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Governing the World: The History of an Idea Hardcover – September 13, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


One of Financial Times' Best Books of 2012

"A significant contribution to historical scholarship, with the chapters on the 19th century's remarkable swirl of politics, ideas and organisations being particularly original and valuable... Simply for giving us this lucid account, Mazower deserves our gratitude. But Governing the World is also an intriguing read because of the strong argument he places within it... This new work certainly gave this reviewer an awful lot to think about--to an author, there may be no greater praise than that."
--Paul Kennedy, Financial Times

"Mazower has strengthened his claim to be the preeminent historian of a generation. Combining breathtaking originality with meticulous and gloriously eclectic research, he offers the most convincing explanation yet articulated for the exaggerated, even hysterical, expectations of the 1990s and the subsequent collapse of optimism after the Millennium now translated into a fear that grips large parts of the Western world. On rare occasions, a work of history emerges that not only fundamentally refashions our understanding of the past, it enables us to reassess the present and, with luck, influence our future. I advise everyone who is concerned about our precarious situation to learn from and absorb Mazower's remarkable achievement."
--Misha Glenny

"Governing Europe, and then the whole world... This idea has found its perfect chronicler in Mark Mazower, whose perceptions are cosmopolitan, humane, learned, and properly skeptical. What is more, his history is written in clear, elegant prose. Essential reading not just for historians, but anyone interested in the troubled world we live in."
--Ian Buruma

"A prodigious work: a master historian's reconstruction of how individuals and nations since 1815 have sought to promote national interests in ever more complicated international settings. A dramatic, novel account of ideas and institutions in collision with hard realities. Indispensable also for its full and subtle account of American policies since 1917, always with a fine touch for the hitherto neglected person or little noticed moment that illuminates historic processes. Profound, relevant, and morally instructive--and a pleasure to read."
--Fritz Stern

"This is a book that needed to be written ... [Governing the World] is truly illuminating ... The story is a fascinating one, and Mazower tells it with authority and verve."
--Adam Zamoyski, Literary Review

"The idea of global government has entranced the world for centuries. Mark Mazower's brilliant book shows how much effort has gone into this idea—and how futile it has mostly been in an era of individualism and growing divisiveness."
--Alan Brinkley

"After tracing the early strands of internationalism, Mazower moves into the modern's era complex convergence of political and economic factors in forging what Mikhail Gorbachev called a 'new world order.' The peacetime League of Nations, despite its failures, would 'marry the democratic idea of a society of nations with the reality of Great Power hegemony.' Finally, Mazower brings us to the present, as a European union has been achieved, but has been driven by a 'bureaucratic elite' with little sense of 'principles of social solidarity and human dignity,' except perhaps by noted philanthropists. A well-articulated, meticulously supported study."

About the Author

Mark Mazower is the Ira D. Wallach Professor of History at Columbia University. He is the author of Hitler’s Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44, Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century, The Balkans: A Short History (which won the Wolfson Prize for History), Salonica: City of Ghosts (which won both the Duff Cooper Prize and the Runciman Award), and Hitler’s Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe. He has also taught at Birkbeck College, University of London, Sussex University and Princeton. He lives in New York.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; 40648th edition (September 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594203490
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594203497
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #732,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
'Somewhere between world government and no government', writes Mark Mazower, 'lies a vision of organized cooperation among nations'. He goes on to credit such a vision with the inspiration of the United Nations, the EU, and other multilateral organizations. They all have in common, he asserts, the vision of a better future for mankind, one that promises our collective emancipation.

The declared aim of his book is to explore the historical evolution of such institutions, to show how some of them have shaped realities, and to ask what is left of them today. Thus he embarks on a journey that begins with the Concert of Europe, set up following the 1815 defeat of Napoleon; continues to the League of Nations, established after the First World War; The United Nations, whose genesis began even whilst the Second World War was still being fought; the European Union, begun modestly in 1956 but even then with the definite aim of making war between its founder members unthinkable; and concludes with a discussion of some of the financial, global warming and other problems with which we wrestle today, that seem not to be susceptible to effective solution by the international institutions as they are at present constituted.

Mark Mazower is a historian, but his book also has a lot of content relevant to readers whose primary interest is in politics, even economics. In fact, some prior knowledge in all those areas is almost a pre-requisite to reading the book. A huge range of historical figures and events is referred to, usually with half a line of biographical or other information about the more obscure attached, but, if the great majority are entirely new to you, you are likely to find the book hard going.
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Format: Hardcover
Another interesting book from this consistently interesting historian. Mazower surveys the history of international governance from the early 19th century to the present. Several themes emerge from Mazower's narrative analysis. The impetus for and major changes in international governance follow major international crises. The first real attempt at international governance, the Concert of Europe, followed the chaos of the Napoleonic wars. The League of Nations and the United Nations followed WWI and WWII, respectively. More recently, the shift away from the UN to the World Bank and IMF followed the economic crises of the 1970s. Another major theme is that these efforts at international governance really substantiate Great Power efforts to control international conflict and the types of processes that lead to such conflicts. The post-Napoleonic Concert of Europe is an obvious example, but Mazower argues well that the League of Nations was in large part an effort to support European colonial empires. The UN was in good part an obvious extension of the wartime American-British-Soviet alliance. While these institutions may be founded and run for Great Power purposes, Mazower has interesting discussions of how these instituational efforts are paralleled by more idealistic reformist efforts and how these instutions often became the home of technical service institutions that are truly international and have considerable beneficial impact. WHO, FAO, and their League of Nations predecessors are good examples. Another theme, particularly for the post-WWII era, is the sometimes unanticipated consequences of the political aspects of these organizations.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Only half way through this fascinating insight into human history but I have this burning desire to articulate the story so far and urge you to seek out Mark Mazower's 'Governing the World. The History of an Idea.'

His narrative technique is to use the truth. What the reader may or may not perceive as 'development' can be discerned from events whether they are literary or physical. What is striking as I read through various signed agreements and declarations is just how dishonest the human race is. How present day concerns about dislocation and isolation are in fact nothing new. It is as though the individual human being has always been irrelevant.

The creation of the League of Nations plays a prominent role in his discourse. The existence of various peace movements and pacifism are much more important than mere wishy-washy resistance: often used to provide 'authority' to veiled imperialism/protectionism. Another new area for me was the invention of 'public opinion,' again absorbed and used by the very forces it sought to renounce.

Famous men also litter the fields of world governance. Richard Cobden is described as 'an English free-trade hero' but is clearly a leading player in Western ideologies. USA President Woodrow Wilson persists through the early twentieth century. Charles Darwin haunts them all.

In amongst all the factions and ideas the author skilfully puts us in a particular scene. For example when an American reporter manages to witness a meeting in Moscow, that same reporter describes the attire of Trotsky and how Lenin was so multilingual sat behind the red covered desk at the end of the room.

If I have one slight criticism it is the author's prose style often lacks the discipline of a seasoned writer.
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