The author gives short shrift to forces introduced by petro-politics or the nuclear threat, but still an illuminating...

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DAY OF EMPIRE

HOW HYPERPOWERS RISE TO GLOBAL DOMINANCE—AND WHY THEY FALL

This analysis of world-dominant powers from ancient Persia to the modern United States yields an intriguing set of common traits and progressions.

Chua’s bestselling World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (2002) led the pack in sizing up the backlash against global free-marketers. Now she examines hegemony and the handful of entities worthy of the title “hyperpower,” which extends to the earliest civilizations: Persia, at its peak under Darius, the Macedonia of Alexander the Great and, of course, imperial Rome. There are also some surprises: Ghenghis Khan’s 13th-century Mongolian domain, for instance, eventually extended from Vienna to the Sea of Japan, far exceeding any before or since in contiguous territory. And the Mongols did it without original technology or literacy, absorbing both from cultures that came under their dominion. Likewise, the Dutch Republic of the late 17th century, a midget among Europe’s giants, became so dominant in world commerce that it eventually exported a king, William of Orange, to England. The commonality among these empires, says Chua, was tolerance. They were diverse societies, harboring—and exploiting—a wide range of ethnicities and unrestricted religions. The enduring model is Rome, which handed its adversaries a bloody defeat and proffered full citizenship the next day. The author notes that even China in its day of empire, the eighth-century Tang Dynasty, was a far more open society than it would be 1,000 years later. Tolerance alone won’t create a hyperpower, though, says the author; the United States needed the collapse of the Soviet Union to achieve its status. Chua concludes that hyperpowers ultimately tend to come “unglued” as a result of resistance to their own diversity. She cautions that the global rise of anti-Americanism today, which stems from attempts to export democracy in the service of self-interest, could be a negative sign.

The author gives short shrift to forces introduced by petro-politics or the nuclear threat, but still an illuminating exploration of what makes a superpower.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-385-51284-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2007

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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