THE COMMANDING HEIGHTS by Daniel Yergin

THE COMMANDING HEIGHTS

The Battle Between Government and the Marketplace that Is Remaking the Modern World
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The hyperbole of the subtitle tells the story: It's a close call whether this volume provides a brilliant overview of the big picture or overgeneralized clichÇs. Both the strength and weakness of this book is its magnificent scope. Yergin, a Pulitzer Prize winner (The Prize: The Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, 1991, etc.), and Stanislaw (managing director, Cambridge Energy Research Associates) pull together a huge amount of familiar material to trace the growing influence of government early in this century, followed by the resurgence of market economies. The result is impressive--if the seeming overreach of the analysis is set aside. Depicting a global struggle between government and market is dramatic, but mental gymnastics are required to believe that rolling back Western welfare states reflects the same dynamic as economic development in Asia, or that movement toward free markets in the former communist states of Europe parallels that in still-communist China. The problem is that Yergin and Stanislaw rely on the common misconception that governments and markets are mutually exclusive and exhaustive entities, even though they recognize that the nature, extent, and operation of markets is dependent upon government action and that absence of government involvement doesn't guarantee the open functioning of markets. Remaining on the conceptual surface allows them to see very different events as part of a single movement, but in the end it may obscure more than it reveals. To be fair, in the concluding chapter the authors provide a very realistic and historically astute assessment of the current trend. They recognize that, in the past, putting faith in the invisible hand of the free market has not always been a blessing and that the future depends upon whether the negative consequences of markets can be controlled. Prediction: This will become a more important book than it really deserves to be.

Pub Date: Feb. 4th, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-82975-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1997




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