Topic: Book Reviews

Why We Fight: This Year’s Big Book on Development?

Why We Fight, by Chris Blattman, a prof at the University of Chicago, is shaping up to be this year’s Big Book – it’s everywhere on my timeline, the FT book of the summer etc etc. A summary and some thoughts. Usually I decide early on if I like a book or not, on the […]

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An important new book on technology, power and development

Patching Development: Information Politics and Social Change in India by Rajesh Veeraraghavan is a wonderful and important book, a deep dive into the world’s largest social protection programme – India’s NREGA scheme – to explore the interaction between state reformers and citizen activists, as they work together, or sometimes against each other, to overcome the […]

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Political Gambles on Development

Stefan Dercon introduces his new book, published today in the UK (review to follow) I am starting to appreciate why historians rarely study contemporary history. Interpreting the present is always hard. I have felt this weight in my two core activities over the last two years: providing advice on global affairs and development issues pertaining […]

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A Great Overview of the past, present and future of War and the Humanitarian System

It feels a bit odd to be reviewing a book when you’ve just had breakfast with the author, but I finished reading Hugo Slim’s overview of the Humanitarian system and its future on the way to a workshop we are both delivering in Nairobi, so good to write it up while it’s still fresh. First, […]

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Review: Beef, Bible and Bullets: Brazil in the Age of Bolsonaro, by Richard Lapper

One lesson of recent times is that countries’ global reputations often have little to do with their underlying realities. The Netherlands is not all a happy liberal paradise of coffee houses and cyclists. And Brazil is not all sex, carnival and footballing genius. In the case of Brazil, the world has woken up to this […]

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Want to Challenge the Elite? Then first Understand What Makes Them Tick

Understandably, perhaps, progressive researchers often prefer to try to understand the lives, challenges and struggles of the poor. Who wants to spend their time talking to sleazy fatcats? But if you want to change things, it’s often necessary to understand the people in charge. So I was very happy when public philosopher and political scientist […]

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A Brilliant History of the rise and power of Constitutions as a global ‘political technology’

Not sure if this is normal behaviour, but holidays is when I tend to read the big heavy tomes – see previous posts on Piketty, War and Peace, or other random novels. Last month’s holiday saw me chow down on Linda Colley’s The Gun, the Ship and the Pen, a Big Book with the grandest […]

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Is Social Media a New Frontier for Marginalised Communities to Challenge Old Power? The Flint Water Tragedy, and the Power of Place-Based Digital Activism

In the second of their four-part blog series (first published on Global Policy), which seeks to spark new ways of thinking about digitally-mediated activism, Nina Newhouse and Charlie Batchelor (two of my LSE students from last year’s cohort), use Timms and Heimans’ New/Old Power framework to ask how activists can use the internet to achieve […]

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New and Old Power: A New Way to Understand and Cultivate Digitally-Mediated Activism, or Just Another Framework?

This is the first of a four-part blog series first published on Global Policy, which seeks to spark new ways of thinking about digitally-mediated activism. Written by two of my LSE students from last year’s cohort, Nina Newhouse and Charlie Batchelor, it uses Timms and Heimans’ New/Old Power framework to interrogate power: asking how activists […]

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Why understanding the history of Donor Governments changes the way we think about aid

Back in the day, when I was doing advocacy on trade and globalization, I was struck by the extent to which the underlying assumptions of International NGOs resembled those of their governments – the liberal Anglo-Saxons targeted European subsidies, or northern tariffs, both of which they argued damaged southern producers. The French and Germans often […]

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