Summary of The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy

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The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy book summary


9 Overall

4 Applicability

10 Innovation

8 Style


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. says this book deserves its own T-shirt with "Must Read" on the front and "Highly Recommended" on the back.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How a T-shirt tells the tale of world markets and trading;
  • What facts lie behind globalization rhetoric; and
  • Why free trade isn’t free.

About the Author

Pietra Rivoli is an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in Washington, D.C.



A T-Shirt’s Tale
A young woman at an anti-globalization rally passionately called out the question, "Where did your T-shirt come from?" In response, author Pietra Rivoli started her quest: tracing the travels of a T-shirt in the global economy. Her T-shirt travelogue begins in...

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