Topic: Book Reviews

Ha-Joon Chang's new book: 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

I still remember watching with delight as Ha-Joon Chang kebabed a US trade negotiator, shortly after the launch of the WTO’s Doha round of negotiations. At one of those ‘schmooze the NGOs’ sessions in Geneva, the diplomat was explaining to us the folly of governments ‘picking winners’ – industrial policy. Those who did so were […]

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New books on development: bad microfinance; climate change and war; what works; inside the World Bank; mobile activism

One of the perks of writing a blog is that I can scrounge review copies of development-related books. I’m sure they’re all fascinating and I really want to read them but alas, they don’t come with extra hours in the day attached. So I now have a growing pile by my desk that is in […]

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The Plundered Planet: review of Paul Collier's new book and impending personal crisis

A new Paul Collier book is always a good workout in the brain gym and his latest, The Plundered Planet: How to Reconcile Prosperity with Nature, is no exception. You can either be seduced by his writing, conceptual acrobatics, anecdotes and soundbites (who isn’t sick of hearing ‘Bottom Billion’ in every seminar?) or you can […]

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'Just Give Money to the Poor: the Development Revolution from the Global South', an excellent overview of cash transfers

Cash transfers (CTs – regular payments by the state directly to poor people) are all the rage at the moment, prompting heated debates across the development sector. As its title suggests, a new book, ‘Just Give Money to the Poor’ has no doubts about their merits. But Joseph Hanlon, Armando Barrientos (see his blog on […]

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Cash on Delivery – worth a try?

You’ve got to hand it to the policy entrepreneurs at the Center for Global Development – they sure know how to get new ideas onto the tables and into the minds of decision makers. One of their biggest and most interesting new(ish) ideas is ‘Cash on Delivery’ (CoD), and I’ve just been reading their new […]

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Book Review: 'Why we Disagree About Climate Change', by Mike Hulme

In mid 2008, long before the Copenhagen climate summit tanked or the University of East Anglia became synonymous with dodgy emails, Mike Hulme, a UEA geographer and climate modeller, and founder of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, went into deep reflection on the divisive nature of the climate change debate. The resulting book […]

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Book Review: how citizen action leads to national change

When discussing social change (or anything else), there’s no substitute for good case studies. They inspire and provoke new thinking, helping us move beyond platitudes and generalizations, and they stick in the mind as islands of reality in a sea of social science blah. ‘Citizen action and national policy: making change happen’ a new book […]

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How to turn knowledge into policy (without losing your job)

Together with Martin Walsh, our team’s research methods adviser, I’ve been browsing through some of the literature on how to ensure our work has impact…… After a year in which Britain’s top drugs adviser, Professor David Nutt, was sacked by the Home Secretary (interior minister) for overstepping the line between providing advice and advocating specific […]

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Do loose networks like the G20 strengthen or weaken developing country voice?

Networks are (yet) another development buzzword, contrasting with markets and hierarchies. They are proliferating in the international arena, as well as in academic literature – how many ‘Gs’ can you name apart from the G20 and the G8? What’s the difference? According to ‘Networks of Influence? Developing countries in a Networked Global Order‘, edited by […]

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A unique 30 year portrait of a shanty town and its people

In 1978 Caroline Moser, a young British anthropologist went with her two children and film-maker husband to Indio Guayas, a new squatter settlement in the swamps surrounding the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil. They built a 4 x 8 metre bamboo house joined to dry ground by long, rickety walkways, and lived there for 7 months […]

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Ha-Joon Chang uncovers what's worked in the history of agricultural policy

I vividly remember the impact of Ha-Joon Chang’s 2002 book ‘Kicking Away the Ladder’. At the time I was an NGO lobbyist on the WTO’s Doha round of trade talks, and Ha-Joon’s book showed how when they were still poor, today’s rich countries had systematically used the industrial policies and other forms of state management […]

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Can the law advance education and healthcare in poor countries?

I recently spent two weeks doing jury service in an inner London court – a grim experience of leaking municipal toilets, undrinkable coffee, frequently incompetent barristers and Dickensian judges, overseeing a squalid litany of petty crime. In between the alleged threats and beatings, I read Courting Social Justice, a new book on the use of […]

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