatment of the complexities of world trade by choosing an example that illuminates the whole." Tom Abate, San Francisco Chronicle
"...full of memorable characters and vivid scenes....Rivoli excels at making connections." Time Magazine
"...fascinating exploration of the history, economics and politics of world trade...thought provoking." Fort Worth Star Telegram
Book News Annotation:
Rivoli (international business, Georgetown U.) starts in Texas, researching the cotton plantations and the history of American cotton, then travels with the cotton to China, watching the work go on at bottom dollar, then traces cotton's troubles at the border in terms of trade policy and the implications of the 2005 ending of protectionism. Finally, he follows the path of used cotton clothing from the U.S. to developing nations.
Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Book News Annotation:
Rivoli (international business, Georgetown U.) starts in Texas, researching the cotton plantations and the history of American cotton, then travels with the cotton to China, watching the work go on at bottom dollar, then traces cotton's troubles at the border in terms of trade policy and the implications of the 2005 ending of protectionism. Finally, he follows the path of used cotton clothing from the U.S. to developing nations. Annotation Â©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Learn about world trade from a T-shirt in this fascinating, around-the-world tale of a simple product in a highly competitive global marketplace. Over a five-year period, business professor Pietra Rivoli traveled from a Texas cotton field to a Chinese factory, and from trade negotiations in Washington to a used clothing market in Africa, to investigate compelling questions about the politics, economics, ethics, and the history of today's international business landscape. Looking closely at the lives of colorful characters from around the world, Rivoli uses her T-shirt to illustrate crucial lessons in the globalization debate and to demonstrate the impact of markets and politics on both rich and poor countries. A clear-eyed examination of the workings of the global economy, as well as an engaging story, this important narrative reveals surprising secrets of success in world markets — and its impact on individuals and communities around the world.
Praise for THE TRAVELS OF A T-SHIRT IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
"Pietra Rivoli has accomplished the nearly impossible. The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy bursts with life and color, humor and drama. At the same time, it is solidly grounded in theory, fact, and a nuanced insight into political economy."
—Charles S. Pearson, Director and Professor of International EconomicsThe Johns Hopkins University, author of United States Trade Policy: A Work in Progress
"Part travelogue, part history, and part economics, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy is ALL storytelling, and in the grand style. Globalization critics who read this book will understand why it is impossible to lift countries out of poverty without the power of free markets, while policymakers will learn the equally bracing lesson that economic progress for the wealthiest of nations means nothing without the democratic political institutions that uplift the poorest of nations. A must-read."
—Peter J. Dougherty, Senior Economics Editor, Princeton University Press, author of Who's Afraid of Adam Smith?
"Professor Rivoli puts a human face on a subject that is often described as arcane and something only worthy of study by policy wonks. She captures the politics, personalities, and policy considerations that shape U.S. trade policy and vividly describes how special interests influence who wins and who loses from global competition."
—Former Ambassador Ronald J. Sorini, President, Trade Negotiations and Legislative AffairsSandler, Travis & Rosenberg, P.A.
"This book is unlike any text in International Economics 101. It's totally entertaining and without those dreadful equations. The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy tells the drama of globalization through real people and their daily lives. Rivoli recounts the trials of winners and losers on three continents. From a fascinating journey, she distills economic and political lessons that just make good sense."
—Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Reginald Jones Senior FellowInstitute for International Economics, Washington, D.C.
"Rivoli weaves together the stories of individuals, companies, and countries in the textiles and apparel industries to reveal a globalization that is empowering as well as entangling, and more surprising than we ever imagined."
—H. Richard Friman, Eliot Fitch Professor of International Studies, Marquette University author of Patchwork Protectionism
About the Author
Pietra Rivoli, PhD, is Associate Professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, where she specializes in international business, finance, and social issues in business. She is the author of International Business and has been published in numerous academic journals, including the Journal of International Business Studies, the Journal of Business Ethics, Business Ethics Quarterly, and the Journal of Money, Credit and Banking.
Table of Contents
PART I: KING COTTON.
1. Reinsch Cotton Farm, Smyer, Texas.
2. The History of American Cotton.
3. Back at the Reinsch Farm.
PART II: MADE IN CHINA.
4. Cotton Comes to China.
5. The Long Race to the Bottom.
6. Sisters in Time.
PART III: TROUBLE AT THE BORDER.
7. Dogs Snarling Together.
8. Perverse Effects and Unintended Consequences of T-Shirt Trade Policy.
9. 40 Years of “Temporary” Protectionism Ends in 2005—and China Takes All the Jobs.
PART IV: MY T-SHIRT FINALLY ENCOUNTERS A FREE MARKET.
10. Where T-Shirts Go after the Salvation Army Bin.
11. How Small Entrepreneurs Clothe East Africa with Old American T-Shirts.
Epilogue to the Paperback Edition.
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