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Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World Hardcover – May 1, 2012

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The Amazon Book Review
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Fareed Zakaria and Ian Bremmer: Author One-to-One
In this Amazon exclusive, we brought together authors Fareed Zakaria and Ian Bremmer and asked them to interview each other.

Fareed Zakaria is the editor of Newsweek International and writes a weekly column on international affairs. He also hosts "Fareed Zakaria GPS" for CNN. He is the author of the New York Times best-sellers The Future of Freedom and The Post-American World: Release 2.0. Zakaria lives in New York City. Read on to see Fareed Zakaria's questions for Ian Bremmer, or turn the tables to see what Bremmer asked Zakaria.

Fareed Zakaria: What is a G-Zero world, and how did we get here?

Ian Bremmer: The G-Zero is a world without effective, consistent leadership. It’s not the G7 world where Western industrialized powers set the agenda. It’s not a G20 world where developed and developing states find some way to work together on tough transnational problems. It’s a world where no can be counted either to pay the piper or call the tune.

I love the story in your book The Post American World, about Colin Powell making peace between Spain and Morocco over a disputed island in time to go swimming with his grandkids. I included a story in Every Nation for Itself about how Lyndon Johnson diverted about 20 percent of America’s wheat crop in 1965 to help India feed its people during a drought. The leadership capacity that these two stories illustrate isn’t what it used to be, and Europe has too many serious problems of its own to try to take up the slack. At the same time, we can’t expect emerging powers like China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Russia, or the wealthy Gulf monarchies to fill this vacuum because their governments have neither the bandwidth nor the desire to accept the risks and burdens that come with much greater international leadership.

Fareed Zakaria

But Every Nation for Itself is not about the shifting balance of international power. In fact, we can’t know what the longer-term future holds for America, Europe, China or any of these other countries. There are good reasons to bet on U.S. resilience, but that will depend on the quality of American leadership in years to come. The rest will continue to rise, but some of them will have more staying power than others.

We can forecast with great confidence, however, that the world has entered a period of transition, one in which global leadership will be in short supply. Every Nation for Itself is about that historic shift and the tremendous challenges and opportunities it will create--for the global economy, for relations between the world’s most powerful governments, and for the world’s ability to cope with a variety of what we might call “problems without borders.”

Zakaria: What do you mean by problems without borders?

Bremmer: First, there’s the traditional threat to regional peace and stability. U.S. and European elected officials know that voters tend to support costly, extended military commitments only when they believe that vital national interests are at stake. That’s why, from Yugoslavia to Rwanda and from Sudan to Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia, they’ve remained on the sidelines as much as possible. Given the need for austerity on both sides of the Atlantic, we’re likely to see both a larger number of local conflicts around the world and an even deeper Western reluctance to engage.

But conventional conflict is not the only potential source of trouble. Given the market volatility of the past four years, governments of both established and leading emerging powers are more worried than ever about creating jobs and boosting growth, and the most important instruments of power and influence in coming years will be economic tools like market access, investment rules, and currency policies.

This will also be a world in which great power competition takes place in cyberspace as state-backed industrial espionage becomes an ever more widely used weapon in the battle for natural resources and market share. It’s a world in which some authoritarian emerging players will find new ways to reestablish state control over the flow of ideas, information, people, money, goods and services. Add climate change, the risk of food price shocks, threats to public health and other problems that flow easily across borders and the world will be without international leadership just at the moment when it needs it most.

Ian Bremmer

Zakaria: Who are the biggest winners in this G-Zero world?

Bremmer: The first key to success in this period of transition is a recognition that changes to the global system will enable an unprecedented number of governments to play by their own rules. Those who still operate as if borders are opening, barriers are falling, and the world is becoming a single market will find themselves reacting to events they don’t understand. In a G-Zero world, the winners will be those players that can develop and maintain choices. The most important option a government can have is a choice among potential commercial and security partners.

Among the most fortunate are the “pivot states,” those that are able to build profitable relationships with multiple partners without becoming overly reliant on any one of them. Then there are “rogues with powerful friends,” states that openly flout international rules with cover from other governments. In a world where newly cost-conscious established powers will have to resort more often to political and economic (rather than military) pressure to get their way, these ties will be more important than ever.

Companies will have new opportunities too. Among multinationals, watch out for what I call the “adapters,” those that understand the changing competitive landscape and are agile enough to exploit the advantages it provides. Some companies can respond to a world with fewer enforceable rules by exploiting arbitrage opportunities to minimize tax and regulatory burdens. Others can transform a state-backed rival into a commercial partner by offering something that a government-controlled enterprise can’t get anywhere else, like access to battle-tested advanced technology or services that demand unique expertise.

Finally, because the G-Zero is a period of transition, significant changes in the international balance of power stoke both competition among would-be regional powers and anxiety among those who fear they aren’t yet ready to compete. That’s why a group of companies we might call “protectors” will also figure among the likeliest winners. Firms involved in defense against conventional military strikes, cyber-attack, terrorism or commercial piracy will prosper in a G-Zero world, particularly if they’re able to align themselves with deep-pocketed emerging market governments.

Zakaria: Say more about this idea of pivot states?

Bremmer: Over the past 30 years, the big winners were states that adapted to and profited from the processes of Western-led globalization. But in a world that is more likely to have several regional centers of gravity, one in which no single country can afford to play the global leader, governments will have to create more of their own opportunities. The ability to pivot will be a critical advantage.

For example, Brazil has built strong political ties and promising commercial relations with the United States, China and a growing number of other emerging market countries. As a result, its economy continues to enjoy access to American consumers, but its ties with China, now Brazil’s largest trade partner, ensure that it isn’t overly dependent on U.S. purchasing power for growth. A serious downturn in the U.S. will still take a heavy toll on Mexico. That’s much less true for Brazil.

The book profiles several pivot states, from Turkey and Vietnam to Canada and Kazakhstan.

Zakaria: What does the G-Zero mean for the United States?

Bremmer: It means that America will have to learn to do something it doesn’t do very well these days: Invest in the future. In a country where political leaders focus so much of their energies on winning the next news cycle, and business leaders try to maximize quarterly profits at the expense of long-term reinvestment, Americans need to look beyond the horizon described in this book.

Anyone who believes that American decline is inevitable has chosen to ignore the entire history of the United States and its people. For the moment, America can’t lead in quite the same way it did during the second half of the 20th century, because the world and its balance of power have changed profoundly. But the G-Zero will provoke a tremendous amount of trouble for a wide variety of people. It can’t last, because tomorrow’s most important powers, whoever those powers happen to be, can’t afford for it to continue. That’s why, if Americans can rebuild for the future, the country’s underlying strengths--its hard power capacities and its democratic, entrepreneurial values will ensure that U.S. leadership can again prove indispensable for international security and prosperity. I argue in the book’s final chapter that leadership of a post-G-Zero world should be the goal that guides American foreign and domestic policies in years to come.

Zakaria: Why do you believe, as you say in the book, that “China is the major power least likely to develop along a predictable path?”

Bremmer: China’s leaders have acknowledged that the country’s growth model is “unstable, unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable,” and they know that their ability to guide China through the next stage of its development is far from certain. India, Brazil, and Turkey can continue to grow for the next ten years with the same basic formula that triggered growth over the past ten. The United States, Europe, and Japan will reinvest in economic systems that have a long history of success. But China has to undertake enormously complex and ambitious reforms to continue its drive to become a modern, middle-class power.

At the same time, the international environment is becoming less friendly to China’s expansion. Higher prices for the oil, gas, metals and minerals that China needs to power its economy will weigh on growth. The rise of many other emerging powers will add to the upward pressure on food and other commodity prices, undermining public confidence in government, the most important source of China’s social stability. As state-backed Chinese companies draw their government into the political and economic lives of so many other countries, particularly in the developing world, they risk the same backlash from local companies and workers that plagues so many other foreign firms doing business far from home. And because the Chinese government has such a direct stake in the success of these companies, Beijing will be drawn into conflicts it has never coped with before.

Zakaria: I’m interested to see that your book is quite bullish on Africa’s political and economic future? Why is the G-Zero world good for Africa?

Bremmer: Africa has become the world’s most underrated growth story, in part because it has become a kind of “pivot continent.” For many years, cash-strapped African states had to turn almost exclusively to the IMF, World Bank and Western governments for the aid and investment they needed to bankroll development, and the money often came with strings attached--like demands for democratic reforms and greater openness to Western investment. Over the past decade, however, just as we’ve seen in Brazil and other parts of the emerging market world, China has sharply increased its investment in the region. But this is not a story about U.S.-Chinese competition. The winner here is Africa, which can now expect multinational and state-owned companies from the established and emerging market worlds--from America, Europe, Japan, China, India and elsewhere--to compete for access to African consumers and favorable investment terms. The world’s largest emerging markets get this. That’s one big reason why the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) invited South Africa to join their club in December 2010.

Photo of Ian Bremmer © Marc Bryan Brown


“Ian Bremmer combines shrewd analysis with colorful storytelling to reveal the risks and opportunities in a world without leadership. This is a fascinating and important book.” — FAREED ZAKARIA, author of The Post-American World

“An insightful look at the relative decline of postwar international institutions, the must-evolve nature of American leadership, and the growing need for long-term, multifaceted cooperation between the United States and China. Required reading for anyone interested in the current state and near-term future of global affairs.”

MUHTAR KENT, CEO, The Coca-Cola Company

“We have entered a new era where challenges are increasingly stretching across geographical borders. Every Nation for Itself is a must-read for any global executive who aspires to accurately assess the risks and exploit the opportunities created by this new environment.”


Every Nation for Itself is a provocative and important book about what comes next. Ian Bremmer has again turned conventional wisdom on its head.”

NOURIEL ROUBINI, chairman, Roubini Global Economics

“Bremmer’s astute assessment of how the shifting geopolitical landscape will impact political and economic alliances provides essential insights for anyone conducting business at the global level.”

DOMINIC BARTON, global managing director, McKinsey & Company

“Bremmer has written an essential navigational guide for all national and corporate leaders in the new leaderless world.”


“Global political economy has no sharper or more prescient analyst than Ian Bremmer. Everyone who cares about our collective future will need to carefully consider this book’s impressive arguments.”

LAWRENCE SUMMERS, former U.S. Treasury Secretary

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781591844686
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591844686
  • ASIN: 1591844681
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #587,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Shlok Vaidya VINE VOICE on May 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Ian Bremmer's Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World is an eminently readable, current, mainstream take on the geopolitical environment. It's a step above Friedman and Zakaria, because he's writing for an informed audience.

Every Nation is a 20,000 ft view of what happens to world as the massive debt bubble pops. Chapter One is a fantastic discussion of why nothing is going to get done re: climate change, oil, terror. Simply: when 'they' launched globalization, they forgot about control systems. It's a chapter that should be taught in all schools.

The rest reads like someone narrating a game of pool just after the break: China's going one direction, the 8-ball another, and in the corner, Turkey's slamming into Greece. The ricochets of globalization. And as far as what that means to nation-states and Fortune 500 companies, this is a good read. These are, after all, Bremmer's bread and butter clients.

But he doesn't do the drivers, the forces justice. Things like peak oil and systems disruption and deviant globalization. Even when he tries to include cybersecurity, it reads like one of his marketing aides told him to add a buzzword. It's un-nuanced at best (he only covers it as a tool of states and kingmakers). So it's not for anyone concerned with unpredictable events or disruptive innovation.

All in all, the book is a good way to stay on top of what's probably best of breed mainstream thinking - which, appropriately, is all it claims to be.
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I'm no expert in global politics, but I've always had an enthusiasm for the subject. To anyone with a genuine curiosity for international relations- and for how politics and economics intersect globally- Every Nation For Itself is a very good read: I ended up reading it in one night and one afternoon. It touches on such a broad range of subjects. Bremmer summarizes how the world order of today spawned from WWII. He outlines all of the biggest global challenges and supplies some unconventional insights--discussion of how the Arctic is primed to become a battleground for resources in the coming decades was an interesting angle I hadn't encountered before. He must mention over 100 countries, naming dozens of winners and losers in the "G-Zero" world that he very convincingly portrays as our reality today. If you have more than a passing interest in world affairs, international relations, or geopolitics--or general current events globally-- definitely worth the time and money. A quick read too.
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After reading Ian Bremmer's last book, `The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?' (May 2010), I knew he had a knack for taking complex global phenomena and making them relevant, fascinating, and much easier to understand. Every Nation for Itself was that and more. Bremmer takes on the challenge of defining the current world order by boiling down a whole spectrum of currents events--everything from Europe's sovereign debt crisis, squabbles between developed and developing countries on climate change, the Arab Spring, conflict in the Asia Pacific, America's overgrown debt and unemployment figures, oil price shocks... the list goes on. In the G-Zero in which we live today- a world where America and its allies will no longer lead, but other countries like China are unwilling to pick up the slack-- things are far more uncertain. The economic outlook is more bleak. But what I loved is that this environment is still packed with opportunities, many of which are counter-intuitive, and Bremmer goes through with specific examples of companies and countries that are primed for success (or failure!). Chapter 4 read like a cheat sheet for success in more volatile, leaderless times. Bremmer makes these insightful predictions on who will win, who will lose, and then on what comes next. The whole book was very digestible and a quick read--and it felt like a crash course in global affairs, leaving me with a better understanding and more informed opinion on current events, foreign policy, and the world's shifting balance of power. I highly recommend Every Nation for Itself: my best non-fiction read in quite some time.
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So this is my first Ian Bremmer book and I have to say I was not overly impressed. Based on the title "winners and losers" and the author's interview with Fareed Zakaria (posted on Amazon) I was expecting to get a lot more detail on which nations are going to be winners (or losers) and why.

The Pros: Aside from some interesting jargon that he creates (G-zero, "shadow state", "pivot state") he really does a good job with outlining various global political scenarios and mapping them into a 4 quadrant grid (page 157 I think). This to me was strength of the book and perhaps its essence.

Cons: Quite a few. First - the analysis of each winner or loser country is unbelievably sketchy. He deals with entire countries in a matter of pages without going into any real depth or providing analysis/facts of the country. Also missing was a solid reasoning behind his forecast for winner/loser other than "pivot state".

In the end - the author is a political scientist and seems to evaluate a country's ability to succeed through that one lens.
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