Synopses & Reviews
Unstoppable force, meet immovable object. Scene: the World Bank, a mighty development kingdom of many fiefs, its ten thousand employees operating in some one hundred countries responsible for tens of billions of dollars in aid to the world's poorest nations. Enter: James Wolfensohn, the smooth global deal maker and power broker of gargantuan appetites who has furiously worked his many connections to become the World Bank's president.
Over the course of his dazzling career, Wolfensohn seduced everything in his way surely the development gurus of the bank would be no different? Even if this wasn't much the crowd for private jets and homes in Jackson Hole, for friendship with European royalty and Harrison Ford, for fencing at the Olympics and playing the cello in Carnegie Hall with Yo-Yo Ma, surely they would see what a noble sacrifice James Wolfensohn had made in walking away from his multimillion-dollar income? Not exactly.
In 1995, Wolfensohn struck the World Bank like a whirlwind, determined to reinvent the institution founded by Franklin Roosevelt and his World War II allies. Never has the World Bank's work been more important, more in the public eye, or more controversial than in the past nine years when challenges from global financial crises to AIDS to the emergence of terrorist sanctuaries in failed states have threatened our prosperity.
In Sebastian Mallaby's masterful hands, the story of Wolfenson and his World Bank is a marvelous tour through the messy reality of global development. What John Gutfreund and Salomon Brothers were to the 1980s and John Meriwether and Long Term-Capital Management were to the 1990s, James Wolfensohn and the World Bank are to our time: the emblematic story through which a gifted author has channeled the spirit of the age.
"As portrayed by Washington Post columnist Mallaby, the charming, powerful, Australian-born millionaire James Wolfensohn works to transform the World Bank, of which he is president, from a Cold War dinosaur obsessed with regulations and procedures to an organization that is leanly and meanly focused on getting underdeveloped countries onto the economic grid on their own terms. Without a doubt, Wolfensohn makes great copy: he competed in the Olympics, refinanced Chrysler in 1980 and chaired a variety of top-flight cultural institutions. Mallaby (After Apartheid) efficiently relays anecdotes from each of these periods to reveal Wolfensohn's psychological, professional and intellectual complexion. The brilliant and deliberative leader who emerges has the '10-million-volt passion' of wanting the presidency of the World Bank, and where the book really shines is in Mallaby's ability to integrate the political, social and interpersonal narratives that lead to Wolfensohn's ascension to it in 1995. Mallaby presents Wolfensohn as forcefully advocating self-determination for poor countries (not unlike 'feisty' NGO 'tormentors' who oppose the Bank's version of globalization), but finds that Wolfensohn has been 'obliged to reckon' with the U.S.'s varying agendas 'and generally with the shifting appetites of his rich political masters.' That's a characterization with which not everyone will agree, but Mallaby forges it with skill, opening his subject to further scrutiny by all sides. Agent, the Wylie Agency. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A fascinating, lively account of a man and an institution grappling with the mammoth challenges of poverty, development, and global politics. Sebastian Mallaby's finely etched tale is both troubling and inspirational." Robert Kagan
"A swiftly moving tale of what goes on behind the vaults at the World Bank, an institution led by a vigorous, cantankerous, and polarizing boss." Kirkus Reviews
"In writing this wonderful book, Mallaby has helped shine a light on what should be the great struggle of our times." Fareed Zakaria
Mallaby pens this penetrating portrait of James Wolfensohn, the smooth global deal maker and power broker who has furiously worked his many connections to become the World Bank's president.
Never has the World Bank's relief work been more important than in the last nine years, when crises as huge as AIDS and the emergence of terrorist sanctuaries have threatened the prosperity of billions. This journalistic masterpiece by Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby charts those controversial years at the Bank under the leadership of James Wolfensohn—the unstoppable power broker whose daring efforts to enlarge the planet's wealth in an age of globalization and terror were matched only by the force of his polarizing personality. Based on unprecedented access to its subject, this captivating tour through the messy reality of global development is that rare triumph—an emblematic story through which a gifted author has channeled the spirit of the age.
- This edition features a new afterword by the author that analyzes the appointment of Paul Wolfowitz as Wolfensohn's successor at the World bank
About the Author
Sebastian Mallaby has been a Washington Post columnist since 1999. From 1986 to 1999, he was on the staff of The Economist, serving in Zimbabwe, London, and Japan, and as the magazine's Washington bureau chief. He spent 2003 as a Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and has written for Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The New York Times, and The New Republic, among others.
Table of Contents
Preface: The Prisoner of Lilliput
Chapter One: A Tale of Two Ambitions
Chapter Two: "World Bank Murderer"
Chapter Three: The Renaissance President
Chapter Four: A Twister in Africa
Chapter Five: Mission Sarajevo
Chapter Six: Narcissus and the Octopus
Chapter Seven: The Cancer of Corruption
Chapter Eight: Uganda's Myth and Miracle
Chapter Nine: A Framework for Development
Chapter Ten: From Seattle to Tibet
Chapter Eleven: Waking Up to Terror
Chapter Twelve: A Plague upon Development
Chapter Thirteen: Back to the Future
Chapter Fourteen: A Lion at Carnegie