Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade

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Overview

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy has been lauded by the New York Times, Financial Times, and reviewers worldwide. Translated into fourteen languages, Travels has received numerous awards for its frank and nuanced discussion of global economic realities. Now updated and revised—including a discussion of environmental issues—this fascinating book illustrates crucial lessons in economics, politics, and globalization.

The major themes and conclusions from the first ...

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Overview

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy has been lauded by the New York Times, Financial Times, and reviewers worldwide. Translated into fourteen languages, Travels has received numerous awards for its frank and nuanced discussion of global economic realities. Now updated and revised—including a discussion of environmental issues—this fascinating book illustrates crucial lessons in economics, politics, and globalization.

The major themes and conclusions from the first edition are intact, but in response to questions from readers and students around the world, the second edition now includes:

  • Updates on the people, businesses, and politics involved in the production of the T-shirt.
  • Discussions of environmental issues related to both international trade and the T-shirt's life story.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for THE TRAVELS OF A T-SHIRT IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY

"Engrossing . . . (Rivoli) goes wherever the T-shirt goes, and there are surprises around every corner . . . full of memorable characters and vivid scenes."
Time

"An engaging and illuminating saga. . . . Rivoli follows her T-shirt along its route, but that is like saying that Melville follows his whale. . . . Her nuanced and fair-minded approach is all the more powerful for eschewing the pretense of ideological absolutism, and her telescopic look through a single industry has all the makings of an economics classic."
The New York Times

"Rarely is a business book so well written that one would gladly stay up all night to finish it. Pietra Rivoli's The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy is just such a page-turner."
CIO magazine

Foreign Affairs
The protagonist of this highly informative and entertaining book is a $6 T-shirt purchased in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Georgetown economist Rivoli uses her T-shirt as a vehicle for telling an analytic story about its life — from the cotton fields of Texas to either its proud purchase by a Tanzanian villager or its sale as mattress filler, depending on its condition when discarded by its American owner. Along the way, she explores the history of cotton production and the cotton textile industry and evaluates the misguided and often absurd U.S. textile policy over the past half century, up to the end of 2004, when the multilateral Multifiber Arrangement (which inadvertently created many more jobs in not-quite-competitive developing countries than it preserved in the United States) expired. Rivoli draws heavily on her own interviews and on anthropological as well as economic literature, which gives her tale a human touch. She shows how despite the awful working conditions in apparel factories, in both historical America and contemporary poor countries the jobs they offered were often liberating to young women, who preferred the sweatshops to the stifling life they otherwise would have had to endure on the farm.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470287163
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 3/3/2009
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 45,122
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Pietra Rivoli, PhD, is Professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, where she specializes in international business, finance, and social issues in business. Travels of a T-Shirt has won numerous awards and has been translated into fourteen languages.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition.

Prologue.

PART I: KING COTTON. 

Chapter 1: How America Has Dominated the Global Cotton Industry for 200 Years.

Chapter 2: The History of American Cotton.

Chapter 3: Back at the Reinsch Farm.

Chapter 4: All God's Dangers Ain't the Subsidies.

PART II: MADE IN CHINA.

Chapter 5: Cotton Comes to China.

Chapter 6: The Long Race to the Bottom.

Chapter 7: Sisters in Time.

Chapter 8: The Unwitting Conspiracy.

PART III: TROUBLE AT THE BORDER.

Chapter 9: Returning to America.

Chapter 10: Dogs Snarling Together.

Chapter 11: Perverse Effects and Unintended Consequences of T-Shirt Trade Policy.

Chapter 12: 45 Clears of “Temporary” Protectionism Ends in 2009—Now What?

PART IV: MY T-SHIRT FINALLY ENCOUNTERS A FREE MARKET.

Chapter 13: Where T-shirts Go after the Salvation Army Bin.

Chapter 14: How Small Entrepreneurs Clothe east Africa with Old American T-Shirts.

Chapter 15: Mitumba: Friend or Foe to Africa?

Conclusion.

Acknowledgments.

Notes.

Bibliography.

Index.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 19 of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 28, 2010

    Could be better

    I had high hopes for this book before reading it. It starts off as a good chronicle of the life and death of her T-shirt, but then morphs into a textbook. She could use a fact checker. I was surprised to read that Dr. Chu was named to be head of EPA in Obama administration. He, in fact, is secretary of the energy department.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2009

    A book about world trade that non-economists can enjoy.

    I really enjoyed this book because it reads like a travel journal of an American t-shirt. The main character is the t-shirt and the reader follows the t-shirt's journey beginning in the U.S. and travelling across continents. The author introduces us to real characters involved in the making of the t-shirt who are both personal and engaging. At the same time, the author provides economic and political analysis to support her story. Some readers who may be less interested in the economic data can skim through these details, however, the end result is a comprehensive understanding of the economic and political forces behind the making of the classic American t-shirt.

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  • Posted November 30, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Immensely Intriguing Book

    Free trade, policies, regulations, globalisation, and relative wealth. The author did a great job in making these topics eye openers. A very thought provoking book on these subjects as well for people like me who were anti-globalist.<BR/><BR/>The book is about as exciting as it gets for an economics related book. This book would be great for Philosophy and Political Science readers/majors/students and I would highly recommend this book for all to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2008

    Author Rivoli IS Accountable

    I am very impressed with this book-I am reviewing it for my book group soon. The fact that she would update information on the net, following her book, is outstanding.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2007

    Makes Economics Fascinating and Personal

    I have never taken an economics course, and I am not at all sure why I decided to read this book, but I loved it. By focusing each section on a few people whose lives exemplified the principles emphasized, the principles became understandable and interesting. Fascinating historical tidbits are scattered throughout. It was clearly written, and had a helpful summary at the end. I have told many of my friends how informative this book was for me and have recommended it to my book club, and we will discuss it in March. I would recommend it to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2007

    Outstanding!

    If you are taking Economics, it's an EXTREMELY helpful book. It really takes you deep into hard times and money problems.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2006

    My shirt has seen more of the world than I have!

    Overall a good book. I encourage people to read the book, just to look at the impact U.S Policy and U.S. Trade regulations can have on an industry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2005

    T-shirt's Travels Tell of World Trade

    In 1999, author Pietra Rivoli attended a Washington, D.C. demonstration against globalization. A young woman asked the crowd, 'Who made your T-shirt?' before she described worldwide labor abuses and mistreatment of garment workers. That shouted question and the assumptions implicit in it stimulated the author¿s imagination. She decided to find the answer. Her compelling book tracks T-shirts from the Texas cotton fields, through manufacturing in China, to consumers in the U.S. and to Africa¿s used clothing market. In this interesting, original approach to the issues of globalization and industrialization, Rivoli shows the economic, political and social forces that come to bear on a T-shirt. Through she can¿t literally track a single shirt step-by-step, she sustains that metaphor. Buying a shirt, she works her way backward in time and space to find its origins, or the origins (and eventual lifespan and demise) of such T-shirts, by relying on inference, deduction and reasonable assumption. Her most stunning, most negative conclusion is that - despite debates over free trade and allegedly exploitative markets - everyone involved seems devoted to avoiding market forces altogether. We say this book deserves its own T-shirt with 'Must Read' on the front and 'Highly Recommended' on the back.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2005

    MUST-READ FOR ALL AMERICANS

    Mark Twain once said everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it. Similarly, everyone wears t-shirts but hardly anyone understands where they come from or how they got here. Thankfully, Pietra Rivoli has demystified the subject in a way that is informative and interesting. One part social history, one part human interest, one part trade policy primer, this book tells a story in a way that is engaging, instructive, and revelatory. Whether you are a teenager shopping at A & F, someone interested in history, or a seasoned business executive (like me), I guarantee this book will make you alter your perception and inform your daily life.

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