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In Memoriam Clayton Christensen: Storyteller Extraordinaire

Posted by hkarner - 29. Januar 2020


Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who became world-famous for his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma (HBR Press, 1997) and his ideas on disruptive innovation, passed away last night as a result of complications from leukemia treatment at the age of 67.

Christensen was a member of the Latter-day Saint (LDS) community for over 40 years. Unusual for the management field, Christensen held explicit moral and religious convictions. “When I have my interview with God at the end of my life, he’s not going to ask me to show how high I went in anybody’s org chart or how much money I left behind in the bank when I died,” Christensen said. “It’s actually really important you succeed at what you’re succeeding at, but that isn’t going to be the measure of life.”

As a young man, Christensen had studied economics at Brigham Young and, after a two-year leave of absence in which he served as a volunteer full-time missionary for the LDS Church, he earned a master’s degree at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and got an MBA at Harvard Business School. He then worked at Boston Consulting Group before heading back to Harvard for a Ph.D. so he could teach. Over the ensuing decades as a business school professor, Christensen wrote ten books and founded several consulting firms.

Christensen was a charismatic ambassador for his ideas and became a key influence in Silicon Valley. His fans included Apple’s Steve Jobs, Intel’s Andy Grove, and Netflix’s Reed Hastings. He was repeatedly named as the world’s most influential living business thinker. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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A Very Stable Genius review: dysfunction and disaster at the court of King Donald

Posted by hkarner - 20. Januar 2020

Date: 19‑01‑2020

Source: The Guardian

Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, Pulitzer‑winning Washington Post reporters, have produced a vital and alarming read

Donald Trump speaks in Bossier City, Louisiana.

In January 2018, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury made headlines as it depicted a president out of control and a White House that careened from crisis to crisis. Donald Trump threatened legal action against author and publisher. He also lauded himself and his electoral college victory: “I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!”

Trump’s outburst confirmed what many already feared. In the aftermath of the firing of FBI director James Comey in May 2017, Rod Rosenstein, then deputy attorney general, reportedly weighed secretly recording the president with an eye to removing him from office under the 25th amendment.

Now Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post offer A Very Stable Genius. As befitting Pulitzer winners for investigative reporting, their book is richly sourced and highly readable.

It sheds new light on how the 45th president tests the boundaries of the office while trying the patience and dignity of those who work for or with him. It is not just another Trump tell‑all or third‑party confessional. It is unsettling, not salacious. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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A love affair with liberal democracy that soured

Posted by hkarner - 13. Januar 2020

Date: 09‑01‑2020

Source: The Economist Books and arts

“The Light that Failed” explores how, in eastern Europe, disillusionment set in

The Light that Failed. By Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes. Pegasus Books; 256 pages; $26.95. Allen Lane; £20.

In a viral video for a song by Sergei Shnurov, a Russian rock star, a provincial young woman in a shabby Soviet‑era apartment vies for the attention of a Westernised businessman she has befriended over Skype. He invites her to an art exhibition. She duly waxes and squeezes herself into tight jeans, emulating a model in a glossy magazine, and paints the soles of her shoes in red nail varnish to mimic the expensive Western originals. Alas, as she answers the door, the jeans treacherously split, the shoes stick to the floor—and the Russian Cinderella falls flat on her face.

A scathing take on Russia’s abortive date with the West, the video’s popularity was due in part to its liberating message. Don’t bother aping others, it wittily enjoined; stick with what you’ve got. The pitfalls for ex‑communist countries of copying the (once) liberal West are the subject of “The Light that Failed”, a sharp, polemical and ideas‑packed book by Ivan Krastev, a Bulgarian‑born political scientist who has witnessed and participated in the remaking of central and eastern Europe, and Stephen Holmes, an expert on the history of liberalism at New York University.

Published for the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, their book sets out to explain how the liberal transformation of eastern Europe turned into a defeat for the idea of liberalism itself; why, after making reforms that paved the way for Europe’s emancipation, Russia became a bitter enemy of the West; and why “the end of history”—as Francis Fukuyama once put it—gave way to the apparent cancellation of the sunlit future. Membership of nato made many ex‑communist countries more secure than ever. Accession to the European Union helped make them unprecedentedly rich. Yet disillusionment set in. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Trump announces plan to acquire a book – about himself

Posted by hkarner - 11. Januar 2020

Date: 10‑01‑2020

Source: The Guardian

President said Thursday – while announcing a rollback of environmental regulations that he plans to read Donald J Trump: An Environmental Hero

Trump re‑writes environmental protections and says ‚I am a big believer in the environment‘

Donald Trump is going to acquire a book.

The book in question, as Gizmodo reported on Thursday, is titled Donald J Trump: An Environmental Hero, by Edward Russo. And the shocking news emerged as the president announced a rollback of environmental regulations at the White House, taking an ax to the environmental review process required for infrastructure projects. The move, which he pitched as a way around “endless delays” to various projects, poses a new threat to the climate and is likely to face legal challenges.

The president’s war on the environment is nothing new. His plan to bury his nose in a book is.

Trump isn’t known for his literary bona fides. Though the bestseller The Art of the Deal helped make his name, it was ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz – who deeply regrets his work on the book. Ghostwriters have been involved in most, if not all, of his many other volumes. “He doesn’t read books and he doesn’t write them, Schwartz told the Independent in 2018. (The late night host Samantha Bee has developed a conspiracy theory that Trump can’t read at all.) Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Freedom without constraints: how the US squandered its cold war victory

Posted by hkarner - 9. Januar 2020

Date: 07‑01‑2020

Source: The Guardian By Andrew Bacevich

The US believed the American way of life was humankind’s ultimate destiny.

But unrestrained greed has led to an era of injustice and division.

‘Without the Cold War, what’s the point of being an American?” Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, the novelist John Updike’s late‑20th‑century everyman, posed that question just as the “long twilight struggle” was winding down. More than quarter of a century later, the plaintive query still awaits a definitive answer.

Indeed, the passage of time has only sown confusion about whether there is a point to being an American. Even as the cold war was ending, Updike’s everyman was not alone in feeling at a loss. By the 1980s, the cold war had become more than a mere situation or circumstance. It was a state of mind.

Most Americans had come to take its existence for granted. Like the polar ice cap or baseball’s status as the national pastime, it had acquired an appearance of permanence. So its passing caught citizens unaware. Those charged with managing the cold war were, if anything, even more surprised. The enterprise to which they had devoted their professional lives had suddenly vanished. Here was a contingency that the sprawling US national security apparatus, itself a product of the anti‑communist crusade, had failed to anticipate. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Best Reads in 2019

Posted by hkarner - 31. Dezember 2019

Date: 30‑12‑2019

Source: Project Syndicate by PS EDITORS

Subject: PS Commentators‘ Best Reads in 2019

In addition to fictional explorations of identity and powerful works of oral history, this year’s list of not‑to‑miss books also includes a number of ambitious critiques of modern political economy and economics. With a new decade approaching, we are reminded that there are many ways to come to understand the world – none of which can claim priority over the others.

With a new year – and a new decade – approaching, Project Syndicate commentators list some of the books that had a lasting impact on their thinking in 2019. From engaging perspectives on economics and political science to groundbreaking novels and old tales of exploration, readers of all tastes should find something of interest in this year’s selections.


Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Scribner, 2010.

It is hard to imagine that cancer could have anything to do with marketing, and yet Siddhartha Mukherjee of Columbia University shows us how it does. In one chapter, “A Moon Shot for Cancer,” he reveals how a few individuals successfully whipped up a national campaign to eradicate the disease, even though there were in fact no sure cures. For anyone seeking to understand public opinion and communications in American politics (and in democracies more broadly), this book is an essential – and fascinating – read.

Richard Stengel, Nelson Mandela: Portrait of an Extraordinary Man, Virgin Publishing, 2012.

In troubled times, it is reassuring to take lessons in life and leadership from the late South African political prisoner and president. The most powerful line in this book is: “The liberation struggle was not so much about liberating blacks from bondage; it was about liberating white people from fear.”

Graham Allison, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.

Graham Allison of Harvard University delivers – in masterful prose – a timely, clear‑eyed assessment of US‑China relations.


Eugen Ruge, Metropol, Rowohlt, 2019.

The complex currents of German history and the growing diversity of German society offer rich material for novels exploring the increasingly topical issue of identity. Eugen Ruge’s Metropol, along with the other books mentioned here, shows the unpredictable ways in which individual biographies can be changed by epochal events, chance, serendipity, and fortune.

Born in the Soviet Union in 1954, Ruge is the son of a German historian sent to Siberia under Stalin, and who later moved to East Germany. Following Ruge’s international best‑seller, In Times of Fading Light, a family saga about life in the former German Democratic Republic, Metropol takes readers back to the 1930s to tell the story of three young communists who moved to the Soviet Union to escape the Nazi regime, only to find themselves in the middle of Stalin’s Terror. Skillfully mixing facts and fiction, Ruge offers a fascinating account of three idealists who must navigate the small and arduous paths between conviction and knowledge, loyalty and obedience, and doubt and betrayal. How do you find yourself when all you believed in suddenly becomes uncertain, or even shown to be a lie?

Jackie Thomae, Brüder (Brothers), Hanser, 2019.

Unlike Ruge, Jackie Thomae was actually born in the German Democratic Republic. The daughter of mixed‑race parents, she is a child of the 1970s, a decade that many Germans remember as stable and hopeful. In Brüder, she tells a story of race, gender, and identity, and does so with a lightness and ease that is rare among German novelists. The plot follows a medical student who moves back to his native country, leaving behind a son in Berlin and another in Leipzig, each born to a different mother. Thomae’s account of these half‑brothers’ lives makes for a gripping narrative, as well as an efficient vehicle for a subtle exploration of the complexities of race and identity in contemporary Germany.

Saša Stanišic, Herkunft(Origin), Luchterhand Literaturverlag, 2019.

Born in 1978 in Yugoslavia to a Bosnian mother and a Serbian father, Saša Stanišic’s family fled to Germany to escape the Bosnian War. In Herkunft, which won the 2019 German Book Award, Stanišic transcends conventional genres, straddling autobiography, Bildungsroman, and essay with remarkable coherence. He keeps the reader engaged with a mix of humor, tragedy, and reflection, describing past and current events that shaped his identity and “place in the world.” And one would be remiss not to mention that Stanišic is an outspoken critic of Peter Handke – the recipient of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature – for his role in supporting Slobodan Miloševic’s regime in the 1990s.


Viktor Jakupec and Max Kelly, Foreign Aid in the Age of Populism: Political Economy Analysis from Washington to Beijing, Routledge, 2019.

My two picks for 2019 critically assess the two dominant models of economic development in the twenty‑first century: the Washington Consensus and the Beijing Model. Foreign Aid in the Age of Populism provides insights into the political economy of aid from Washington to Beijing. It builds on the truism that the Western‑dominated model of international aid as a development paradigm for poor countries is being increasingly challenged by the emergence of non‑Western donors, the spread of illiberal democracy, and de‑globalization.

The continent receiving the most development aid today is Africa. But Jakupec and Kelly remind us that China and Africa were in an economic stalemate in the 1960s. While China followed its own development path, African countries subscribed to the neoliberal Washington Consensus. By the end of 2015, around half of African countries had failed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty, whereas China experienced a sharp decline in extreme poverty over the past two decades, and is now a major source of aid to Africa.

Olayiwola Abegunrin and Charity Manyeruke, China’s Power in Africa: A New Global Order, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.

In examining the dynamics underpinning Sino‑African relations, China’s Power in Africa is consistent with Foreign Aid in the Age of Populism in its description of an emerging new order that will leverage the Beijing Model’s strengths to correct for the Washington Consensus’s weaknesses. China is now Africa’s most significant trade partner and its leading source of funding for infrastructure development. Following a thorough assessment of China’s diplomatic, economic, and political engagement in Africa since the start of this century, Abegunrin and Manyeruke conclude that the rapidly growing Chinese role has been instrumental for the continent’s development.


Benedict Wells, The End of Loneliness, Penguin Random House, 2019.

The book that influenced me the most this year is not the usual non‑fiction that I read these days, but Benedict Wells’s The End of Loneliness. I picked it up absent‑mindedly, on the recommendation of a stranger at a bookstore in Hamburg Airport. It is a riveting tale of death, disappearance, and damaged lives. Yet through it all there is a certain luminosity of human warmth and caring that makes the book simultaneously one of sadness and hope. It is a great book to bring down the curtain on a dismal year. I count it among the finest works of fiction I have ever read.


Anand Giridharadas, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, Knopf, 2018.

This is a sweeping scholarly critique of today’s global elites – the Davos crowd, the multi‑billionaires, the foundations created by former US presidents (particularly the Clinton Global Initiative) – whose efforts ostensibly to reform an unjust system end up obscuring their own roles in creating and sustaining it. The book also offers an educated critique of the socioeconomic disparities concomitant to the system, and exposes the immorality of a savage market economy that benefits a disconnected, insular elite. Giridharadas’s account helps to explain how a pied piper, Donald Trump, could reach the White House on the shoulders of the millions left behind by globalization. Looking ahead, it will be difficult to conduct a serious debate about the origins of today’s populist backlash without consulting this book.

Noam Zadoff, Gershom Scholem: From Berlin to Jerusalem and Back, Brandeis University Press, 2017.

Gershom Scholem was a German‑born Israeli scholar of Jewish mysticism – an academic field he practically founded – who split from prominent friends and colleagues like Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin by embracing Zionism and emigrating in the early 1920s to Palestine, where he helped to found the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This biography describes Scholem’s extraordinary academic career, his early membership in Brit Shalom, an association of intellectuals that opposed the creation of a separate Jewish state, and his tense friendship with Arendt, which practically broke down with the publication in 1963 of her controversial book Eichmann in Jerusalem. The main novelty of Zadoff’s biography is its description of Scholem’s later disenchantment with Zionism and reconnection with his German intellectual roots. His is a story that reflects the existential dilemma faced by many other Jewish intellectuals of his generation.

Timothy Snyder, The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America, Tim Duggan Books, 2018.

This is a history of the present with a keen eye on its origins in the past, a tour d’horizon of the politics of authoritarianism from Vladimir Putin’s Russia to Donald Trump’s United States. The book offers enlightening insights, particularly regarding Putin’s neo‑imperial policies, not least his Ukraine adventure and hybrid war against the West (including the successful manipulation of a US presidential election). As Snyder explains, a democratic West – particularly a democratic Europe – is a threat to Russia’s authoritarian system, just as the 1968 Prague Spring and Alexander Dubcek’s “socialism with a human face” posed a threat to Soviet communism. Back then, the Kremlin sent tanks; now, it relies on the tools of the digital age. Snyder analyzes the rise of Europe’s illiberal democrats and proto‑fascists and the Trump phenomenon to offer a comprehensive account of the crisis of democracy and the rise of authoritarian populism.


Evan Thomas, First: Sandra Day O’Connor, Random House, 2019.

I’ve always loved a good biography, Thomas’s First fills a void. Of course, I must confess to a personal bias behind this selection, as O’Connor has been a friend for over 30 years. In the space of six years, she earned a BA in economics at Stanford and a JD from its law school. Although she finished third in her class when she graduated in 1952, her only job offer was as a legal secretary. In recounting how she became the first woman to serve on the US Supreme Court, Thomas has brought us a great story of history‑altering talent, personal courage, and perseverance.

Lynne Olson, Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler, Random House, 2019.

In this hard‑to‑believe yet true story, Olson explains how 31‑year‑old Marie‑Madeleine Fourcade ended up leading the French Resistance’s most important intelligence ring during the Nazi occupation. Fourcade is a compelling example of how bravery and determination can overcome seemingly impossible odds under dangerous circumstances.


Barry Eichengreen, The Populist Temptation: Economic Grievance and Political Reaction in the Modern Era, Oxford University Press, 2018.

In one of the two best books that I read this year (though it actually came out last year), Eichengreen makes compelling historical sense out of today’s populist wave. But he inadvertently provides another invaluable service, for this book reminds us why economic history should be a required component of any undergraduate or graduate program in economics.

Raghuram G. Rajan, The Third Pillar: The Revival of Community in a Polarized World, HarperCollins, 2019.

Economies are made up of markets, states, and communities. In his new book, Rajan shows that community is the least studied but the most critical and vulnerable of these three components.


Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay, W. W. Norton, 2019.

Even if you are a skeptic of wealth taxes and high‑income tax rates, Saez and Zucman will make you realize how unfair taxation has become. The share of profits that multinationals are booking in tax havens is just one of the many facts that will surprise you. This is a book with a mission: to elicit outrage. Mission accomplished for this reader.

Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Penguin Press, 2018.

The city that never sleeps can also be the city of seclusion. The New Yorker at the center of Moshfegh’s novel is someone you would never see, who nonetheless leads a life worth reading about.


Richard Davies, Extreme Economies: Survival, Failure, Future – Lessons from the World’s Limits, Bantam Press, 2019.

Davies offers an analysis of how economies work, or don’t, through vignettes of life in surprising places – from aging and shrinking small‑town Japan to America’s notorious Angola prison.

Stuart Russell, Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control, Viking, 2019.

In this terrific, accessible guide to the history and capabilities of AI, Russell, a computer scientist, explains how we can ensure that these new technologies serve human purposes.



John Maynard Keynes, Essays in Persuasion, Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2010.

The following four books are, in my view, foundational. If you can think like these authors, you will be much better equipped to make sense of social science and public policy issues. In fact, someday, I plan to write a PS commentary – or several – exploring why these are the key thinkers for understanding the human societies of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

The first is Essays in Persuasion, which offers a collection of insightful essays and articles written by Keynes between 1919 and 1931, intended for a general audience.

James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, Yale University Press, 1999.

Scott, a political scientist at Yale, analyzes failed cases of large‑scale authoritarian plans in a variety of fields, in order to determine why well‑intentioned strategies for improving the human condition go so tragically awry.

Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, Beacon Press, 2001.

In this classic 1944 work of economic history and social theory, Polanyi analyzes the tectonic shifts in human relations and governance brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

Charles Kindleberger, Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises (Seventh Edition), Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

The renowned economic historian shows how the mismanagement of money and credit has produced financial upheaval over the centuries.


Branko Milanovic, Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System That Rules the World, Harvard University Press, 2019.

It is telling that the quotes preceding each chapter in economist Milanovic’s new book are from storied figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Adam Smith, and Karl Marx. Milanovic has written an extraordinarily informed overview of the contemporary world economy, with insights firmly grounded in history, philosophy, and political science, not to mention his own empirical research conducted over the past few decades.

Milanovic focuses on one of the great geostrategic challenges of our time. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, capitalism has emerged as the hegemonic economic system, but “political capitalism” has posed an unprecedented challenge to liberalism. The future is now open. Whether liberal capitalism survives will depend on whether it can evolve in such a way as to reduce inequality, expand ownership, and strengthen social insurance. Otherwise, Milanovic warns, liberal and political capitalism may converge into a system where economic and political power are concentrated in the hands of a plutocratic elite. There is no historical determinism here. But there is a great deal for policymakers and politicians to think about.

Robert J. Shiller, Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral and Drive Major Economic Events, Princeton University Press, 2019.

Building on his life‑long work, Nobel laureate economist Shiller’s latest book explains how “stories” in the form of contagious narratives shape economic behavior, and are in turn influenced by it. This book alone should be enough to convince readers that assumptions about “given” preferences and “rational” utility‑maximizing actors are totally inadequate for predicting economic and social events. Shiller does not mince his words when driving this point home. One‑year‑ahead macroeconomic forecasts, he shows, are “on the whole worthless.” And in a particularly fascinating appendix, he draws parallels between epidemiology and economics to describe how narratives spread like diseases.

Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo,Good Economics for Hard Times, Public Affairs, 2019.

Along with Michael Kremer, the third recipient of this year’s Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, Banerjee and Duflo are now famous for having popularized the use of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in development economics. In their new book, they place that methodology in a much wider context, and argue that many economic narratives do not stand up to rigorous empirical scrutiny (though they would not disagree with Shiller that such narratives can be highly influential). There are no new theories or grand narratives to be found here; what Banerjee and Duflo offer are many valuable recommendations for social policies in specific contexts. Though their approach is very different from Shiller’s, I found similarities between their book and his. At the heart of both is a focus on human behavior, which is shaped in much more complex ways than can be captured by what economist Kenneth Boulding (as quoted by Shiller) called the “immaculate conception of the indifference curve.”

Ishac Diwan, Adeel Malik, Izak Atiyas (Editors), Crony Capitalism in the Middle East: Business and Politics from Liberalization to the Arab Spring, Oxford University Press, 2019.

This excellent book looks at “crony capitalism” in the Middle East, but its analysis applies globally. The editors show how “private‑public insider connections” in many countries lead to large material gains for both types of actor. Every chapter is packed with useful facts, and most contain some formal statistical analysis, too. The book’s descriptions of individual countries are highly edifying on their own. But the typologies developed are also useful for thinking about “crony capitalism” more generally. It turns out that insider connections can be a key feature of both “liberal” and “political” capitalism (as defined by Milanovic). In either case, the merging of political and economic power forms the foundation for full‑bore cronyism.


George Packer, Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, Knopf, 2019.

Journalist George Packer’s new book is a wonderfully told biography of one of the most brilliant and complicated figures in US diplomacy in the last century.

Benjamin Carter Hett, The Death of Democracy: Hitler’s Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2019.

I’ve read a lot of books about Hitler’s rise, but Hett is more granular than most, without ever becoming ponderous.

Sarfraz Manzoor, Greetings from Bury Park, Vintage, 2008.

This is an honest, affecting account of a young Pakistani émigré in a London suburb inhabited by his parents and other immigrants from their country. Manzoor’s memoir explains how he dealt with the conflicts such a life presented, and found his way into the wider world, thanks to Bruce Springsteen.


Richard J. Evans, Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History, Little Brown, 2019.

In Evans’s biography of Eric Hobsbawm, the great historian of the modern economy, one learns how scholarship on the Industrial Revolution, globalization, and imperialism evolved over the course of the twentieth century. And along the way, one also gets a close look at Hobsbawm’s remarkable personal and intellectual journey.

Sheri Berman, Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe: From the Ancien Régime to the Present Day, Oxford University Press, 2019.

Berman has written a magisterial survey of Europe’s modern political development. The book is necessarily a study of economic as well as political history.

Chris Miller, The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR, University of North Carolina Press, 2016.

Miller’s analysis of the Soviet economy is deeply grounded in archival material, but his overall account of the system in its death throes is short and accessible.


Paul Collier, The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties, HarperCollins, 2018.

Economists have recently taken to writing big‑picture books that offer important perspectives on their profession. These include Rajan’s The Third Pillar (listed above) and Oxford University economist Collier’s The Future of Capitalism. Both books challenge the fundamental behavioral assumption of neoclassical economics – which holds that people are self‑interested rational utility‑maximizers – and argue that human beings have powerful social inclinations. Each book then seeks to incorporate this insight into a broader economic model in which markets serve communal as well as individual needs.

Thomas Philippon, The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets, Harvard University Press, 2019.

Like Milanovic’s Capitalism, Alone (listed above), French economist Philippon’s The Great Reversal addresses the rapid rise of inequality in developed economies. To explain the trend, Philippon points specifically to corporate concentration in the US, which, with the help of rent‑seeking lobbyists, has left prices in America higher than those in Europe.


Katharina Pistor, The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality, Princeton University Press, 2019.

In possibly one of the most important non‑fiction books of the decade, Pistor shines a clear and sharp light on how legal codes – increasingly determined in private law offices in New York and London – shape the contours of economic activity, ownership, and control under contemporary global capitalism.

Joseph Henrich, The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter, Princeton University Press, 2018.

Henrich, a Harvard University biologist, has written a mind‑opening book about how culture interacts with biology and technology in an evolutionary process. Along the way, he shows why collective intelligence and the ability to share knowledge makes humans both unique and more “successful” than other species.

Carl Benedikt Frey, The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation, Princeton University Press, 2019.

Frey provides a longue durée examination of the economic, social, and political interplay that drives technological change. Careful, erudite, elegantly written, and full of insight, the book sets the current overwrought debate about automation and AI on a firm contextualized footing.

Manu S. Pillai, The Courtesan, the Mahatma and the Italian Brahmin: Tales from Indian History, Context Chennai, 2019.

In this collection of delightfully informative and witty essays, Pillai finds in history a balm to help alleviate the burdens of the present.

Pablo Neruda (translated by Forrest Gander), Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda Poems, Bloodaxe Books, 2017.

In his introduction to this translation of poetry by Neruda, the twentieth‑century Chilean Nobel Prize winner Gander contends that the painstakingly recovered poems contained within “are a testament to the inexhaustible nature of this poet.” Indeed, they are – not only because they demonstrate Neruda’s inimitable style, but also because they make you reach back for those other much‑loved volumes of his work.


Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Viking, 2018.

We all need optimism in these turbulent times, and in this best‑selling book from last year, Harvard University psychologist Pinker marshals the data to show that the state of human civilization is not as bad as it seems. What could be better than optimism? Evidence‑based optimism!

Serhii Plokhy, Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy, Penguin, 2019.

HBO’s excellent and successful series Chernobyl eclipsed this newly published masterpiece by Plokhy of Harvard University. As the chairman of the jury for the London‑based Pushkin House Book Prize this year, I was very happy that we gave the award to Plokhy’s extremely well‑researched and detailed story of the disaster.


Michael Beschloss, Presidents of War: The Epic Story, from 1807 to Modern Times, Crown, 2018.

Beschloss’s latest book is a well‑written, historically informed take on the evolution – that is, the expansion – of American presidents’ war‑making power over time.

Jill Lepore, These Truths: A History of the United States, W. W. Norton, 2018.

In just one volume, Harvard University historian Lepore provides a powerful political interpretation of American history since the founding.


Behrouz Boochani (translated by Omid Tofighian), No Friend but the Mountains: The True Story of an Illegally Imprisoned Refugee, Picador, 2019.

A powerful mix of humanity and imagination written by a Kurdish‑Iranian refugee trapped on Australia’s Manus Island. Boochani was so cut off from the world that his manuscript was delivered for publication through mobile phone text messages over a five‑year period.

William Dalrymple, The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company,Bloomsbury, 2019.

An insightful and in‑depth account of the British conquest of India steered not by a sinister government bent on empire, but by the unregulated, private East India Company from its small head office in the City of London.

Mehrzad Boroujerdi and Kourosh Rahimkhani, Postrevolutionary Iran: A Political Handbook, Syracuse University Press, 2018.

An indispensable evidence‑based reference for anyone with a serious interest in comprehending the ruling clique running Iran since the 1979 Revolution beyond day‑to‑day headlines.


Svetlana Alexievich (translated by Keith Gessen), Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, Dalkey Archive Press, 2019.

Chernobyl returned to our consciousness this year. Now that climate concerns are growing amid all sorts of human mismanagement, books that address this earlier calamity – an event that Alexievich, the winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, called “a chronicle of the future” – should be on everyone’s reading list. Though it first appeared in English in 2005 with the title Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future (an exact translation from the Russian), a newer edition, translated by journalist Keith Gessen, was released in paperback this year. Alexievich was the first author to humanize the Chernobyl tragedy. The victims, she warned, may have been among the first people to experience such a catastrophe; but they would not be the last.

Adam Higginbotham, Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster, Simon & Schuster, 2019.

Higginbotham’s book on the catastrophe deserves almost as much attention as Alexievich’s. Midnight in Chernobyl is deeply researched and meticulously narrated, offering a captivating account that captures the continuing threat of such man‑made disasters. In Higginbotham’s telling, the details of an event that hastened the demise of the Soviet Union unfold in rapid, terrifying succession. The book recounts the heroism of the reactor operators, the struggle to contain the meltdown, and the confused, inadequate response from Moscow, ultimately leaving readers with a sense of foreboding.

Patrick Radden Keefe,Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, Doubleday, 2019.

Say Nothing recounts the heartbreaking story of The Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Keefe, a staff writer at The New Yorker, delivers a masterful treatment of the violence and dread that consumed Ireland for decades. The horrors and devastation of war, and the futility of sectarian conflict, emerge as highly relevant themes now that Great Britain is poised to leave the European Union. The debate over the post‑Brexit Irish border could now become a test of whether The Troubles are really over.


Paul Blustein, Schism: China, America, and the Fracturing of the Global Trading System, Center for International Governance Innovation, 2019.

Blustein, a senior fellow at CIGI, describes the contentious process leading up to China’s accession to the WTO, and the reforms that followed, showing how these developments transformed the global trading system – and led to the US‑China trade war.

Douglas A. Irwin, Free Trade Under Fire (Fourth Edition), Princeton University Press, 2015.

At a time when free trade is under attack, Irwin, a professor at Dartmouth College, clears up common misconceptions that are muddying the discussion.


Vincent H. Smith, Joseph W. Glauber, and Barry K. Goodwin (Editors), Agricultural Policy in Disarray, American Enterprise Institute, 2018.

This two‑volume work by three AEI scholars shows how rent‑seeking by small, well‑organized interest groups in the US has resulted in agricultural policies that do much more harm than good.


Ian McEwan, Machines Like Me, Jonathan Cape, 2019.

Through the story of a love triangle between a man, a woman, and a robot, McEwan’s new novel explores the challenges posed by AI and comments more broadly on the cost of progress.

Daniel Kehlmann, Tyll, Rowohlt, 2017.

Austrian novelist Kehlmann’s latest work places Tyll Ulenspiegel, a recurring character in German literature that dates to the early sixteenth century, in the context of the Thirty Years’ War.


Margaret O’Mara, The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America, Penguin Press, 2019.

hat I love about O’Mara’s new book is that it reveals how long it took for Silicon Valley to become the engine of innovation growth that it is today – and how deliberate that project was. Its roots go back to the 1930s‑1950s, well before Microsoft and Apple were founded (in 1975 and 1976, respectively).

Daniel H. Pink, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Riverhead Books, 2018.

Pink provides wonderful insights into how outcomes are affected not only by what we do, but also by when we do it – that is, the timing of our decisions.

Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle, Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell, Harper Business, 2019.

Bill Campbell was a mentor and coach to the biggest names in modern technology, including Steve Jobs and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. This book reveals how he deftly managed highly driven innovators who have defined an age.


William J. Burns, The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal, Random House, 2019.

Burns spent three decades in the US Foreign Service, rising to become Deputy Secretary of State. His account of American foreign policy from Presidents Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump is both even‑handed and self‑critical. It is also an eloquent plea for the importance of diplomacy. In his words, “lulled by post‑Cold War dominance and then by 9/11, we gradually devalued diplomatic tools. All too often we over‑relied on American hard power to achieve policy aims and ambitions, hastening the end of American dominance.”

Like his fellow Foreign Service officers who testified at the recent House of Representatives impeachment hearings, Burns’s balanced account provides an important civics lesson in service to the national interest, rather than to partisan or personal objectives. Having spent 2019 writing my own book, Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump, I was ready to criticize Burns’s account of the same period. But I found myself largely in agreement with his very readable history and the judgments he draws from it.

Susan Rice, Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For, Simon & Schuster, 2019.

As the impeachment proceedings against Trump have played out, many comparisons have been made to his predecessor. Susan Rice was Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser and US ambassador to the United Nations, and an assistant secretary of state under President Bill Clinton. Rice does not pretend to impartiality, but she is willing to criticize herself and Obama’s foreign policy. “We fell short of achieving several important objectives,” she writes. The administration was unable to resolve the conflict in Syria, stabilize Libya, broker Israeli‑Palestinian peace, or eliminate North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.

But while Rice describes mistakes, she leaves no doubt about Obama’s integrity as he pursued what he saw as the national interest. She is discreet in her accounts of politics in the Obama administration, but wonderfully frank about the travails of a young African‑American woman whose parents split while she was growing up in Washington, DC. The autobiographical dimension makes the book an engaging personal memoir, in addition to a valuable contribution to history.


Frank Arthur Worsley, Shackleton’s Boat Journey, W. W. Norton, 1976 (reissued 1998).

I enjoyed this account of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s disastrous fourth expedition to the Antarctic in 1921 primarily because I had the remarkable pleasure of visiting that continent myself in late 2018. While there, I came to understand the attraction of that harsh yet wonderful place. What Shackleton and his crew went through in 1914‑1916, as described by Worsley, a navigator, in his first‑hand account, is truly astonishing.

Gregory Zuckerman, The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution, Portfolio, 2019.

Zuckerman, a journalist at the Wall Street Journal, has produced such a breezy read that I finished it in two days. Zuckerman recounts the remarkable career of mathematician Jim Simons, one of the best‑performing hedge‑fund managers of my generation. Informed readers will enjoy a trip down memory lane, encountering some of the major incidents and issues surrounding the rise of algorithm‑driven investing.

Geoff Burrell, Buster’s Fired a Wobbler: A Week in a Psychiatric Hospital, Penguin, 1989 (reissued 2019).

Originally published in 1989, this account of life in a psychiatric hospital by someone who once worked in one was republished this year as an e‑book. The author, a dear friend of mine from our university days, is not only a wonderful bloke; he is also colorful character and a gifted storyteller.


Karina Sainz Borgo (translated by Elizabeth Bryer), It Would be Night in Caracas (La Hija de la Española), HarperVia/Lumen, 2019.

Venezuela’s suffering has gone on for so long and sunk to such depths that it can sometimes feel almost abstract. This astonishing debut novel takes the reader on a deeply unsettling but supremely enlightening personal journey through Venezuela’s disintegration. Seen through the eyes of a young woman whose future is overtaken by a fight for survival, Sainz Borgo’s novel shows how a system can propel one’s life into a spiral of chaos and vileness. It is a book that both informs the reader’s perspective on Venezuela and provokes a deeper reflection on human experience. Although it has already been translated into numerous languages, only the original Spanish can convey a unique prose style in the tradition of Cervantes.


Frank Pasquale, The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms that Control Money and Information, Harvard University Press, 2016.

This book by Pasquale of the University of Maryland covers similar ground as Shoshana Zuboff’s more recent book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (listed below), but is much more granular and pays more attention to the legal underpinnings of the digital algorithms that control money and information.

Bernard Lietaer and Jacqui Dunne, Rethinking Money: How New Currencies Turn Scarcity into Prosperity, Berrett‑Koehler, 2013.

Lietaer, an economist, and Dunne, a journalist, have written an inspiring book about how to design more inclusive and resilient money and payment systems. Instead of simply digitizing the existing system (central‑bank digital currencies) or privatizing it (through Libra), we could draw lessons from cooperative payment systems and use technology to scale them.

Tobias Straumann, 1931: Debt, Crisis, and the Rise of Hitler, Oxford University Press, 2019.

Straumann’s book serves as a stark reminder of the political dimension of debt. I love history, and, as a German national, I was taught early on the importance of studying it, not because it will necessarily repeat itself, but rather because it holds lessons that are critical to understanding the present.


Jason Brennan, Against Democracy, Princeton University Press, 2017.

Brennan, a political philosopher at Georgetown University, has delivered a compelling challenge to the morality of democracy. Reading this book now feels like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. But it nonetheless provides guidance for restoring moderation to the politics of Western democracy.

Stuart Turton, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Raven Books, 2018.

From a less political perspective, Turton’s novel is a fascinating Agatha Christie‑esque whodunnit. Infusing classic pastoral tropes with time‑turning elements, it represents a mesmerizing reinvention of the genre.


Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, Public Affairs, 2019.

It turns out that the machine is even smarter than Harvard’s Zuboff originally thought when she pondered this subject more than three decades ago in In The Age of the Smart Machine (Basic Books, 1988). Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, in conjunction with ruthless Big Tech business models that aggressively monetize personal privacy, shine a bright light on the dim virtues of a new capitalism.

In its rush to condemn Chinese surveillance for its egregious violation of human rights, the US has lost sight of an even more insidious strain of surveillance. Press reports suggest that the world will have one billion security cameras by the end of 2021, with more than half in China. By comparison, there are over 3.5 billion Google searches per day, and over 2.4 billion Facebook users. By Zuboff’s reckoning, the combination of Google, Facebook, and Amazon make George Orwell’s Big Brother look like child’s play. Her book is a must‑read in the seemingly fruitless search for heroes in this brave new world.


Alberto Alesina, Carlos Favero, and Francesco Giavazzi, Austerity: When it Works and When it Doesn’t, Princeton University Press, 2019.

Alesina, Favero, and Giavazzi marshal a massive amount of evidence to show that in cases when circumstances have forced a country into fiscal retrenchment (owing to bad luck, fiscal excesses, or fickle markets), cutting government spending has cost less than raising taxes in terms of foregone output and employment. The book is a towering scholarly achievement. The culmination of decades of research, it is destined to serve as a touchstone for future studies – both by those who will build on it and by those who will try to tear it down.

Ganesh Sitaraman and Anne L. Alstott,The Public Option: How to Expand Freedom, Increase Opportunity, and Promote Equality, Harvard University Press, 2019.

Sitaraman and Alstott, law professors at Vanderbilt and Yale, respectively, have produced an ambitious attempt to rethink areas where the state can potentially play a larger role in the economy, from banking to childcare to higher education. Some of the ideas may seem rather implausible to most economists. But if trends in inequality continue, one must consider the extent to which governments should go in increasing transfers as opposed to providing a wider range of services. One may not agree with all of the authors’ suggestions, but even skeptical readers will encounter many powerful arguments that might not have occurred to them previously.


Erich Maria Remarque, Schatten im Paradies (Shadows in Paradise), KiWi‑Taschenbuch, 1971.

Shadows in Paradise (Schatten im Paradies) is the final novel by Remarque, the author of All Quiet on the Western Front and Marlene Dietrich’s lover. Remarque was stripped of German citizenship for his pacifism by the Nazis who executed his younger sister. This brilliant novel tells of a number of refugees’ flights from occupied Europe during the war, and their lives in New York. Describing Nazi barbarism from the safety of America strangely makes it more immediate and more real. A grave warning for our times.


David Wallace‑Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, Tim Duggan Books, 2019.

Climate change is the existential threat of our time. This book by Wallace‑Wells, a writer at New York Magazine, assembles the science on the vast array of consequences of global warming – food shortages, refugee emergencies, resource conflict, and economic devastation – in a way that drives home the true urgency of the problem.

Annette Gordon‑Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, W. W. Norton, 2008.

A decade after recounting Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with his slave Sally Hemings, Annette Gordon‑Reed of Harvard Law School wrote the story of the family that resulted from that relationship. The book is a reckoning, especially for someone like me, who grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Jefferson‑worship is a way of life. Equally important, it is an account of an American family, just as American as Jefferson’s “official” white family. It reminds us that the history of all Americans – regardless of race, class, and legal status – is American history.


Paul Wilson, Hostile Money: Currencies in Conflict, The History Press, 2019.

I am intrigued by the numerous links between money, power, and conflict, but I am also frustrated by how the topic is typically treated – mainly by international‑relations specialists, because economists generally steer clear of it. This well‑researched book, which includes both historical examples and contemporary evidence, avoids those pitfalls, while offering a fresh perspective on some important dynamics.

Antonio Scurati, M. Il figlio del secolo, Bompiani, 2018.

Soon to be published in English by HarperCollins, this book – which became a fixture on Italian best‑seller lists after its publication last year, despite its 839‑page heft – tells the story of Benito Mussolini. After resisting the trend for a long time, I recently followed some trusted advice and bought it. I cannot put it down. The story is compelling, especially the section on the interwar period, though one wonders – returning to a dilemma Shiller raises in Narrative Economics – whether it is history or narrative.


Larry Diamond, Ill Winds: Saving Democracy from Russian Rage, Chinese Ambition, and American Complacency, Penguin Press, 2019.

Until recently, we had learned to take democracy for granted. Diamond, a political scientist at the Hoover Institution, argues that democracy is now in a recession. It is endangered not only on the fringes, but also at its core. Even in established democracies like the US, one must be vigilant. Democracy is a virtue, but it not inevitable.

Robert Kagan, The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World, Knopf, 2018.

I quoted Kagan frequently during my mandate this fall as the president of the European Council. He emphasizes that the liberal world order represents only a short period in history, and argues that if we want to keep it, we must take care of its institutions as if they were part of a precious garden. Otherwise, “the jungle grows back” – a process that is already underway.


Nathan Gardels and Nicolas Berggruen, Renovating Democracy: Governing in the Age of Globalization and Digital Capitalism, University of California Press, 2019.

Gardels and Berggruen offer thoughtful, forward‑looking proposals to restore deliberative democracy and inclusive growth in the US.

Kai‑Fu Lee, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.

This is an insightful analysis of the effects of artificial intelligence on work, and on the Sino‑American competition for technological dominance, by one of the world’s leading AI visionaries and investors.

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, Crown, 2018.

Two Harvard University professors offer a sobering analysis of how democratically elected leaders can undermine the democratic process to increase their power, with disturbing implications for the US and the UK.

Erik Tarloff, The Woman in Black, Rare Bird Books, 2019.

This highly original mystery novel is impossible to put down as it follows an enigmatic and charismatic protagonist through 1950s Hollywood.


Rise of the Nazis, BBC television series, 2019.

At a time when minority rights and constitutional protections are under attack in so many places, it is crucial to understand how a government with constitutional rules and functioning courts could fall.

Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Spiegel and Grau, 2014.

Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, offers insight into what it takes for societies to create and apply laws fairly. This book, the basis for a new film starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, is a must‑read for every American policymaker, lawyer, judge, and police officer, but the issues it addresses are universal.

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Pantheon, 2012.

At a deeply polarized time, Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University, helps us to understand those in our community with whom we strongly disagree.

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How to Survive and Thrive in a World of Disruption

Posted by hkarner - 11. Dezember 2019

Date: 11‑12‑2019

Source: The Wall Street Journal By Irving Wladawsky‑Berger

Looking back upon my long career, it’s frankly sobering how many once powerful IT companies are no longer around or are shadows of their former selves: Digital Equipment Corp., Wang Laboratories, Sun Microsystems…the list goes on. 

The forces of disruption might have been more powerful in the fast‑changing IT industry, but no industry has been immune. In less than two decades, the global recorded‑music industry has lost over half its revenues, while the drop in newspaper advertising revenue in the U.S. has been even steeper. Retail has undergone major changes with the rise of e‑commerce, as has the telecommunications sector with the transition to mobile phones.

Why have so many companies been done in by disruptive technological and market changes? Is it that in spite of all their efforts in strategy formulation, their leaders failed to anticipate these changes and were caught by surprise?  Or is it that, as if actors in a Greek tragedy, they saw the changes coming and understood what needed to be done, but were somehow unable to make the needed strategic and cultural transformations? Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Our books of the year

Posted by hkarner - 7. Dezember 2019

Date: 05‑12‑2019

Source: The Economist

They were about the IRA, Harper Lee’s lost work, rational economics and an Ohio housewife

Politics and current affairs

Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America. By Chris Arnade. Sentinel; 304 pages; $30 and £25

Over several years the author of this book, a former Wall Street trader, conducted thoughtful interviews in neglected communities across America, and took moving photographs of his subjects. The result is a quietly revelatory portrait of what he calls the country’s “back row”.

An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago. By Alex Kotlowitz. Nan A. Talese; 304 pages; $27.95

Chicago has suffered 14,000 murders in the past two decades; overwhelmingly the victims are African‑American or Hispanic. This is an intimate and sympathetic depiction of several people involved in, and affected by, deadly crime. The killings seem senseless, but, says the author, the city can do more to grasp their causes.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. By Anand Giridharadas. Knopf; 304 pages; $26.95. Allen Lane; £12.99

A timely polemic against philanthrocapitalism, which argues that supposedly do‑gooding companies merely offer sticking‑plaster solutions to social problems that they have helped create. Such efforts, the author says, do little to make up for a winner‑takes‑all philosophy that is holding down wages and transferring the burden of risk onto employees.

No Visible Bruises. By Rachel Louise Snyder. Bloomsbury; 320 pages; $28

It is the dark matter of violent crime: unseen but everywhere. This investigation into domestic violence in America blends harrowing testimony with persuasive recommendations on how to help victims and perpetrators. A book that manages to be both personal and panoramic, angry and hopeful.

Assad or We Burn the Country. By Sam Dagher. Little, Brown; 592 pages; $29 and £25

Although the horrors of Syria’s civil war are well documented, this chronicle by a Wall Street Journal correspondent still offers new insights into a struggle that has reshaped the Middle East. Many are based on his rare access to Manaf Tlass, a one‑time confidant of Bashar al‑Assad, who charts the accidental president’s metamorphosis into a blood‑soaked dictator.

The Light that Failed. By Stephen Holmes and Ivan Krastev. Pegasus Books; 256 pages; $26.95. Allen Lane; £20

When the Soviet Union collapsed and communism fell, the countries of eastern Europe set out to emulate Western democracies. But, as the authors of this perceptive book eloquently relate, their attitude to liberal democracy soured amid globalisation and the financial crisis—forces that also fed the rise of nationalism in the West. Russia, meanwhile, replaced Soviet rule with a revanchist autocracy.

Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today. Edited by James Banner junior. New Press; 512 pages; $29.99

In 1974 the special counsel to the impeachment inquiry commissioned a survey of presidential misconduct from Washington to Lyndon Johnson. Brought up‑to‑date with chapters on presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama, this useful study supplies the scales on which more recent wrongdoing can be weighed.


Say Nothing. By Patrick Radden Keefe. Doubleday; 464 pages; $28.95. William Collins; £20

Framed as an inquiry into the death of Jean McConville, a mother of ten who was abducted and murdered by the ira in 1972, this is a masterful exploration of the motives of terrorists, the stories they tell themselves and how they make the transition to peace—or, in some cases, fail to.

Remembering Emmett Till. By Dave Tell. University of Chicago Press; 312 pages; $25 and £19

A fine history of racism, poverty and memory in the Mississippi Delta told through the lynching of Emmett Till, a black 14‑year‑old from Chicago whose murder in 1955—and his mother’s determination to display his mutilated features in an open coffin—made him an early martyr of the civil‑rights movement.

Amritsar 1919: An Empire of Fear and the Making of a Massacre. By Kim Wagner. Yale University Press; 360 pages; $32.50 and £20

At least 379 people were killed by British soldiers in the Amritsar massacre on April 13th 1919, making that one of the darkest days in the history of the empire. On the event’s centenary, this book persuasively argues that it was less of an aberration than apologists for empire, including Winston Churchill, have chosen to believe.

Maoism: A Global History. By Julia Lovell. Knopf; 610 pages; $37.50. Bodley Head; £30

Mao Zedong was a despot who caused tens of millions of deaths; yet his name does not attract the same opprobrium as Hitler’s or Stalin’s. Indeed, his legend and ideas have inspired revolutionaries around the world. As the author of this book shows, his manipulated image retains a powerful allure in China and beyond. “Like a dormant virus”, she writes, “Maoism has demonstrated a tenacious, global talent for latency.”

The Regency Years. By Robert Morrison. W.W. Norton; 416 pages; $29.95. Published in Britain as “The Regency Revolution”; Atlantic Books; £20

“I awoke one morning and found myself famous,” Lord Byron, a Regency poet, once said. The period itself has suffered from the opposite problem—eclipsed by the more solemn and substantial Georgian and Victorian ones that preceded and followed it. Arguing that Britain truly started to become modern in the Regency era, this delightful book explains why it deserves to be better known.

How to be a Dictator. By Frank Dikötter. Bloomsbury; 304 pages; $28 and £25

What do Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, Nicolae Ceausescu, Papa Doc Duvalier and Mengistu Haile Mariam have in common? This insightful handbook for gangsters is written by a distinguished historian of 20th‑century China.

Biography and memoir

An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent. By Owen Matthews. Bloomsbury; 448 pages; $30 and £25

Richard Sorge’s bravery and recklessness in the Soviet cause in Tokyo—where boozing and seduction were among his main espionage techniques—were matched by the venality and cowardice of his masters in Moscow. Despite their brutal incompetence, his intelligence helped turn the course of the second world war. A tragic, heroic story, magnificently told with an understated rage.

The Education of an Idealist. By Samantha Power. Dey Street Books; 592 pages; $29.99. William Collins; £20

An engaging insider’s account of foreign‑policymaking in what now seems like a different era of diplomacy. It describes the efforts of its author—Barack Obama’s Irish‑born ambassador to the United Nations—to juggle idealism with the realities of governing, while also juggling motherhood with the demands of representing America on the world stage.

Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century. By Sarah Abrevaya Stein. Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 336 pages; $28

This history of the Levy family of Salonika follows its subjects through interwar Greece to the present day. It is a painstaking feat of reconstruction that draws on correspondence in Ottoman Turkish, Hebrew, French and especially Ladino, the language of Sephardic Jewry. Much of the clan was murdered in Auschwitz in 1943; those who survive are now spread across the globe. And yet, the author says, they retain a family resemblance.

The Last Stone. By Mark Bowden. Atlantic Monthly Press; 304 pages; $27. Grove Press; £16.99

True‑crime writers in America face a high bar, set by illustrious predecessors such as Truman Capote. The author of “Black Hawk Down” rises to the challenge in this reconstruction of how a horrific crime—the disappearance of two sisters from a mall in Maryland in 1975—was partially solved 40 years later. Dogged and ingenious interrogation of a mendacious suspect finally gets at the truth.



Good Economics for Hard Times. By Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. PublicAffairs; 432 pages; $30. Allen Lane; £25

The real meaning of this book by a Nobel‑prizewinning duo of economists lies in its method—a patient attempt to take on tough problems through empirical evidence. Known for pioneering the use of randomised controlled trials, the pair offer insights into thorny global issues ranging from inequality to corruption, all with refreshing humility.

Open Borders. By Bryan Caplan. Illustrated by Zach Weinersmith. First Second; 256 pages; $19.99. St. Martin’s Press; £15.99

An enlightened polemic in cartoon format, this book—by a team comprising an economics professor and an illustrator—persuasively rebuffs the arguments against migration commonly made by politicians. At the same time it shows how an accessible and respectful case can be made on a neuralgic subject.

Narrative Economics. By Robert Shiller. Princeton University Press; 400 pages; $27.95 and £20

The author, another Nobel laureate, explores how the public’s subjective perceptions can shape economic trends. The result is a sensible and welcome escape from the dead hand of mathematical models of economics.

Schism. By Paul Blustein. CIGI Press; 400 pages; $27.95. McGill‑Queen’s University Press; £27.99

A fascinating, detailed account of the history of tensions in America’s trade relationship with China. It explains the back story to today’s conflict—and reveals how difficult it will be to escape it.

Capitalism, Alone. By Branko Milanovic. Belknap Press; 304 pages; $29.95 and £23.95

A scholar of inequality warns that while capitalism may have seen off rival economic systems, the survival of liberal democracies is anything but assured. The amoral pursuit of profit in more liberal capitalist societies has eroded the ethical norms that help sustain openness and democracy, he argues; now that tendency threatens to push such places in the direction of more authoritarian capitalist societies, such as China.

Culture and ideas

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee. By Casey Cep. Knopf; 336 pages; $26.95. William Heinemann; £20

An ingeniously structured, beautifully written double mystery—one concerning the Reverend Willie Maxwell, who was accused of murdering five relatives for the insurance money in Alabama in the 1970s (before being fatally shot himself); the other, Harper Lee’s abortive efforts to write a book about the case. Tom Radney, a lawyer who is the story’s third main character, defended Maxwell—and his killer.

Kafka’s Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy. By Benjamin Balint. W.W. Norton; 288 pages; $26.95. Picador; £14.99

An account of the struggle over Kafka’s papers between competing archives in Israel and Germany—plus a woman who inherited them from a friend of his editor, Max Brod—which played out after most of the writer’s family had died in the Holocaust. A book about the provenance of art, and how much, in the end, it matters.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey. By Robert Macfarlane. W.W. Norton; 384 pages; $27.95. Hamish Hamilton; £20

A haunting examination of the world below the surface—a place that has always been envisioned as a zone of treasure and of dread. From the Paris catacombs to the soil of Epping Forest to caverns in remotest Norway, the author, a celebrated nature‑writer, re‑envisions the planet from the ground down.

Three Women. By Lisa Taddeo. Simon & Schuster; 320 pages; $27. Bloomsbury Circus; £16.99

Eight years of reporting went into this portrait of American sexuality from a female perspective. The author’s three subjects “stand for the whole of what longing in America looks like”; she spent time in their home towns to study their daily routines, jobs and, above all, their desires. With a novelist’s eye for detail, she captures the pain and powerlessness of sex, as well as its heady joys.

A Month in Siena. By Hisham Matar. Random House; 126 pages; $27. Viking; £12.99

The author’s life and writing have been shaped by his Libyan father’s kidnapping in 1990 by the regime of Muammar Qaddafi. In previous work he tried to uncover what happened; in this slim, bewitching book he finds answers, of a sort, by travelling to Siena. Meditating on art, history and the relationship between them, this is both a portrait of a city and an affirmation of life’s quiet dignities in the face of loss.

This is Shakespeare. By Emma Smith. Pelican; 368 pages; £20

A brilliant and accessible tour of Shakespeare’s plays that is also a radical manifesto for how to read and watch his work. Witty, irreverent and searching, this book, by a professor at Oxford University, shines dazzling new light on the oeuvre of the world’s greatest literary genius.


Stalingrad: A Novel. By Vasily Grossman. Translated by Robert and Elizabeth Chandler. NYRB Classics; 1,088 pages; $27.95. Harvill Secker; £25

At last, the Russian novelist‑journalist’s mighty prequel to “Life and Fate”, his epic of the battle of Stalingrad and its aftermath, has received a definitive—and hugely powerful—English translation. A seething fresco of combat, domestic routine under siege and intellectual debate, it confirms that Grossman was the supreme bard of the second world war.

Ducks, Newburyport. By Lucy Ellmann. Biblioasis; 1,040 pages; $22.95. Galley Beggar Press; £14.99

The year’s unlikeliest literary triumph: a 1,000‑page fictional monologue delivered by a worried Ohio housewife and baker, much of which is made up of a single sentence. A prize‑garlanded novel that is funny, angry, erudite, profound—and full of great cake recipes.

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World. By Elif Shafak. Bloomsbury; 320 pages; $27. Viking; £14.99

The protagonist of this story is dead when it begins. The body of “Tequila Leila” has been dumped in a wheelie bin on the outskirts of Istanbul; yet, somehow, her mind remains active. While it does, she scrolls back through her life—a pained childhood, stalwart friends in adulthood—in a powerful, unflinching novel that, like all of the Turkish author’s work, is political and lyrical at once.

Homeland. By Fernando Aramburu. Translated by Alfred MacAdam. Pantheon; 608 pages; $29.95. Picador; £16.99

A monumental novel—and a bestseller in Spanish—which explores how eta’s terrorism divided families and lifelong friends in a claustrophobic Basque town. Empathetic but morally acute, this may be the definitive fictional account of the Basque troubles; it suggests that redemption is hard but not impossible.

The Volunteer. By Salvatore Scibona. Penguin Press; 432 pages; $28. Jonathan Cape; £16.99

This intricate novel spans decades and continents and incorporates multiple, looping stories. After being captured in Cambodia, Vollie returns to America and is dispatched to New York to conduct surveillance on a supposed renegade Nazi. This assignment will come to haunt him, too. “Who among us”, he asks, “has lived only once?” A searing yet poetic record of war and the lies people live by.

The Far Field. By Madhuri Vijay. Grove Press; 448 pages; $27 and £14.99

A courageous, insightful and affecting debut novel—and the winner of the prestigious jcb prize for Indian literature—which places a naive upper‑class woman from southern India in the midst of far messier realities in Kashmir. Along the way, the story challenges Indian taboos ranging from sex to politics.

Trust Exercise. By Susan Choi. Henry Holt; 272 pages; $27. Serpent’s Tail; £14.99

The title of this tricksy, beguiling novel, winner of a National Book Award, refers to the relationship between writer and reader, as well as to the bonding exercises undertaken by the theatre students in the story—and to the trust between teenage girls and predatory men. A tale of missed connections and manipulation, and of willing surrender to the lure and peril of the unknown.

Black Sun. By Owen Matthews. Doubleday; 320 pages; $26.95. Bantam Press; £16.99

Based on real events—the bid by Andrei Sakharov to develop a bomb to end all bombs—this story is set in a secret Soviet city in 1961. Featuring murder and betrayals, and a flawed but principled kgb man as its hero, it unfolds in the aftermath of Stalinism, amid the scars left by the purges, denunciations and Great Patriotic War. The prolific author (see Biography), a former Moscow correspondent, knows his terrain inside out.


Science and technology

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. By David Wallace‑Wells. Tim Duggan Books; 320 pages; $27. Allen Lane; £20

One of the most persuasive of the many books that spell out the consequences of climate change—and one of the most terrifying. As Earth moves beyond the conditions that allowed people to evolve, the author warns, “the end of normal” has arrived. Yet amid the rising seas, floods, fires, droughts and hurricanes, both current and impending, he remains optimistic about humanity’s ability to deal with the havoc it has caused.

The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder. By Sean McFate. William Morrow; 336 pages; $29.99

A former paratrooper and mercenary makes the case that the American armed forces are ill‑equipped for the conflicts of the 21st century. To keep the country safe, he contends, the top brass need to modernise their thinking, and respond to the information warfare that is now waged by their adversaries.

Good Reasons for Bad Feelings. By Randolph Nesse. Dutton; 384 pages; $28. Allen Lane; £20

A fascinating study of the evolutionary roots of mental illness. The author, a professor of psychiatry, argues that, in the right proportion, negative emotions may be useful for survival in a similar way to physical pain. Humans, he says, may have “minds like the legs of racehorses, fast but vulnerable to catastrophic failures”.

Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence. By James Lovelock with Bryan Appleyard. MIT Press; 160 pages; $22.95. Allen Lane; £14.99

In a brief but thought‑provoking book, the scientist who developed the “Gaia Theory” about the Earth’s life and climate—and who this year turned 100—predicts that cyborgs may eventually evolve to supplant carbon‑based humankind. But don’t despair: the robots, he suggests, might decide to keep people around as pets.

This article appeared in the Books and arts section of the print edition under the headline „Our books of the year“

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The Billionaire Problem

Posted by hkarner - 2. Dezember 2019

Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the IMF, is a professor at MIT Sloan, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and co-founder of a leading economics blog, The Baseline Scenario. He is the co-author, with Jonathan Gruber, of Jump-Starting America: How Breakthrough Science Can Revive Economic Growth and the American Dream.

Writing in the 1830s, as the Industrial Revolution gathered pace, Honoré de Balzac anticipated the broader social concern: “The secret of great fortunes without apparent cause is a crime that has been forgotten, because it was properly carried out.” But today’s billionaires make forgetting impossible.

WASHINGTON, DC – Our billionaire problem is getting worse. Any market-oriented economy creates opportunities for new fortunes to be built, including through innovation. More innovation is likely to take place where fewer rules encumber entrepreneurial creativity. Some of this creativity may lead to processes and products that are actually detrimental to public welfare. Unfortunately, by the time the need for legislation or regulation becomes apparent, the innovators have their billions – and they can use that money to protect their interests. 

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Management research is clear as mud

Posted by hkarner - 29. November 2019

Date: 28‑11‑2019

Source: The Economist: Bartleby

It is not fit for purpose, a new book argues

BEWARE THE guru with a theory that explains how companies behave or the perfect recipe for how firms succeed. Beware, too, the lengthy academic studies to similar effect. That is the stark warning of “Management Studies in Crisis: Fraud, Deception and Meaningless Research”, a new book by Dennis Tourish, a scholar of organisations at the University of Sussex.

The idea of “scientific management” dates back to Frederick Winslow Taylor, who wrote a treatise on it in 1911. One example invoked the Bethlehem Iron company, where he supposedly persuaded an employee named Schmidt (about whom Taylor was very condescending) to work harder by paying a piece rate. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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