THE J CURVE by Ian Bremmer


A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall
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Novel analysis of how countries make the transition from autocracy to openness.

Foreign-policy pro and political-risk consultant Bremmer offers an easy-to-grasp theory with a visual twist. Imagine a J-shaped curve on a graph; the vertical axis represents stability, the horizontal axis political openness. High up on the left side of the J curve are countries that are fairly stable but not open, such as North Korea, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. On the right side of the curve, which extends much higher than the left, are nations that are both open and stable: the United States, countries of Western Europe, Japan. Bremmer takes it as a given that the optimal place to be is high on the right side of the curve. But to make the transition, he argues, states must first slide down the left side of the curve into the dip, which is its most unstable point. For example, when a dictatorship collapses, simmering tensions within a country can be unleashed, e.g., Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Some countries, such as South Africa in the 1990s, make it through the dip with visionary leadership. Some—Bremmer cites Vladimir Putin’s Russia—struggle with instability and slide back up, toward authoritarianism. Others, such as the former Yugoslavia, implode. Bremmer also scrutinizes Iran, China and Turkey, among others, suggesting ways to ease movement from left to right. The goal of U.S. policy, he writes, should not be to impose democracy, but to find ways of opening up closed countries to the outside world instead of isolating them, to foster economic reform and to encourage citizens to call for democracy from within. He credits the Cold War, in which America engaged on cultural, diplomatic, social, economic and military levels, as the model to follow.

A shrewd and timely take on a continual dilemma of international relations.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-7432-7471-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2006


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