Capsule Reviews

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Capsule Review,
2015
Robert Legvold

Economic development specialists and agencies used to consider corruption to be a secondary issue. Now, they see it as not merely a factor in dysfunctional economies but also a potential source of extremist violence and terrorism. For her part, McMann looks at how corruption figures in the daily lives of people struggling to meet their basic needs in the turmoil of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, societies moving from Soviet-style economies to market-based ones.

Capsule Review,
2015
Robert Legvold

Notwithstanding the many issues on which China and Russia agree these days, conventional wisdom holds that a real alliance between the two powers is not in the cards. The growing gap in power, the historical sources of enmity, and the cultural divide make it impossible, the thinking goes. But those assumptions ought to be reconsidered. The evolving, multidimensional nature of national identity under Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Rozman argues, is bringing the two countries together in profound ways.

Capsule Review,
2015
Robert Legvold

In the 1980s, Radovan Karadzic was a practicing psychiatrist and a published poet living a middle-class life in Sarajevo with a wife and two children. Nothing about him suggested the capacity for the fierce ethnic nationalism, violence, and sadism that swept him to power as the leader of the Serbian Democratic Party and then president of the Republika Srpska, an enclave carved by force out of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Capsule Review,
2015
Gretchen Helmke

Spare Parts tells the unlikely but inspiring true story of four Arizona teens, all undocumented immigrants from Mexico, who joined their high school’s robotics team and went on to win the Marine Advanced Technology Education national championship in 2004. The story is pure Hollywood—and indeed, a film based on the book was released last year. But it is not all uplift: Davis deftly juxtaposes the team’s success with the political backlash faced by undocumented immigrants all over the country. Nor is the story a clear testament to the transformative power of education.

Capsule Review,
2015
Gretchen Helmke

For much of the second half of the twentieth century, Venezuela was one of Latin America’s few bastions of democracy and stability. Today, with inflation soaring and protests mounting, instability seems inevitable, and the country is on edge. How did this happen?

Capsule Review,
2015
Gretchen Helmke

A series of editorials published by The New York Times late last year offered a powerful critique of U.S. policy toward Cuba. By shining a critical light on Washington’s decades of missteps, the Times helped influence public perceptions of U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Capsule Review,
2015
Andrew Moravcsik

Offe is a venerable figure in European sociology. His take on the current state of the EU is unfailingly intelligent but lightly documented, and his analysis depends to a large extent on a selective reading of secondary sources that agree with his own position. Still, his book clearly reveals how European social democrats, such as himself, face a difficult dilemma. On the one hand, they understand better than anyone that the euro fundamentally constrains the ability of states to provide the welfare spending and broad economic growth essential to left-wing goals.

Capsule Review,
2015
Andrew Moravcsik

Jacques Delors, the legendary president of the European Commission, used to say, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” In the spirit of Delors’ adage, Youngs has penned this book on how Europe can restore its global influence, which has taken a hit during the ongoing eurozone crisis. The general impression Youngs leaves is that the crisis has not undermined European power as much as it seems. Much of his advice is sensible.

Capsule Review,
2015
Andrew Moravcsik

Most analyses of the 2008 financial crisis advocate various technocratic solutions but say little about the politics of putting them in place. That’s not the case with this pathbreaking book, which focuses on the political questions that really matter: Who ends up paying to clean up a crisis, and why? Woll asks why some governments have been much better than others at bailing out their banks.

Capsule Review,
2015
Andrew Moravcsik

This magisterial history of European debt offers a unique perspective on the eurozone crisis. It begins in ancient Greece and continues all the way to speculations about Europe’s financial future. Dyson finds continuities across the millennia. Economic interdependence has meant that creditors have always had more bargaining power than debtors, a fact that is encoded in economic institutions and ideas; historically, debtors have had to accede to creditors’ demands.

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