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World on Fire

How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability


Amy Chua (View Bio)
Hardcover: Doubleday, 2002; Paperback: Anchor Books, 2004.

World on Fire

Most believe that exporting free market democracy will stimulate developing countries' economies and promote peace. Yale law professor Amy Chua, reviewing the facts and history, is not so sure. WORLD ON FIRE warns that globalization may have a downside and carry the potential for catastrophe.

A New York Times Best Seller
A BusinessWeek Best Seller
An Economist magazine Best Book of the Year
A Strategy and Business magazine Best Book of the Year

"Very provocative...Chua defends her case well." — Kirkus Reviews

"Using case studies and personal recollections, Chua perceptively argues in this original and highly provocative treatise that free markets and democracy taken to countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa have not resulted in an equal spreading of wealth but instead continue to produce ethnic conflicts and a class of extremely wealthy plutocrats." — Library Journal

"Today's prophets of globalization...blithely tout the benefits of free markets, free elections and the Internet as the saviors of humanity. Yet as Amy Chua convincingly details in WORLD ON FIRE, the introduction of unfettered free markets and democracy may in many countries be helping to foster instability and violence.... [It] makes for compelling reading and sounds a sobering warning that should be heeded by all supporters and critics of globalization." — Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

"The greatest tribute to any book is the conviction upon closing it that the senseless finally makes sense. That's the feeling left by Amy Chua's WORLD ON FIRE.... The book, one of breadth and scholarly rigor, is provocative, evocative, nuanced and highly readable, starting at page one.... This author has provided an intellectual framework for understanding, and even ameliorating, this vast and complicated problem. For this, Amy Chua deserved our gratitude." — Washington Post

"The case Amy Chua makes in WORLD ON FIRE: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability is so clear and persuasive it almost seems as if it has been obvious all along. Yet her argument...is quite new. [Chua] is a careful and precise writer." — Salon.com

"Provocative.... Shocking.... It should make Americans think twice about exporting their political culture wholesale without a thought of who dislikes whom." — Seattle Times

"In WORLD ON FIRE, Amy Chua, a Yale law professor, offers a dramatic counterthesis to the current orthodoxy that the spread of markets and democracy are necessary to make the world prosperous and pacific. What the optimists ignore, says Chua, is that in much of the developing world wealth is concentrated in the hands of unpopular ethnic minorities." — New York Review of Books

"Groundbreaking.... Challenging and surprisingly readable.... Timely.... Chua...is smart, articulate, passionate about her beliefs and not afraid of a fight." — South China Morning Post

"Fascinating and disturbing.... It would be easy to dismiss this as yet another attack on globalization. But this book is hardly that.... Chua sees no inherent evil in capitalism, thinks representative democracy is a good thing, and writes with an authority born of rigorous research. Yet Chua warns that the phenomenon of 'market-dominant minorities' — taken in combination with globalization and democracy — can cause huge strains in the developing world." — BusinessWeek

"Drawing on examples from Burma to Bolivia, Chua paints a nuanced picture of ethnic and national fault lines.... [She] fleshes out the idea that globalization is not a magical elixir for developing nations. Rather, she writes, market-dominant minorities are the 'Achilles heel' of free-market democracy." — Newsweek

"Chua offers a fundamentally new perspective on how to help sustain globalization by spreading its benefits while curbing its most destructive aspects.... Compelling." — The Tampa Tribune

"Chua eloquently fuses expert analysis with personal recollections to assert that globalization has created a volatile concoction of free markets and democracy that has incited economic devastation, ethnic hatred and genocidal violence throughout the developing world. Chua illustrates the disastrous consequences arising when an accumulation of wealth by 'market dominant minorities' combines with an increase of political power by a disenfranchised majority. Chua refutes the 'powerful assumption that free markets and democracy go hand in hand' by citing specific examples of the turbulent conditions within countries such as Indonesia, Russia, Sierra Leone, Bolivia, and the Middle East." — Publishers Weekly

"A watertight thesis.... No one has done a finer job of honestly tracing out that [economic] reality than Amy Chua. [A] superb new book.... Ms. Chua's is no America-last screed.... Instead, it's a richly imagined formula for understanding a seeming paradox: Why has a raging backlash often accompanied the rising standards of living brought on by globalization?... Ms. Chua deftly rangers over several cultures — from the intricate tribal jealousies of Africa to the Jewish oligarchs of post-Communist Russia — describing how market-dominant minorities lead over and over again to the lowest racial demagoguery.... In short, Ms. Chua's book moves us beyond post-9/11 bickering, beyond a mindlessly triumphalist right and a mindlessly self-loathing left. She encourages us to confront the world as it is, and our actual place in it, with a humane and intellectually formidable imagination." — New York Observer

"A cogent analysis...convincingly reason[ed]." — The Boston Herald

"A brilliant, groundbreaking assault on the prevailing wisdom that the American political and economic model is a one-stop solution to the world's woes. It is likely to stimulate plenty of debate and to stand in company, and competition, with a whole shelf of influential books — most notably New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman's THE LEXUS AND THE OLIVE TREE — that argue for America's benificent role in exporting capitalism and democracy around the world." — Elle magazine

"A barrage of examples supports Chua's thesis, each described with careful consideration of the different circumstances of different nations.... [T]old with a dramatic flair." — The Weekly Standard

"[Chua] explain[s] that over a large part of the Earth's surface, globalization and democracy are at loggerheads, and may actually be compatible.... Chua brings a wonderful breadth of knowledge to her book. There is hardly a corner of the world she has not looked into, scarcely an entrepreneurial minority she has missed." — The American Conservative

"[A] grim and thoughtful assessment.... Sobering.... Her research provides an indispensable rejoinder to the millennial reveries of Tom Friedman, George Guilder, and other globalization touts.... A clearheaded, incisive diagnosis of the many ethnic ills of the globalizing era." — Mother Jones

"Chua's critique is all the more damning because she is not a flower child, anti-globalization firebrand out to denounce the establishment.... Unlike such celebrants of the global economy as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, or those on the left who reflexively denounce globalization, Chua makes a nuanced but formidable argument about the potential dangers of the free-market version of democratic capitalism in the developing world.... Chua's anecdotal case studies provide strong support for her argument.... Chua may well be right that the simultaneous arrival of laissez-faire markets and the most rudimentary form of majoritarian democracy has further concentrated wealth in market-dominant groups while exacerbating majority ethnic resentments.... Chua has identified a major risk of the current free-market orthodoxy.... WORLD ON FIRE deserves to be widely read. It is a welcome antidote to the recycled mantras of the market-cheering right and tired rhetoric of the anti-globalization left." — The American Prospect

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