In This Review
The Cooperative Edge: The Internal Politics of International Cartels

The Cooperative Edge: The Internal Politics of International Cartels

By Debora L. Spar

Cornell University Press, 1994, 273 pp.

This book discusses four industries, diamonds, uranium, gold, and silver, suitable for international cartelization and the degree of cooperation that each has achieved in recent years, varying from strong to nil in the order listed. A formal cartel existed in uranium, but failed after a few years; cooperation in the gold market has been less formal but more durable. The book reveals the extensive and close cooperation between staunchly anticommunist South Africa and trenchantly antiapartheid Soviet Union in managing sales of diamonds and gold over at least two decades. (Those arrangements are now under threat with radical political changes in both countries.)

The book is replete with fascinating historical and current information, but weak in its analysis of the actual results of cooperation (or its absence). The focus of the study is on the conditions for successful cooperation, but surely those must depend at least in part on the objectives sought and the fervency with which they are pursued. The book puzzlingly fails to discuss U.S. antitrust enforcement as it might apply to the apparently effective diamond cartel, and the role of the cartel in stimulating demand for diamonds as new supplies were discovered. It also omits any substantive discussion of 16 other industries, ranging from beryllium to vanadium, that on the author's criteria are suitable for cartelization.