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The Creation and Destruction of Value: The Globalization Cycle Hardcover – October 30, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Among the casualties of the recession will be the once unstoppable juggernaut of globalization itself, argues this scattershot treatise. Historian James (The End of Globalization) compares the current economic crisis to the Great Depression to suggest a cyclical dynamic in which advances in global integration are superseded by retrenchments toward economic nationalism and autarky. What links these cataclysms, he contends, is the crumbling of values in many senses. As banks' balance sheets grow murky, unemployment soars, currencies fluctuate and economies seesaw between inflation and deflation, the cultural values that depend on confidence in the global economy—trust, openness, tolerance—also waver. The result—in the 1930s and now, he fears—is a swing toward tariffs and trade wars, anti-immigrant backlashes and perhaps authoritarian government. James buttresses his thesis with statistics and graphs and detailed, blow-by-blow chronicles of stock market panics and bank runs past and present, but none of this ever gels into a systematic account of the various crises he investigates or a rigorous model of cyclicality in economic globalization. Instead, he's written an elegy for an expansive form of liberal capitalism that's now been done in by its financial excesses. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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. (Niall Ferguson, Harvard University, author of The Ascent of Money)

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. (David Marsh, author of The Euro: The Politics of the New Global Currency)

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. (The Economist 2009-09-05)

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. (Hamish McRae The Independent 2009-11-06)

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. (Edward Alden 2009-12-02)

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. (D. C. Messerschmidt Choice 2010-04-01)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1 edition (September 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674035844
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674035843
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 4.5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #649,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Sutter on January 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In 1979, a friend invited me to join her as a guest at a party on Central Park East at the home of a fund manager, a friend of her publisher boss. Back then, fund managers living on CPE didn't get there by having an MBA, but by being the Right Sort of Person who didn't need to run a fund for a living. Certainly we were the the only guests who weren't on a first-name basis with at least one former or current British prime minister. I hadn't thought about that party in years, but this book's clubby tone revived the memory quite vividly.

The author (HJ) is a scholar of modern German banking history. He makes good use of this background to describe how the global Great Depression was triggered by a series of European bank failures in 1931, rather than by the US stock market crash of 1929. I found this aspect of the book to be genuinely enlightening.

I wish I could say the same for the book as a whole. It's written from the sort of "great man" perspective in which history used to be written before the 1970s, in which no one below a ministerial or Cabinet level is worthy of being identified by name (billionaires excepted). Inevitably for a book of this type, even the Habsburgs make an appearance (@209). Though whereas in the older version of this genre an artist might merit a mention if he's as top-drawer as Michelangelo, HJ devotes a few pages to Damien Hirst (@247-249) (the second time as farce, as someone said).

It's clear that HJ thinks globalization is a Good Thing (see Sellar & Yeatman 1930), and takes it for granted that his audience does, too. Nonetheless, he is sympathetic that people get discouraged about it, and tries to reassure us that it, and we, will bounce back.
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Format: Hardcover
The author is a historian.He presents a very good analysis of the impact that highly speculative international capital flows can have on the world economy.Such highly speculative behavior can only occur if the world's private banking industry decides to deliberately ignore and evade their own standard creditworthiness criteria used to evaluate to which borrowers they will extend loans/lines of credit .The watering down of these standards is the direct result of the world's banking industries accepting a nonsense " theory ",called the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH).This theory was created by Milton Friedman , Eugene Fama,Robert Lucas,Jr.,F Kydland,Edward Prescott,and many other neoclassical economists, who were desperately trying to find a way to avoid coming to grips with a very fundamental point made by J M Keynes ,F Knight,D Ellsberg,B. Mandelbrot and N.N. Taleb.This point can be illustrated by using either the uncertainty versus risk differentiation of Keynes,Knight,and Ellsberg,which was that decision making under uncertainty/ignorance/ambiguity is of a fundamentally different and much more dangerous character than decision making under risk ,or the equally powerful " wild risk " versus " mild risk " distinction of Mandelbrot and Taleb.The EMH states that the " wild " risk of the Cauchy distribution is a mathematical and statistical impossibility that can be simply ignored.This pseudo theory is still being actively taught as the only scientific approach in every university and college course in finance,financial economics,monetary theory and macroeconomics in the world.Read more ›
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By D. B. Collum on January 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book came highly recommended from a fellow at the CFR. (He thought I'd love it if I liked de Soto's ideas.) James has focused his academic career at Princeton on the existence of a globalization cycle. It would seem (or seem logical at least) that globalization, like sexual revolutions, become quite popular until some virulent strain of malady sends everybody scampering off to safety. (This is my simile, not James'.) It is presented as the constant struggle between public mood and Adam Smith economics. James suggests that the current crisis is a secular change (downturn) of the great globalization. He is the Thomas Friedman antidote (a much needed commodity.) James opens with a discussion of early globalizations, including their role in The Great Depression (or vice versa.) It is a more international view. He then leads up to the present crisis--Haiti on Wall Street if you will--that is reasonably generic--nothing that I would argue with, just generic. The second half of the book picks up speed with thoughtful discussions of the international implications (shedding some light to me on why Ben might have shipped palettes of money off to Europe) and where we might be headed. There were some things that I found missing. He mentions that the transitions tend to be violent, but absolutely ignores that in his description of the current transition. (Maybe predicting wars is simply a fool's game.) Everything is presented as rational and seemingly calm political economic tensions in a George Friedman (of Stratfor; no antidote needed) sort of way. Curiously, he presents ideas that I am quite sure I disagree with, but manages provoke thought rather than irritate.Read more ›
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