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World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability Hardcover – December 24, 2002

3.8 out of 5 stars 135 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A professor at Yale Law School, Chua eloquently fuses expert analysis with personal recollections to assert that globalization has created a volatile concoction of free markets and democracy that has incited economic devastation, ethnic hatred and genocidal violence throughout the developing world. Chua illustrates the disastrous consequences arising when an accumulation of wealth by "market dominant minorities" combines with an increase of political power by a disenfranchised majority. Chua refutes the "powerful assumption that markets and democracy go hand in hand" by citing specific examples of the turbulent conditions within countries such as Indonesia, Russia, Sierra Leone, Bolivia and in the Middle East. In Indonesia, Chua contends, market liberalization policies favoring wealthy Chinese elites instigated a vicious wave of anti-Chinese violence from the suppressed indigenous majority. Chua describes how "terrified Chinese shop owners huddled behind locked doors while screaming Muslim mobs smashed windows, looted shops and gang-raped over 150 women, almost all of them ethnic Chinese." Chua blames the West for promoting a version of capitalism and democracy that Westerners have never adopted themselves. Western capitalism wisely implemented redistributive mechanisms to offset potential ethnic hostilities, a practice that has not accompanied the political and economic transitions in the developing world. As a result, Chua explains, we will continue to witness violence and bloodshed within the developing nations struggling to adopt the free markets and democratic policies exported by the West. (On sale Dec. 24)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Globalization is not good for developing countries, insists Yale law professor Chua. It aggravates ethnic tensions by creating a small but abundantly wealthy new class and it's stimulating a new wave of anti-Americanism.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1St Edition edition (December 24, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385503024
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385503020
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #642,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is amazingly clear and well-written (in fact its main weakness is that it is TOO clear, to the point of being mildly repetitive), which is why is amazes me that so many of the reviews here seem to either miss the point or misunderstand it altogether.
Chua DOES NOT blame free markets and democracy for all the evils of the world.
She DOES NOT attempt to propose some 'magic bullet' solution - she is simply providing analysis in attempt to further the discussion.
She DOES NOT claim that wealth redistribution programs are the ONLY reason for the relative success of the Western democracies - ethnic homogeneity is also a major factor, as are situational idiosyncrasies.
If you attempt to view this book as a narrow-minded attempt to shove the complex tangled peg of the world into a smooth round hole, you will have misunderstood it. Obviously, any book with an explanatory scope of this magnitude needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Her principle thesis is extremely powerful, but it does not explain everything since the big bang! In all the low-star reviews I have read, the criticisms have been completely misguided - do not base your opinion of this book on those reviews.
What Chua is trying to show is that - for better or worse - the policies we push onto the developing world far too often result in unintended consequences. We are pushing an extreme ideology onto the world - an ideology we don't practice ourselves and in fact NEVER HAVE IN OUR HISTORY.
Capitalism is about increasing returns - wealth begets more wealth. A small group of wealthy can raise the level for all people, which is generally hunkey-dorey.
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Format: Hardcover
Amy Chua has written an important book on how the accumulation of wealth by what she calls "market-dominant minorities" threatens globalization. By looking at a series of case studies, some of which she has personal experience with, Chua shows that the tendency of some minorities to benefit disproportionately, when their countries' markets open up to the world, inflames ethnic hatred among the ethnicities who make up the bulk of those countries' populations.

Ethnicity is used as a sociological concept in this book, not a genetic or national concept. Thus, the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, Lebanese in West Africa, Jews in Russia, whites in Latin America and Africa, and various African tribes in Africa are all considered as case studies of market-dominant minorities, despite their various differences.

Some ethnicities are thoroughly assimilated by their host countries; some are not. Some are citizens of their host country; some are not. Some rely on key cultural differences to take advantage of globalization while others simply had an advantageous history that allowed them to fill key niches in expanding markets.
But however you define ethnicity, and whatever allows these fortunate minorities to take advantage of spreading markets, the key point is that certain minorities, separate from and identifiable to the bulk of the population, have a hugely disproportionate influence in these expanding national economies. And the bulk of the population sees what is going on and is not happy about it.

Chua is comprehensive (perhaps too comprehensive -- more on that later) but doesn't get bogged down in details; as a result, this is an easy book to read.
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Format: Hardcover
Francis Fukuyama famously announced at the end of the Cold War that humanity had reached "the end of history." Unfortunately, he forgot to tell history not to bother coming to work anymore.
Easy as it is to make fun of Fukuyama, where exactly did he go wrong?
Fukuyama's conception was formed by his expensive miseducation in the works of Hegel and other 19th Century German philosophers. History consists of the struggle to determine the proper ideology. Now there are no plausible alternatives to capitalist democracy. History, therefore, must be finished.
Lenin held a more realistic theory of what history is about: not ideology, but "Who? Whom?" (You can insert your own transitive verb between the two words.) History continues because the struggle to determine who will be the who rather than the whom will never end.
Amy Chua's readable and eye-opening new book "World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability" documents just how pervasive ethnic inequality is around the world-and how much that drives the traumas we read about every day.
Chua builds upon Thomas Sowell's concept of the "middle-man minority"-the often-persecuted immigrant ethnic group with a talent for retailing and banking, such as Jews, Armenians, Chinese, Gujarati Indians, Lebanese Christians, etc. She broadens that idea to include other relatively well-off groups, such as un-entrepreneurial hereditary landowners, like the Tutsis of Rwanda and the Iberian-descended whites of much of Latin America. She lumps them all together under the useful term "market-dominant minorities."
Chua begs off explaining why economic inequality exists between hereditary groups. So let me offer a general explanation.
Creating wealth is difficult.
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