10 February 2010

Book: World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability

Amy Chua, "World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability" (Doubleday, 2002):


From the publisher's description: "For over a decade now, the reigning consensus has held that the combination of free markets and democracy would transform the third world and sweep away the ethnic hatred and religious zealotry associated with underdevelopment. In this astute, original, and surprising investigation of the true impact of globalization, [...] Amy Chua explains why many developing countries are in fact consumed by ethnic violence after adopting free market democracy. Chua shows how in non-Western countries around the globe, free markets have concentrated starkly disproportionate wealth in the hands of a resented ethnic minority. These 'market-dominant minorities' – Chinese in Southeast Asia, Croatians in the former Yugoslavia, whites in Latin America and South Africa, Indians in East Africa, Lebanese in West Africa, Jews in post-communist Russia – become objects of violent hatred. At the same time, democracy empowers the impoverished majority, unleashing ethnic demagoguery, confiscation, and sometimes genocidal revenge."

Reviews: "Chua blames the West for promoting a version of capitalism and democracy that Westerners have never adopted themselves. Western capitalism wisely implemented redistributive mechanisms to offset potential ethnic hostilities, a practice that has not accompanied the political and economic transitions in the developing world. As a result, Chua explains, we will continue to witness violence and bloodshed within the developing nations struggling to adopt the free markets and democratic policies exported by the West." ("Publishers Weekly")

"By way of illustration, Chua offers, imagine that Chinese-Americans, representing about two percent of the US population, controlled the country's largest banks and most of its productive real estate, while the 75 percent of the population considered 'white' owned no land and, worse, 'had experienced no upward mobility as far back as anyone can remember': transfer the scenario abroad, 'and you will have approximated the core social dynamic that characterizes much of the non-Western world.' [...] Democratization in the Middle East, for instance, would likely mean only the rise of nationalist and fundamentalist regimes; corrupt and autocratic though they may be, the region's kings are still more liberal than those who would replace them should the majority rule." ("Kirkus Review")

Amy Chua is the John M. Duff, Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

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