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The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fallby Ian Bremmer
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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 results and 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. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In Bremmer's hands...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...chaos....A quick, fascinating read." Booklist
"A shrewd and timely take on a continual dilemma of international relations." Kirkus Reviews
"Accessibly written, clear and concise, it's an excellent guide to what will be a number of the world's hot spots in the years to come and to what the United States' response might or should be in each case." Philadelphia Inquirer
"The J Curve provides both policymakers and business strategists with an innovative set of conceptual tools for understanding political risk in rapidly changing societies, tools that integrate political, economic, and security perspectives in new and creative ways." Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and the Last Man
"Ian Bremmer has come up with a smart, fresh way to think about how countries develop. His J curve gets at the heart of a dynamic of change affecting large swathes of the world. A book well worth reading." Fareed Zakaria, author of The Future of Freedom
"Bremmer convincingly argues that smart American diplomacy, harnessing the forces of globalization, can induce closed societies to open up without falling apart. Timely, thoughtful, and written with verve and clarity, this is an impressive work of analysis and prescription." Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution, former deputy secretary of state
"For those who are looking for new ideas, concepts, and theories to develop a 21st-century understanding of our 21st-century global experience, Ian Bremmer's The J Curve is quintessential reading." Daniel Burstein, coauthor of Big Dragon and Road Warriors
"Bremmer's book is a stimulating effort to get away from the stale and anachronistic notions of international relations that too often, and disastrously, shape foreign policy." Brian Urquhart, former under-secretary-general of the United Nations
Filled with imaginative and surprising examples of how to correct outworn political ideas, this text points the way for the United States to lead the world to a realistic political balance and a healthier economic future.
A successful international business expert turns conventional wisdom on its head and shows how the U.S. can start acting in its own interests.
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.
About the Author
Ian Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group, the world's largest political risk consultancy. He has written for the Financial Times, the Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times, and has authored or edited five books. He is a columnist for Slate, a contributing editor at the National Interest, and a political commentator on CNN, Fox News, and CNBC. He lives in New York City and teaches at Columbia University.
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