Capsule Reviews

Refine By:
Capsule Review,
Jan/Feb
2015
Nicolas van de Walle

Boraine, an influential white antiapartheid activist, has written a scathing critique of the African National Congress, the black-dominated party that has ruled South Africa for the past two decades. Boraine’s account of the party’s corruption breaks no new ground; nor does his argument that the ANC’s intolerance of criticism results from the antidemocratic internal culture the party forged during its long struggle for power.

Capsule Review,
Jan/Feb
2015
Nicolas van de Walle

This book’s title is drawn from a comment that a close ally of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir made after South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011, as he bid good riddance to a region that had been like a “poisonous thorn” in Khartoum’s heart. But Copnall shows that the cultural, political, and economic links between the countries remain dense and complicated and argues that the two sides need to forge a productive relationship if either is to thrive.

Capsule Review,
Jan/Feb
2015
Nicolas van de Walle

Despite the title of this book, the heroes of Edwards’ entertaining account of Tanzania’s development in the 1980s and 1990s are the international donors who imposed reforms on the country’s socialist government after President Julius Nyerere’s policies had ruined the economy. In the immediate postindependence era, international aid had provided support to those same counterproductive policies—hence the toxicity referred to in the title.

Capsule Review,
Jan/Feb
2015
Nicolas van de Walle

Given how difficult it can be to create a sense of nationhood in places where people construct their identities from many different sources, one might think that large African states would try to educate their citizens in a single national language in order to promote national cohesion. But in fact, four out of five African countries officially encourage education in multiple local languages.

Capsule Review,
Jan/Feb
2015
Minxin Pei

One of the most vexing questions for scholars of China is whether Chinese political culture inherently supports authoritarian rule. Solid answers to that question have eluded political scientists for decades. This book by the late China scholar Shi represents an audacious and creative attempt to solve the puzzle. Through a sophisticated statistical analysis of survey data collected between 1993 and 2008 in mainland China and Taiwan, Shi reaches several surprising—and undoubtedly provocative—conclusions.

Capsule Review,
Jan/Feb
2015
Andrew J. Nathan

Are Chinese policymakers driven to take more assertive foreign policy positions by the pressure of nationalist public opinion, or do they merely use that opinion as a tool to strengthen their hand in negotiations with other powers? Weiss presents a nuanced but clear answer in favor of the latter position. Her study of 92 protest attempts from 1985 to 2012 finds that authorities restrained or prevented more demonstrations than they allowed but shows that some flexibility proved useful for diplomatic signaling.

Capsule Review,
Jan/Feb
2015
Andrew J. Nathan

The struggle of India’s “untouchables” for equality is usually understood as a challenge to Hindu tenets that hold such people to be inherently tainted. But this innovative book argues that historically, the untouchables (or Dalits) were excluded less as a result of religious beliefs than on account of their economic role as bonded agricultural laborers. Viswanath explains that the religious aspect of untouchability began to take precedence only in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Protestant missionaries started the process by trying to convert Dalits to Christianity.

Capsule Review,
Jan/Feb
2015
Andrew J. Nathan

This study of Indonesia’s most successful entrepreneur, who died in 2012 at the age of 95, is a contribution to both business history and political history. The story of the Salim Group’s expansion into flour, cement, banking, noodles, and countless other fields illuminates the symbiotic relationship between businesspeople and politicians during the reign of Suharto, Indonesia’s president from 1967 until 1998. The Javanese-born Suharto and the Chinese-born Liem Sioe Liong were both tough men with smiling exteriors who held mystical beliefs and were fascinated by money.

Capsule Review,
Jan/Feb
2015
Andrew J. Nathan

Pillsbury and Haddick articulate some of the reasons behind Washington’s increasing anxiety about China. After decades of close contact with senior Chinese military officials, Pillsbury has come to believe that China aims not to simply defend its core interests, nor to merely match the power of the United States, but rather to achieve global economic, cultural, and military dominance.

Capsule Review,
Jan/Feb
2015
John Waterbury

The uprisings of 2011 were unprecedented in recent Arab history, as civilians took to the streets in massive numbers not to protest rising prices or condemn foreign governments but rather to demand the downfall of their own leaders. Arab countries have long ranked among the least free in the world, and the uprisings suggested that perhaps the region was about to come in from the autocratic cold. In four recently edited volumes, experts try to make sense of the uprisings and the subsequent regime changes, as well as the reversals and bloody stalemates that followed.

Syndicate content