Harold James examines the vulnerability and fragility of processes of globalization, both historically and in the present. This book applies lessons from past breakdowns of globalization—above all in the Great Depression—to show how financial crises provoke backlashes against global integration: against the mobility of capital or goods, but also against flows of migration. By a parallel examination of the financial panics of 1929 and 1931 as well as that of 2008, he shows how banking and monetary collapses suddenly and radically alter the rules of engagement for every other type of economic activity.
Increased calls for state action in countercyclical fiscal policy bring demands for trade protection. In the open economy of the twenty-first century, such calls are only viable in very large states—probably only in the United States and China. By contrast, in smaller countries demand trickles out of the national container, creating jobs in other countries. The international community is thus paralyzed, and international institutions are challenged by conflicts of interest. The book shows the looming psychological and material consequences of an interconnected world for people and the institutions they create.
No one is better qualified than Harold James to explore the similarities and differences between recent events and the early 1930s. A model of lucid exposition, The Creation and Destruction of Value confirms that if you want to understand our current predicament, history is a much better guide than economics.
A masterly account. James commands his subject like no other. The lessons of 1931 for today's world are compelling. Like Humpty Dumpty, globalization is broken, and it will take time to put it together again.
The reflections of Harold James, an economic historian at Princeton University and a long-time student of what makes globalization happen, would be of interest even in times more tranquil than these. But at a moment when the march of global integration has been stalled by a financial crisis unparalleled since the 1930s, Mr. James is a particularly fitting guide...At a time when economists are accused of having forgotten history, yet few historians can explain the world of bank bail-outs and the turmoil they cause, Mr. James has a rare gift for being able to marshal an impressive knowledge of economic and financial history in order to highlight previously unrecognized connections with the past.
Unsurprisingly there have been a host of books about the banking crisis and its consequences. But they have mostly had a "whodunnit?" tone to them, seeking to explain what happened and apportion the blame, rather than giving us some feeling for how the world economy might dig itself out of the crisis and how effectively it might develop in the years to come. So Harold James' new book deserves a special welcome for giving us a framework to try to do this, for he is an historian rather than an economist...Anyone expecting his new book to explain why this current crisis will end the burst of globalization will be disappointed. His argument is more subtle and more interesting...Where he adds most value is in his effort to put the crisis into its international political context, asking some tough questions on the way.
From the current vantage point--rising stock prices amid a weak economic recovery and double-digit unemployment--it is too soon to know whether the current crisis will be remembered as a financial shock that failed to throw off the trajectory of globalization, or if it marks the start of a more fundamental re-ordering. James modestly and appropriately avoids trying to answer that question. But he asks all the right ones, offering a brilliant tour through the Great Depression and the current crisis.
The recent U.S. financial meltdown that spread throughout the world stimulated a plethora of analyses of the causes and consequences of this catastrophe. However, few studies are as insightful as this short but important work.
- 336 pages
- 4-3/8 x 7-1/8 inches
- Harvard University Press
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