Book Reviews

  • Edward N. Luttwak
    Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, 2012
    ISBN:

    Media in the West frequently suggest that China is on a trajectory to become the world’s leading economy and superpower. Edward Luttwak argues that China, because of its history and geostrategic position in the world, confronts a choice. It can become an economic power or military power, but cannot achieve both. In his review, BBC editor Alistair Burnett outlines the argument and evidence. History suggests that a country bordering many states – and China has 14 neighbors – will struggle to overcome wariness and their inclination for balance by forming ties with rivals like the United States. Burnett finds Luttwak’s evidence intriguing, yet warns that China has overcome many challenges and could buck the historical trend.

  • Fawaz A. Gerges
    Palgrave, Macmillan, 2012
    ISBN: 0230113818

    Writing for YaleGlobal over the years, international relations professor Fawaz A. Gerges has issued many astute early warnings on the Middle East – about desires for freedom stirring in the autocratic regimes, the War in Iraq disrupting the West’s battle for hearts and minds throughout the Muslim world, and the enduring nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for galvanizing extremism. His book analyzing the US role in the Middle East in recent years is must reading for anyone who cares about the region, suggests Susan Froetschel in her review of Obama and the Middle East: The End of America’s Moment? The assessment shows how political polarization is weakening the US, forcing its president to be more ordinary than extraordinary. Gerges recommends that the US embrace balanced policies to maintain influence in the region.

  • Katherine Fierlbeck
    University of Toronto Press, 2011
    ISBN: 978-1-4426-4003-0

    For developed nations with aging populations or developing nations investing in new programs, cross-country comparisons of health-care systems and their financing mechanisms are useful for containing health-care costs. Political scientist Katherine Fierlbeck offers a model for such comparisons with her book Health Care in Canada: A Citizen’s Guide to Policy and Politics. The costs and benefits of Canada’s largely public system versus those of the largely for-profit US system are compared. The two systems were similar during World War II, but diverged on separate financing paths afterward. Canada’s public system has flaws and limits, yet has achieved the superior results, and Fierlbeck offers cautions on cross-border influences from the US and its corporate model of health care.

  • Lester R. Brown
    W.W. Norton and Company, 2011
    ISBN: 978-0-393-33949-9

    Food-price stability depends on good harvests year after year, and extreme weather events increasingly test agriculture’s ability to meet demands of a growing population. In “World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse,” Earth Policy Institute President Lester R. Brown analyzes the interconnections of water, energy, food security, climate and failing states. Half the book addresses the challenges awaiting governments for the 21st century, and the other half provides a plan, with Brown optimistic that the world can reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent before 2020. The plan’s centerpiece: reducing income taxes and raising taxes on carbon. Reviewer Susan Froetschel recommends the book as an investment guide for the 21st century.

  • Hakan Altinay, Editor
    Brookings Institution Press, 2011
    ISBN: 978-0-8157-2141-3

    Increasingly confounding nations are problems of global scale. To negotiate resolutions, citizens and leaders must delve into global civics lessons and understand the political processes, argues Hakan Altinay, Brookings Institution fellow and editor of Global Civics Responsibilities and Rights in an Interdependent World.  Citizens ignorant of World Bank, World Trade Organization or United Nations operations can’t debate or rally behind decisions. Altinay’s proposal addresses a pressing need, notes reviewer Susan Froetschel, and global civics could strengthen institutions of global governance. If educators develop global civics programs, then reasonable and coordinated policy may soon follow. 

  • Ian Goldin, Geoffrey Cameron and Meera Balarajan
    Princeton University Press, 2011
    ISBN: 0691145725

    Those following political debates or media accounts in the wealthiest nations might assume that global migration brings more problems than benefits. Authors Ian Goldin, Geoffrey Cameron and Meera Balarajan set out to counter the prevailing negative narratives on migration in their book Exceptional People – How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future. After recounting the long history of migration and globalization over the last millennium and its crucial role in the progress of humanity, the book critiques current migration policies as fractured and shortsighted and provides policy recommendations for reform. In his review, Rasesh Mohan lauds the authors for providing sound evidence that policies discouraging migration represent lost opportunity.

  • Immanuel Wallerstein
    Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011
    ISBN: 0520267613

    Beginning in 1974, sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein set out to produce an ambitious and innovative history of modern world development that he labels world-systems analysis. Volume IV of the series spans 1789 to the First World War and analyzes the period’s evolving politics and industrial systems along with competing responses of conservatism, socialism, radicalism and liberalism. In an introductory essay to a previous book “The Essential Wallerstein,” the sociologist argued that world-systems analysis is a protest “against neglected issues and deceptive epistemologies” and a call for “intellectual change.” He strives to explain so that his readers might better respond to a modern world. Historian J.R. McNeill reviews the fourth volume and analyzes the impact of Wallerstein’s inspiring career that bridges so many disciplines. 

  • Liza Tsaliki, Christos A. Frangonikolopoulos and Asteris Huliaras, Editors
    Intellect/University of Chicago, 2011
    ISBN: 978-1-84150-349-3

    Many facets of globalization have combined to spur intense celebrity activism at the global level. Transnational Celebrity Activism in Global Politics: Changing the World? scrutinizes the motivations, the public response, and influences over international relations and diplomacy.  The collection of essays, edited by Liza Tsaliki, Christos A. Frangonikolopoulos and Asteris Huliaras, suggests that celebrities and their dutiful fans could be unwitting pawns in global geopolitics, reinforcing power and inequality. In her review, Susan Froetschel points to the dangers of a piecemeal approach that delivers social benefits by lottery and argues that governments, better than a handful of individuals, can ensure policies that deliver justice and long-term relief. 

  • Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel, Editors
    Melville House Publishing, 2010
    ISBN: 978-1-935554-38-7

    “The People Reloaded” analyzes Iran’s Green Movement, its demand for reforms and the government’s insecure and brutal responses. Edited by Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel, the collection includes more than 50 essays, interviews and letters from the movement’s first year that highlight determination for specific reforms. In the book’s introduction, Postel concludes that “this book seeks to capture an important moment in Iran’s history.” The book meets that goal, confirms YaleGlobal reviewer Susan Froetschel, and could inspire others who seek democratic freedoms throughout the Greater Middle East. 

  • Stephen R. Brown
    St. Martin’s Press, 2009
    ISBN: 0312616112

    Stephen R. Brown’s explores the history of six European merchants, dispatched by their governments to expand global trade in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. In separate expeditions to Asia, the Americas and Africa – the merchants essentially established their own private fiefdoms taking control over natural resources that belonged to others, dominating local economies and cultures. Governments encouraged the monopolies, yet also distanced themselves from brutal consequences. Francesca Trivellato, reviewer and Yale professor of history, suggests the tales offer lessons for government-corporate entanglements of the modern era.