Ian Bremmer, "The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall"
Simon & Schuster | ISBN: 0743274717 | 2006 | 320 pages | siPDF | 5.6 MB
From the Inside Flap
What Freakonomics does for understanding the economy, The J Curve does for better understanding how nations behave. The J curve is a visual tool that allows us to see at a glance why some crucial countries are in crisis and unstable while others are prosperous and politically solid. In this imaginative, playful, and practical guide, Ian Bremmer, an expert on the politics of international business, turns conventional wisdom on its head. He reveals how the United States can begin more successfully to act in its own interests.
But The J Curve is not only for policymakers and their critics. It can help investors better manage the risks they face abroad. It answers puzzling questions we all have. Why does North Korea seem to invite a military conflict it can't possibly survive? Why is India so surprisingly stable? What are the internal pressures eroding stability in Saudi Arabia? How long can China's politics resist the pressure for change provoked by the country's economic revolution? Why are Iran's ruling clerics trying to push their nation toward international isolation? What will happen to Israeli democracy when demographic pressures change the balance of political power within? And crucially, how should the United States respond to the challenges posed by these questions?
U.S. policymakers have sought to manage security threats with a simple formula: reward your friends and punish your enemies. Has it worked? The U.S. imposed harsh sanctions on Saddam Hussein's Iraq and isolated it from the international community. This strengthened the dictator's grip on the Iraqi people and the country's wealth. The world now faces a similar dilemma in Iran. Will the United States continue to try to isolate that country or can Iran be guided into the international mainstream, allowing its people eventually to directly challenge their harsh leaders?
Bremmer's tour of the nations of the world—our friends, our foes, and others in between—shows us how to see the world fresh, get rid of shopworn attitudes, and discover a new and useful way of thinking.
Locate nations on the J Curve—left for authoritarian, right for democratic. Then figure out how to force those on the left to open their societies, rather than encouraging them to shut them tighter by further isolating them. The West's isolation of Kim Jong-il's North Korea gives him the cover he needs to extend his brutal regime (the mistake the U.S. made for a long time with Saddam Hussein and Castro); in Saudi Arabia, western governments should encourage manageable change before the country breaks apart; they should help strengthen China's economy so it can further liberalize; they must encourage Israel to decide what kind of country it will be. Filled with imaginative and surprising examples of how to correct outworn political ideas, The J Curve points the way for western governments to lead the way to a realistic political balance and a healthier economic future.
From Publishers Weekly
With this timely book, political risk consultant Bremmer aims to "describe the political and economic forces that revitalize some states and push others toward collapse." His simple premise is that if one were to graph a nation's stability as a function of its openness, the result would be a "J curve," suggesting that as nations become more open, they become less stable until they eventually surpass their initial levels of stability. In other words, a closed society like Cuba is relatively stable; a more open society like Saudi Arabia is less so; and an extremely open society like the United States is extremely stable. Bremmer expertly distills decades—sometimes centuries—of history as he analyzes 10 countries at different positions on the J curve. North Korea is perhaps the most disturbing example of the left side of the curve, where a closed authoritarian regime produces effective stability; on the right of the curve sit stable countries like Turkey, Israel and India. This leads Bremmer to conclude that political isolation and sanctions often work against their intended resultsand that globalization is the key to opening closed authoritarian states. Bremmer persuasively illustrates his core thesis without eliding the complexities of global or national politics.
On a graph on which the vertical axis measures a nation's stability and the horizontal axis measures its relative openness to external political and economic forces, the "J curve" plots the trajectory nations must take as they move from authoritarian control toward liberal democracy (or vice versa). Essentially, the curve is a graphical representation of the commonsense proposition that governments moving toward or away from authoritarianism must necessarily survive a "slide toward instability" as their institutions of governance are broken down and then reformed in new configurations. In Bremmer's hands, however, the J curve is a powerful heuristic that is capable of clarifying the persistent dilemma of how to nudge nations toward openness while sparing their citizens—and the world—the chaos that accompanies such transitions. In part, the J curve is effective because it explains why authoritarian states (like North Korea, on the curve's far left) are often more stable than relatively young liberal democracies (like South Africa and Russia); it may also show the fallacy of trying to undermine authoritarian states though isolation. A quick, fascinating read.
Tags: History, WorldPolitics
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