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“The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” Book by Pietra Rivoli

Pietra Rivoli’s book The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy describes the processes that a T-shirt moves through before and after it makes a finished product. The author uses the T-shirt creatively to analyze issues related to international business, including the market, power, and politics of global trade. Throughout the development of this T-shirt, Rivoli discusses vital topics such as the development of the cotton industry in the United States, the history of labor law and advocacy, tariffs, import restrictions, outsourcing, and entrepreneurship. Moreover, the author explains the various political, social, and economic factors that take place in international business through the description of the T-shirt story. Thus, Rivoli analyzed the features of international trade using the example of a simple product, gave a vision of the functioning of the world economy, and explained many of the intricacies of globalization and the textile industry.

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Globalization is one of the critical aspects of the book. It has brought many opportunities and challenges to different countries around the world. Globalization has led to the development of new businesses, tools, and how people think and do things. Rivoli (2005) asserts that the free market allowed many countries to connect with other cultures. Rivoli’s thesis about the benefits of free trade and economic globalization is convincingly argued. The author talks about how globalization benefits and improves people’s lives and highlights the unwanted things that could happen if humanity had not reached this level of cooperation.

However, economic globalization is a controversial phenomenon. On the one hand, its main features, which were mentioned above, generally contribute to an increase in the efficiency of the world economy and humankind’s economic and social progress. On the other hand, the forms of manifestation of these features often infringe on the interests of the general public of entire countries. There are difficulties in adapting to the challenges of globalization for developing countries and countries with economies in transition since they do not have the means at their disposal. Thus, such countries are forced to accept the rules of the game set by the stronger players in the world economy. The escalating wealth gap between rich and poor countries is pushing the latter to the margins of the global economy, increasing unemployment and impoverishment. Globalization in the form in which it unfolded over the years not only failed to solve but even exacerbated the problems that prevent these countries from integrating into the system of world economic relations and more or less satisfactorily solving the issues of poverty and backwardness.

Rivoli pays special attention to the characteristics of international trade. By offering a proper historical perspective, the author stresses the benefits of trading even for the poorest participants. As unpleasant as the conditions in textile factories have been for centuries, workers eagerly sought work there, fleeing desperate rural poverty. In many countries, the textile industry has improved the position of workers and their descendants. Indeed, international trade in many ways has a positive effect on the employment of each partner country’s population. Moreover, the development of international trade contributes to the strengthening of political ties, as evidenced by the improvement of China-U.S. relations at the beginning of the 21st century. Furthermore, according to Rivoli (2005), many former factory cities worldwide have come to the fore in more modern industries. Thus, one of the features of this book is to highlight the benefits of international trade.

Nevertheless, despite the indicated advantages, there are also significant disadvantages of international trade. One of them is the decline in national production. Political dependence is an equally substantial drawback. If national production is not manufactured, the country will lose its sovereignty since the exporter will be able to blackmail by stopping the supply of vital goods. Moreover, the possibility of conflicts between countries over spheres of influence is increasing. Entirely mutually beneficial trade is difficult to secure, so there is often a side left that feels disadvantaged. In the desire to get rid of the seeming injustice, economic and even military conflicts are possible. Thus, international trade also has a large number of negative consequences. Although Rivoli mentioned some of them, the author focuses on the advantages of this phenomenon, which, in my opinion, is a controversial point.

A critical aspect of the book is also that the textile industry benefits from unethical behavior. The most disturbing thing Rivoli found is that in the case of the textile industry, the free market was never part of the equation. According to Rivoli (2005), in Texas, where most of the world’s cotton comes from, slavery and the importation of Mexican workers through the Bracero program were used to avoid the free market. In turn, the Chinese authorities used this to control the population. However, since a significant proportion of the industry’s workforce has historically been women, textile manufacturing has also been a driving force in increasing women’s autonomy in many societies. Thus, the indicated characteristics of the textile industry are debatable up to the present day.

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy provides a detailed history of the global textile trade. This book reveals the complexity of the global economy, aimed at solving social, economic, and political problems associated with international business. By reading the book, one can understand the historical and political challenges that permeate the market. The most controversial aspects of the book are the intricacies of globalization, the specifics of international trade, and the ethics of the textile industry. Despite the validity of Rivoli’s theses, alternative and opposite ideas regarding these topics can be designated.

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Work Cited

Rivoli, Pietra. The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power and Politics of World Trade. John Wiley & Sons, 2005.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, August 19). “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” Book by Pietra Rivoli. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2022, August 19). “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” Book by Pietra Rivoli.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "“The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” Book by Pietra Rivoli." August 19, 2022.


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