Book Reviews

Is the Anti-Politics machine still a good critique of the aid business?

Duncan Green - January 11, 2017

Just been re-reading a great 6 page summary of James Ferguson’s 1994 classic critique of the aid industry, The Anti-Politics Machine. Read this and ask yourself, apart from the grating use of the term ‘Third World’, how much has changed? ‘Any question of the form ‘what is to be done?’ demands first of all an answer to the question, ‘By whom?’ The ‘development’ discourse, and …

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Book Review: Social Physics : How Social Networks can make us Smarter

Duncan Green - January 6, 2017

My Christmas reading included a book called Social Physics – yep, a party animal (my others were Lord of the Flies and Knausgard Vol 3, both wonderful). Here’s the review: Airport bookstores are bewildering places – shelf after shelf of management gurus offering distilled lessons on leadership, change and everything else. How to distinguish snake oil from substance? My Christmas reading, based on a recommendation …

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‘Odd but Interesting’: Clare Short reviews How Change Happens

Duncan Green - December 20, 2016

Clare Short was DFID’s first minister (1997-2003) and a force of nature (for example she was one of the originators of what became the Millennium Development Goals). Great when she agreed with you, pretty brutal when she didn’t. Which in the case of NGOs, was quite a lot of the time – she had the traditional Labour Left dislike of middle class, self-appointed, self-righteous dogoodery …

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Power, Poverty and Inequality: a ‘love-peeve’ new IDS bulletin

Duncan Green - December 6, 2016

I have something of a love-hate relationship with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in Brighton, or more accurately, a love-peeve. I love the topics, the commitment to bottom-up approaches, and the intellectual leadership IDS has shown over the years on a whole range of issues dear to my heart. The peeve stems from its preference for abstruse language and reluctance to commit to the …

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Some highlights from the first 30 book launches for How Change Happens

Duncan Green - November 17, 2016

I’m about six weeks into launching How Change Happens, and am having a great (if knackering) time. Highlights so far include a Kurdish/Dutch guitar combo warming up the crowd in Nijmegen, conversations with an Islamic finance entrepreneur trying to do financial inclusion in South Wales, a great group of women managing a community-run service station on the M5 motorway and a network of ‘social leaders’ …

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Campaigning for Change: Lessons of History. Top new book, free to download

Duncan Green - November 10, 2016

I’ve blogged a couple of times on a fascinating project run by Friends of the Earth and the History and Policy network to bring historians of past campaigns and modern day campaigners together to discuss the lessons of history. The resulting 174 page book is now out and I highly recommend it. The discussion was part of FoE’s Big Ideas Change the World project (why …

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Climate Change: Meeting sea level rise by raising the land

Duncan Green - November 8, 2016

  As the COP 22 meeting on climate change gets under way in Marrakech, Joseph Hanlon, Manoj Roy and David Hulme introduce their new book on climate change and Bangladesh Community groups in coastal Bangladesh have shown that the land can be raised to match sea level rise. Their success has been hard fought, initially contested by aid agencies, engineers and the police. But they …

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Sen, Fukuyama, Chambers, Byanyima, Agarwal, Rodrik, Kumar and Robinson on How Change Happens

Duncan Green - October 21, 2016

A week to go til the official How Change Happens publication day (a pretty artificial date, but apparently it helps with chasing up reviews), so time for another book-related post. One of the most heart-warming experiences for any author is when you send off your manuscript to a sprinkling of the great and good, and to your delight and astonishment, some of them send back a …

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Ha-Joon Chang on How Change Happens

Duncan Green - October 18, 2016

October is upon us, and with it the publication of How Change Happens on the 27th. I am already suffering about my levels of authorial self-obsession: I entered the personal shorthand of ‘Narcissistic Peak’ for launch day, unaware that my diary synchs with my wife’s Ipad. Cathy hasn’t let me forget it. But given the surprising results of my precautionary poll (90% of voters not …

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How can we make Disasters Dull? Book review

Duncan Green - October 13, 2016

Oxfam Senior Humanitarian Policy Adviser Debbie Hillier can barely contain her excitement – today is International Day for Disaster Reduction. To celebrate, she reviews a new book on the issue While policy frameworks on Disaster Risk Reduction have proliferated – the SDGs, the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework – the practicality remains elusive. This is the issue addressed by Dull Disasters? How Planning ahead will make a …

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