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The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State Hardcover – May 15, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 136 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Joe Scarborough, “Morning Joe”:
“This is an important book. This book changes everything.”

Tyler Cowan, Marginal Revolution:
“It is probably the best current manifesto on the proper roles for market and state….  This book is also the single best statement of the thesis that these days government simply is not working very well, and that such an insight is recognized by many voters better than by many intellectuals. Definitely recommended.”

The Daily Mail (UK):
“Splendid.”

The Telegraph:
“Superb…. Micklethwait and Wooldridge’s must-read manifesto is a plea for more reform, inspired this time by successful reforms in other countries and the harnessing of the digital revolution.”

Seattle Times:
“[The authors] offer thoughtful proposals…. a useful look at America from the outside in.”

Times of London:
"The basic argument of this well-written, intelligent book is twofold. First reform [of the state] is essential. Second, reform is possible because it is happening all over the world and because new technology is available. By the end of reading The Fourth Revolution it is hard to deny either of these points."

Kirkus Reviews:
“A different, provocative view of the challenge emerging in Asia.”

Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post American World:
"This is a book with an important message. It is also one that brims with intelligence, erudition, and—best of all—common sense. I found myself nodding in agreement on almost every page."

Walter Russell Mead:
"This brilliant and courageous book is also a gripping read. At a time when most politicians and pundits on the left and the right look back to past golden ages, the Economist’s John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge dare to ask what must be done to make democracy work again. Their answers point beyond the dull nostrums of conventional politics toward new ideas and reforms that could renew the democratic systems in both the US and Europe. This is a landmark study of a vital subject, told with great verve and dash, and it is a book that no one who cares about the future of politics can afford to miss."

About the Author

John Micklethwait is the editor in chief of Bloomberg News. After studying history at Magdalen College, Oxford, he worked as a banker at Chase Manhattan before joining The Economist as a finance correspondent in 1987. He served as The Economist’s editor in chief from 2006 to 2015 and was named an Editors’ Editor by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 2010.

Adrian Wooldridge is The Economist’s management editor and writes the Schumpeter column. He was previously based in Washington, D.C., as the Washington bureau chief, where he also wrote the Lexington column. Together they are the authors of five books: The Witch Doctors, A Future Perfect, The CompanyThe Right Nation, and God Is Back.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (May 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594205396
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594205392
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #438,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William L. Brown VINE VOICE on May 31, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book comes on the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Glenn Tinder's classic work, The Crisis of Political Imagination. Tinder's book dealt with mass disintegration and the isolation of the individual, along with the failure of the four main classifications of political thinking (liberalism, democracy, socialism and conservatism) to deal with the alienation of great numbers of people from political life specifically and society in general. Sadly, political imagination continues to be in crisis a half century after it was diagnosed by Tinder.

Micklethwait and Wooldridge are editors of the Economist (" a global weekly magazine written for those who share an uncommon interest in being well and broadly informed"). They describe what they call three and a half revolutions in the evolution of government and the state:

1. Thomas Hobbes and the Nation-State
2. John Stuart Mill and the Liberal State
3. Beatrice Webb and the Welfare State
4. Milton Friedman's Paradise Lost

Hobbes' contribution was to describe Leviathan, in which the first duty of the state is to be powerful enough to provide law and order. The power of the state frees man from misery and makes human civilization possible. Prior to the existence of the state, man was tossed between fear and greed into an existence that was, by its very nature, brief and brutish. By giving up some of his autonomy to the state, man could work and survive without having to defend himself at every turn from his fellow human beings.

Mill feared Leviathan nearly as much as (or even more than) he feared his fellow man.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
'The Fourth Revolution' is a tour de force.

Authors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, both of the Economist (London) have written a book that merits a place in the shelves of decision makers in government, the private sector, and the not-for-profit world. Its ideas will, hopefully, make their way to dinner table conversations across America.

A few points for your consideration as a prospective reader:

1. 'The Fourth Revolution' is a straight shot against those oft-heard voices who suggest that the current dysfunction of government is inevitable. Instead, it's suggested that there have been a series of changes since the origination of the modern nation-state. Thus far, each has added value, incorporating needed adaptation to deal with changing circumstances.

This is important, because it suggests that we have a greater responsibility than simply throwing up our hands and walking away from the governmental crisis in our midst.

2. Government dysfunction is endemic worldwide. There are also exemplars--at least partial exemplars--in other nations of replicable improvements. The book points to success stories from Australia to Sweden to Singapore.

3. The incapacity of Western governments to come to necessary decisions and take actions in a timely manner poses significant questions for our competitive position vis-a-vis Asian nations. In turn, it may well come to constitute a national security threat.

4. In the United States, the blessings of longstanding peace and prosperity--and having had no war on American soil since the Civil War--have enabled politics to avoid hard choices. There has been little evident cost to this sloppiness.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has been written by two senior editors at The Economist and unsurprisingly reads like an extended Economist article. Whilst this makes it well researched and enjoyable to read I found their argument was ultimately confused.

This book covers the three and half revolutions that they defined to have occurred in Western political thought. The first revolution is that of the centralised state that arose in the seventeenth century. The second took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as regal patronage systems were replaced by more meritocratic and accountable governments. The third was the rise of the welfare state that slowly took place over the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. They then define a half revolution in political thought taking place in the 1980s with the rise to prominence again of classical liberal thinking. This was only half a revolution in their mind since, whilst the political leaders espoused small government ideals, little was actually in actually shrinking the size of the state.

This is where the book excels. Its coverage of the history and development of Western political thought is superb.

Unfortunately on the back of this the authors make the case that Western states have become bloated and need to be dramatically reformed. Whilst I am sure many would agree with that I felt their subsequent arguments were confused. They expounded the virtues of the Singapore and Chinese states (whilst admitting some of their flaws) but true to their Economist background then went on to claim the only solution to the West’s political anxieties is a return to laissez faire. As the FT put it, in their review “an unkind description of this approach would be one of policy-based evidence making“.
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