Sunday, August 10, 2003

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Book recommendations

I've received a number of e-mails asking for book recommendations. In response, here are my picks, broken up into multiple categories.

The categories are pretty straightforward, except perhaps "great but wrong." This section is devoted to books that I think are fundamentally incorrect in their conclusions, but are so cogent that the act of reading them forces one to think very, very hard about why they are wrong. As such, they are in many ways more intellectually enjoyable than books where you agree with the thesis.



Layna Mosley, Global Capital and National Governments (2003). Everyone says that global financial markets impose a straightjacket on governments. Mosley actually asked traders in financial markets if this was true. Her conclusions will surprise you.

Meghan O'Sullivan, Shrewd Sanctions (2003). A lot of political scientists talk about doing good case studies. O'Sullivan's sanctions cases are written with a degree of precision and care that would shame most politicial scientists. Her chapter on Iraq (which I have read) is the single-best account I've read of the case.

Randall Stone, Lending Credibility (2002). Do nation-states run international organizations or are they run by them? Stone offers an answer to this question by looking at how the IMF lended money to the post-communist world.


Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (1981). A highly underrated book that discusses the waxing and waning of hegemonic powers. Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers is good; Gilpin's book is better.

Lloyd Gruber, Ruling the World (2000). A rejoinder to Ikenberry in arguing that there is more coercion involved in the crafting of global governance than initially meets the eye.

John Ikenberry, After Victory (2000). An exploration of how the victors of great power wars try to shape a stable postwar order.

Walter Russell Mead, Special Providence (2001). A history and typology of the heterogeneous foreign policy ideas that have held sway in the United States. An excellent guide for non-Americans currently baffled by U.S. foreign policy.

John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2001). The clearest and boldest statement of realist thought made in several decades. Even if you think he's wrong, you have to respect the argument.

Benjamin Most and Harvey Starr, Inquiry, Logic and International Relations (1989). A book that takes its methodology seriously. Criminally under-utilized by international relations scholars, which is a shame, because that's the target audience.

Samantha Power, "A Problem from Hell" (2002). A searing indictment and explanation of American government inaction during episodes of genocide in the 20th century.

Robert Strassler, ed., The Landmark Thucydides. The history of the Peloponnesian War as it was meant to be read. The maps and textual footnotes make the book much more accessible.


Robert Gilpin, Global Political Economy (2001). The closest thing there is to a standard textbook in international political economy.

Edward M. Graham, Fighting the Wrong Enemy (2000). Ostensibly a postmortem of the failed Multilateral Agreement on Investment, it's really a stunning indictment of the anti-globalization movement.

Brink Lindsey, Against the Dead Hand (2002). A lucid and honest defense of pragmatic libertarianism in the global economy.

Virginia Postrel, The Future and Its Enemies (1998). I almost feel guilty including this in the "Political Economy" section, since that makes it sound dry and dusty. At its core, however, the book is about sorting out the true reactionaries from the true revolutionaries in the world.

Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales, Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists (2003). A robust defense of open capital markets combined with a political analysis of why open markets are sometimes closed. Rajan, by the way, is now the IMF's chief economist.

David Vogel, Trading Up (1995). A collection of counterintuitive case studies on how globalization has affected social regulation. If the book I'm writing turns out as well as this one, I'll be feeling very good about myself.


Joel Mokyr, The Lever of Riches (1990). The first part of Mokyr's opus provides an excellent narrative history of technological innovation and its effect on the global economy. The second part is a collection of essays on various puzzles raised in the first section.

Kevin O'Rourke and Jeffrey Williamson, Globalization and History (1999). A data-rich investigation into the first era of globalization in the late 1800's. For history buffs only, but lots of fascinating info.

Nathan Rosenberg and L.E. Bridzell, Jr., How the West Grew Rich (1986). Interesting and accessible economic history of western capitalism. When I was a graduate student, I was lucky enough to be one of Nate Rosenberg's research assistants. He's a smart, smart man.


Richard Posner, Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline. An interesting if flawed effort to theorize and describe the role of intellectuals in the public sphere.

Mark Lilla, The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics, and Tony Judt, Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956. Both of these books are the perfect counter to Posner, in that they highlight the non-pecuniary motivations for intellectuals to engage the public.

Benjamin Barber, The Truth of Power. A humorous and self-deprecating account of the Clinton effort to reach out to public intellectuals on the left. It doesn't spoil the book to say that the endeavor doesn't turn out very well.

Nicholas Dawidoff, The Fly Swatter: How my Grandfather Made His Way in the World. A biography of the eminent economic historian Alexander Gerschenkron by his grandson. His life was just as interesting as his scholarship.

Hans Morgenthau: An Intellectual Biography. What the title says -- an excellent weaving of Morgenthau's personal experiences during the interwar period, and how it affected his scholarship.


Amy Chua, World on Fire (2002). Makes the provocative argument that globalization and democratization exacerbate ethnic tensions. She's extrapolating way too much from Southeast Asia, but read it for yourself to see.

Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996). I've said in print why Huntington's argument is wrong -- but my first intellectual response to the 9/11 attacks was to take it off my bookshelf.

Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom (2003). I've said why I think it's incorrect here, here, and here. Judge for yourself.

posted by Dan on 08.10.03 at 11:35 PM