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Interviews with Scholars of Global Affairs about their New Books

New Books in World Affairs New Books Network

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.8 • 13 Ratings

Interviews with Scholars of Global Affairs about their New Books

    Daniel Todman, "Britain's War: A New World, 1942-1947" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    Daniel Todman, "Britain's War: A New World, 1942-1947" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    The second of Daniel Todman's two sweeping volumes on Great Britain and World War II, Britain's War: A New World, 1942-1947 (Oxford UP, 2020), begins with the event Winston Churchill called the "worst disaster" in British military history: the Fall of Singapore in February 1942 to the Japanese. As in the first volume of Todman's epic account of British involvement in World War II ("Total history at its best," according to Jay Winter), he highlights the inter-connectedness of the British experience in this moment and others, focusing on its inhabitants, its defenders, and its wartime leadership. Todman explores the plight of families doomed to spend the war struggling with bombing, rationing, exhausting work and, above all, the absence of their loved ones and the uncertainty of their return. It also documents the full impact of the entrance into the war by the United States, and its ascendant stewardship of the war.
    Britain's War: A New World, 1942-1947 is a triumph of narrative and research. Todman explains complex issues of strategy and economics clearly while never losing sight of the human consequences--at home and abroad--of the way that Britain fought its war. It is the definitive account of a drama which reshaped Great Britain and the world.
    Bob Wintermute is professor of history at Queens College, CUNY.
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    • 51 min
    Hilton L. Root, "Network Origins of the Global Economy: East vs. West in a Complex Systems Perspective" (Cambridge UP, 2020)

    Hilton L. Root, "Network Origins of the Global Economy: East vs. West in a Complex Systems Perspective" (Cambridge UP, 2020)

    Twenty-eight years after Francis Fukuyama declared the “end of history” and pronounced Western-style liberalism as the culmination of a Hegelian narrative of progress, pundits and academics of all stripes find themselves struggling to explain the failed prediction that China’s increased activity in international markets would inevitably lead to increasing political and social liberalization in that country. 
    With his ground-breaking book, Network Origins of the Global Economy: East vs. West in a Complex Systems Perspective, out from Cambridge University Press in 2020, Hilton L. Root takes a road less-traveled in contemporary economics and brings the analytical tools of systems theory to bear on this perplexing question, believing that a study of network structure might be able to shed more light than the traditional tools of economic analysis. This clearly argued and eminently readable book accounts for much of the current state of affairs by tracing the contrasting historical evolution of Europe as a Small World Network constituted by the dense connectivity of dynastic marriages between the continent’s royal houses, and China as a Hub and Spoke Network with communications flowing outward through the branches of its vast and robustly structured bureaucracy from a primary central node. Other networked social factors under consideration are the development of Europe’s blend of Germanic custom and Roman law, and China’s tradition of the ideal Confucian gentleman and its deep commitment to merit rather than birthright as the condition for ascending the ranks of administrative power structures. Emerging from this thoughtful and well-researched study is a compelling explanatory narrative of Europe’s ongoing capacity to adapt to rapid change and China’s pattern of long stretches of stability, sudden collapse, and subsequent resurrection of largely unchanged network structure. This adventurous scholarly work simultaneously opens new theoretical doors for economists and provides systems scholars with access to new dimensions of application.
    Tom Scholte is a Professor of Directing and Acting in the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of British Columbia located on the unceded, ancestral, and traditional territory of the Musqueam people.
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    • 1 hr 12 min
    H. M. E. Tagma and P. E. Lenze, "Understanding and Explaining the Iranian Nuclear 'Crisis'" (Lexington Books, 2020)

    H. M. E. Tagma and P. E. Lenze, "Understanding and Explaining the Iranian Nuclear 'Crisis'" (Lexington Books, 2020)

    How can multiple theoretical approaches yield a better understanding of international political politics?
    In Understanding and Explaining the Iranian Nuclear 'Crisis': Theoretical Approaches (Lexington Books, 2020), Dr. Halit M. E. Tagma, assistant professor in the department of politics and international affairs at Northern Arizona University and Dr. Paul E. Lenze, senior lecturer in the department of politics and international affairs at Northern Arizona State University combine established theories in both Political Science and International Relations to encourage “eclectic pluralism” – an approach that embraces a variety of different theoretical approaches to understand and explain the historical, geopolitical, international, and domestic dimensions of a particular case: the early 21st century case of the government of Iran’s construction of a uranium enrichment and heavy-water facility and the international response. The book aims to explore what is often called (in their view misrepresented as) the Iranian Nuclear “crisis” in a nuanced and complex manner by slicing it into sub-cases to focus on different forces and actors.
    For Tagma and Lenze, the analysis of international relations (in this case Iran) risks a problem of bias as European and American observers, for example, interpret Iran through the lens of their own national interest. Their book aims to overcome this bias by “providing alternative and contending theoretical perspectives to understand the contention surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.” Tagma and Lenze insist that IR theories are often good at simplifying very complex cases but weaker when accounting for some of the nuances and specifics. Eclectic pluralism, they argue, brings back some of the nuance and also shows how each of these different theories collides. In that collision, eclectic pluralism sees a mosaic in providing a larger picture of political reality.
    While Tagma and Lenze believe that gender, post-colonialism, constructivism, and green theory are possible lenses, they set them aside to focus on history, realism, and political economy. They provide (chapter 1) a historical review of Iran’s nuclear program by breaking it down into three separable historical phases: preliminary; stagnation; and renewed interest, (chapter 2) a focus on the security challenges and perceptions of threat using two Realist hypotheses (defensive and offensive), (chapter 3) a structuralist exploration of how the Iranian nuclear contention fit into a larger context of global capitalism and world systems rather than anarchy, (chapter 4) a neoliberal institutional lens focused on Iran’s violation of nuclear nonproliferation norms as reflective of powerful interests in sanctions and their effect on domestic politics, (chapter 5) an emphasis on domestic politics with attention to the complex decision-making that neither occurs in a vacuum nor reflects unitary political responses, and (chapter 6) a further exploration into domestic politics arguing that a two-level game approach captures the politics of the “crisis” particularly the need to consider the interests of both Obama and Khamenei.
    Susan Liebell is associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Her Why Diehard Originalists Aren’t Really Originalists recently appeared in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage and her “Retreat from the Rule of Law: Locke and the Perils of Stand Your Ground” was published in the Journal of Politics (July 2020). Email her comments at sliebell@sju.edu or tweet to @SusanLiebell.
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    • 1 hr 1 min
    B. R. Roberts and K. Foulcher, "Indonesian Notebook: A Sourcebook on Richard Wright and the Bandung Conference" (Duke UP, 2016)

    B. R. Roberts and K. Foulcher, "Indonesian Notebook: A Sourcebook on Richard Wright and the Bandung Conference" (Duke UP, 2016)

    This is a Special Series on Third World Nationalism.
    In the wake of a rise in nationalism around the world, and its general condemnation by liberals and the left, in addition to the rise of China and Russia, we have put together this series on Third World Nationalism to nuance the present discourse on nationalism, note its centrality to anti-imperial, anti-colonial politics around the world, the reconfiguration of global power, and its inextricability from mainstream politics in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Today my guests are Brian Roberts and Keith Foulcher, editors of Indonesian Notebook: A Sourcebook on Richard Wright and the Bandung Conference (Duke UP, 2016).
    While Richard Wright's account of the 1955 Bandung Conference has been key to shaping Afro-Asian historical narratives, Indonesian accounts of Wright and his conference attendance have been largely overlooked. 
    Indonesian Notebook contains myriad documents by Indonesian writers, intellectuals, and reporters, as well as a newly recovered lecture by Wright, previously published only in Indonesian. Brian Russell Roberts and Keith Foulcher introduce and contextualize these documents with extensive background information and analysis, showcasing the heterogeneity of postcolonial modernity and underscoring the need to consider non-English language perspectives in transnational cultural exchanges. This collection of primary sources and scholarly histories is a crucial companion volume to Wright'sThe Color Curtain.
    This, then, is a very interesting exploration of the congruences and contradictions between Third World Nationalism and African-American struggles.
    Kirk Meighoo is a TV and podcast host, former university lecturer, author and former Senator in Trinidad and Tobago. He hosts his own podcast, Independent Thought & Freedom, where he interviews some of the most interesting people from around the world who are shaking up politics, economics, society and ideas. You can find it in the iTunes Store or any of your favorite podcast providers. You can also subscribe to his YouTube channel. If you are an academic who wants to get heard nationally, please check out his free training at becomeapublicintellectual.com.
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    • 1 hr 37 min
    An interview with David Barno and Nora Bensahel

    An interview with David Barno and Nora Bensahel

    Few human enterprises are as complex, dynamic, and unpredictable as war. Armed conflict substitutes the relatively ordered reality of peace with the undeniably chaotic reality of combat. Militaries, by design, seek to make sense of and prepare for that chaos. And as long as there have been organized militaries, there have been military officers, theorists, and observers, like Ardant du Pique or B.H. Liddell Hart, who sought to predict the fundamental nature of the next war. But as Lieutenant General David Barno and Dr. Nora Bensahel observe in Adaptation Under Fire: How Militaries Change in Wartime (Oxford University Press, 2020), anticipating the complexities, subtitles, and character of the next war is no simple task. Warfare has a nasty habit of confounding pre-war assumptions and rendering impotent cherished pre-war doctrines, technologies, and leaders.
    To successfully contend with warfare’s radical shifts and rampant unknowns, Barno and Bensahel argue, modern militaries need to be adaptable. They must build an adaptive capacity within their doctrine, cultivate an adaptive approach to technological implementation, and—perhaps most importantly—inculcate an adaptive mindset in their tactical, theater, and institutional leadership. Such adaptive capability, Barno and Bensahel contend, will only grow in importance as the resurgence in great power conflict, the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the expansion of warfare into space and cyberspace radically reshape the threat environment of the 21st Century.
    Whether or not the modern United States military is adaptable enough to face and overcome these threats remains an open question—one that Barno and Bensahel seek to answer. Drawing upon a wealth of examples from the conflicts of the 20th century, Adaptation Under Fire powerfully illustrates what successful and unsuccessful adaptation looks like in relation to military doctrine, technology, and leadership. History, of course, is not predictive. Bensahel and Barno, however, deftly wield its analytic potential, revealing the factors that contribute to a potent adaptive capability, as well as the ways in which those factors manifest or fail to manifest within the United States military today. Lucidly argued and perspicacious in its diagnosis and prescriptions, Adaptation Under Fire makes a compelling argument for adaptability as a core competency in the modern United States military.
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    • 1 hr 2 min
    Devadas Krishnadas, "Confronting Covid-19: A Strategic Playbook for Leaders and Decision Makers" (MCIA, 2020)

    Devadas Krishnadas, "Confronting Covid-19: A Strategic Playbook for Leaders and Decision Makers" (MCIA, 2020)

    The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every country around the world in a manner not seen since the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, and is perhaps one of the most transformative events in decades. Most countries and governments have played catch-up to the pandemic, trying to get a handle on case numbers after an explosive increase. But a few places: Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam and China appear to have kept the virus largely under control.
    Confronting COVID-19: A Strategic Playbook for Leaders and Decision Makers (Marshall Cavendish International Asia, 2020) by Devadas Krishnadas is one of the first attempts to seriously study the public responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as plot out some of the possible economic, geopolitical and social changes that may arise. More information on the book can be found on its official microsite. 
    In this interview, Mr. Devadas and I talk about what policies worked to control COVID, how the region will develop, and how business and social operations might change as a result of the pandemic. We also talk about how recent events since the book’s publication affect its conclusions.
    Devadas Krishnadas is CEO of the Future-Moves Group, with more than 20 years of experience in the public and private sectors. He previously held senior positions in the Singapore government, such as in the Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, and Ministry of Home Affairs. “Confronting COVID-19” is his fifth book.
    You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of Confronting COVID-19. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
    Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He is also a print and broadcast commentator on local and regional politics. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
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    • 41 min

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