Book Reviews

  • George Rupp
    Columbia University Press, 2015
    ISBN: 978-0-231-17428-2

    Individualism, associated with Western culture, is a powerful force spreading around the globe that is often resisted by traditional communities. Respect for the role of community is essential for modern societies, argues George Rupp in Beyond Individualism: The Challenge of Inclusive Communities. Rupp has served as president of Columbia University, Rice University and the International Rescue Committee. Globalization may favor individualism over inclusion, Rupp notes, yet inclusion – engaging with others rather than rejecting their convictions – is essential for resolving major challenges like climate change or inequality.

  • Gabriel Weimann
    Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Columbia University Press, 2015
    ISBN:978-0-231-70449-6

    Cyberspace is a leading arena for battling extremism, argues Gabriel Weimann, professor of communications at the University Haifa and author of Terrorism in Cyberspace: The Next Generation. He was a fellow at the Wilson Center in 2013-2014. Extremists are adept at communicating over social media to attract recruits. Weimann’s book analyzes trends in cyberterrorism and demonstrates how “the war on terrorism is being played in the realm of narratives.” Governments struggle to present counter-narratives. Susan Froetschel reviews the book, pointing out that the failure of governments to acknowledge legitimate grievances and entrenched inequality risks provoking anger that leads to extremism.  

  • Anders Åslund
    Peterson Institute for International Economic, 2015
    ISBN: 978-0881327014

    In transitioning away from communism to independence since 1991, Ukraine struggled more than its neighbors, including Poland or Hungary. For more than two decades, Ukraine wavered between loyalty to Russia and stronger ties with the European Union.  Discontent and protests, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and intervention in the country’s east have exacerbated struggles with inequality, high debt and corruption. Anders Åslund, an economist with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, served as an economic advisor to Ukraine’s President Leonid Kuchma from 1994 to 1997. He urges immediate reforms and austerity measures. In her review, Julia Sinitsky praises Åslund’s analysis, but questions the wisdom of austerity during a sensitive period. She also expresses doubt on his optimistic outlook but expresses hope that the book may inspire agents of change for Ukraine.

  • Roger Hood and Carolyn Hoyle
    Oxford University Press, 2015
    ISBN: 978-0-19-870174-3

    The world is divided over the death penalty: 140 nations are abolitionist in law or practice while 39 nations, including the world’s two largest economies – China and the US - still rely on the penalty to deter serious crimes. But nations also disagree about methods and which crimes are serious enough to warrant death. Executions of foreign nationals in particular can expose inconsistent policies. The Death Penalty by Oxford professors Roger Hood and Carolyn Hoyle argues for the penalty’s worldwide abolition. Leila Toiviainen in her review describes the book as “scholarly but readable and compassionate.”     

  • Bruce Mazlish
    Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, 2015
    ISBN: 978-4128-5605-8

    The pace of globalization does not let up, and historians struggle to keep up. Bruce Mazlish’s Globalization and Transformation is a heady survey of the great thinkers who embraced a global context. Mazlish, professor emeritus of history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, assures readers that they may wield some control over globalization, and even when that’s not the case, they have “a moral duty to behave as if we can shape our present and future.” In her review, Susan Froetschel comments on the book’s quick pace for such an immense topic, and agrees that society can no longer afford to neglect global connections and consequences. Mazlish concludes that all history is global history, and the review suggests that histories should be regularly reassessed, keeping multicultural and global contexts in mind.

  • Nayan Chanda
    Global Asia, 2015
    Reprinted from GlobalAsia.org

    Over the centuries, some keen observers recognized the interconnected opportunities and problems between distant lands. And modern leaders who take the time to study those historical connections will have a better grasp of broader currents of global politics, trade and security despite shifting borders over time, suggests Nayan Chanda, editor of YaleGlobal, in this review of two books for Global Asia: Asia Inside Out, Volumes I and II, and Asian Encounters: Exploring Connected Histories. “The traditional study of history has been confined to narrower national borders, as while the actions of communities and populations, monarchs and ministers have been studied, seemingly marginal actors such as traders, pilgrims, refugees and other mobile populations have been largely left out,” Chanda writes.  “The volumes on connected histories under review brilliantly fill that gap. They show Asia as a ‘space of flows,’ and offer glimpses of early globalization.”

  • Howard W. French
    Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014
    ISBN: 0307956989

    From 1990 to 2008, Howard French reported for The New York Times as bureau chief for Central America and the Caribbean, West Africa, Japan and the Koreas, and China in Shanghai. French builds on those experiences to describe how Chinese migrants contribute to Africa’s development in his book China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa. The influence can run both ways, notes veteran journalist and editor of YaleGlobal Online Nayan Chanda in his review, which was first published by Global Asia: “A common theme that emerges from French’s inter­views with these Chinese migrants is that most lacked opportunity at home and resented omni­present corruption, pollution and lack of freedom….”  

  • William I. Robinson
    New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014
    ISBN: 978-1-107-69111-7

    The world is highly integrated, and few can hope to escape the consequences of modern capitalism –inequality, debt and corporate power combined with worrisome declines in sustainability and trust in government. A mix of crises threatens world civilization, argues William I. Robinson, a sociology professor, in Global Capitalism and the Crisis of Humanity, and prospects for reform seem bleak. To ensure a comfortable way of life for future generations, Robinson urges critical thinking, political engagement and redistribution of wealth. Just as globalization has spurred processes of finance, supply chains and labor mobility, the phenomenon could speed ideas for rescue, too. 

  • Emma Barrett and Paul Martin
    Oxford University Press, 2014
    ISBN: 978-0-19-966858-8

    Exploring extreme and dangerous environments – the ocean depths, space, caves or disaster zones – requires courage, resilience, focus, self-discipline in addition to meticulous planning. Extreme: Why Some People Thrive at the Limits by Emma Barrett and Paul Martin examines the characteristics required to embrace and manage the risks. The authors argue that such skills and attitudes can be developed, taught and practiced. In her review, Susan Froetschel suggests that the skill set will come in handy as the globe experiences more extreme weather patterns, a result of climate change, and she concludes, “The world has a need for people willing to step into harm’s way, and how they manage risks should be understood and appreciated.” 

  • Dilip Hiro
    HarperCollins Publishers India, 2014
    ISBN: 978-93-5136-266-1

    Journalist and historian Dilip Hiro starts his book Indians in a Globalizing World: Their Skewed Rise with its purpose – analyzing the impact of India’s 1991 New Economic Policy and globalization on Indians at home and abroad.  India is a place of inequality, with troubling levels of corruption and poverty. The book offers personal tales of fortune and woe, which in turn give insights into the complex challenges of inequality in fast-developing India. Education offers the most reliable path to comfort and affluence, Susan Froetschel writes in her review. According to various rankings, India is not the most unequal place, yet is destined to become the world’s most populous nation over the next decade. India’s experiences hold lessons for the rest of the world on the dangers of skewed opportunities.