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Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World's Economy Hardcover – September 7, 2021
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"Full of valuable insight and telling details, this may well be the best thing to read if you want to know what happened in 2020." --Paul Krugman, New York Review of Books
Deftly weaving finance, politics, business, and the global human experience into one tight narrative, a tour-de-force account of 2020, the year that changed everything--from the acclaimed author of Crashed.
The shocks of 2020 have been great and small, disrupting the world economy, international relations and the daily lives of virtually everyone on the planet. Never before has the entire world economy contracted by 20 percent in a matter of weeks nor in the historic record of modern capitalism has there been a moment in which 95 percent of the world's economies were suffering all at the same time. Across the world hundreds of millions have lost their jobs. And over it all looms the specter of pandemic, and death.
Adam Tooze, whose last book was universally lauded for guiding us coherently through the chaos of the 2008 crash, now brings his bravura analytical and narrative skills to a panoramic and synthetic overview of our current crisis. By focusing on finance and business, he sets the pandemic story in a frame that casts a sobering new light on how unprepared the world was to fight the crisis, and how deep the ruptures in our way of living and doing business are. The virus has attacked the economy with as much ferocity as it has our health, and there is no vaccine arriving to address that.
Tooze's special gift is to show how social organization, political interests, and economic policy interact with devastating human consequences, from your local hospital to the World Bank. He moves fluidly from the impact of currency fluctuations to the decimation of institutions--such as health-care systems, schools, and social services--in the name of efficiency. He starkly analyzes what happened when the pandemic collided with domestic politics (China's party conferences; the American elections), what the unintended consequences of the vaccine race might be, and the role climate change played in the pandemic. Finally, he proves how no unilateral declaration of 'independence" or isolation can extricate any modern country from the global web of travel, goods, services, and finance.
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"A seriously impressive book, both endlessly quotable and rigorously analytical. Tooze synthesises a huge volume of information to argue that we must prepare for a new wave of crises or risk being sunk by them. Hopefully, governments everywhere will heed his warning.”—The Guardian
"Offer insights and frameworks likely to be of enduring value… To read Shutdown feels like sitting alongside the great professor while he feverishly collates an array of data and anecdotes, attempts to chronicle what is going on, his head fizzing with ideas about what it might all mean and where it might be leading."—Financial Times
"This is truly a picture of the global impact of the crisis; it covers the disruption in the financial markets, as well as the ins and outs of government policy. . . An impressively full account of the economic developments of the past 18 months."—The Economist
"A primer on the mechanics of a global financial panic, the techniques that central bankers deployed to contain it, and the political events that ensued. Laced through these taut synopses is a meditation on a grand historical question: Did 2020 mark the end of the world economic order as we’d known it since 1980? And if so, what precisely is taking neoliberalism’s place?"—New York Magazine
"Tooze’s book offers readers a comprehensive and smartly written summary of the economic impact of the coronavirus…Tooze briskly and expertly recounts the tense weeks in March 2020 [and] routinely compares the coronavirus shutdown to the 2008-2009 financial crisis, [which] happens to make for apt comparisons, as few previous economic and health disasters can match the scale and global reach of this pandemic." —Washington Post
"[Tooze's] writing demystifies the world before us, dispelling the cloud created by the chaotic motivations and invidious narcissism of the market. Shutdown is one such cure, a book that answers so many questions about the state of the world that it will leave its readers feeling not just more learned but dizzy too. It is cliché at this point to remark that after COVID-19, everything changed; what Tooze illustrates masterfully in Shutdown is that the crisis the virus unleashed began much earlier, the world order’s fragility the product of a much longer process of mismanagement and selfishness."—Vulture's "40 Books We Can’t Wait to Read This Fall"
"Fascinating, informative, and wise...Tooze brings us to the brutal reality of Covid: it was not about money...Shutdown concludes with a plea for 'constant interplay of expertise and counter-expertise.' It is a wake-up call for us to bridge that chasm." —Paul Collier, Times Literary Supplement
"Adam Tooze makes a strong case for looking back, and beginning to draw some conclusions. . . . His focus is the period that started with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s public acknowledgement of the coronavirus outbreak on Jan. 20, 2020, and ended with U.S. President Joe Biden’s inauguration exactly a year later. The scale and variety of what unfolded in the intervening days remains dizzying. Tooze lucidly organises these events in the book’s 300 pages, while maintaining the sweeping perspective that will be familiar to readers of Crashed."—Reuters
"A comprehensive history of an unprecedented year, Tooze’s account describes how the pandemic played out politically across the globe, the interplay between climate change and the pandemic, and the myriad effects of the world economy nearly shutting down in a brief period that, as Tooze puts it, made “History with a capital ‘H.’” Readers will find this deeply informed parsing of the pandemic to be illuminating and thought-provoking."—Publishers Weekly
"Economic historian Tooze examines the unprecedented decision of governments around the world to shutter their economies in the face of pandemic . . . As the pandemic hopefully continues to fade, other crises remain. This book is a valuable forecast of future problems."—Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
- Publisher : Viking (September 7, 2021)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0593297555
- ISBN-13 : 978-0593297551
- Item Weight : 1.2 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.18 x 1.21 x 9.28 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #284,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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It was an unprecedented disaster caused by a novel pathogen whose lethality and modus operandi was completely unknown. Authorities scrambled and experimented globally, many times jumping the gun without sufficient science to back them up.
The book is worth reading because Prof. Tooze is fluent in the language of economics and is adept in following money flows. I found chapter 13 particularly informative where he describes the IMF involvement in the global negotiations for combating the economic malaise because of the pandemic. There are so many moving parts and so many actors in the process of handling the crisis and Tooze does a very good job bringing all the threads together. The introduction of the book offers a very good analysis of 21st century geopolitics which drove the handling of the crisis.
As the pandemic unfolded, he describes vividly the dire situation of lesser developed countries which lacked infrastructure to tackle the problem as their finances deteriorated rapidly. He provides enough evidence that leaders of the free world are penny-wise and dollar foolish. He estimates the cost of vaccinating lesser developed countries at $25bn. The benefit to global growth would be many times over this amount. He has a good insight into European politics where Germans once again failed to appreciate the magnitude of the crisis and were reluctant to provide sufficient financial assistance or a green light to Covid assistance programs until many months later.
One thing that stands out is the role of the Fed. The Central Bank has accumulated enormous power over the last 20 years. It seems that they drive solutions to problems. One wonders, why we need to listen to bickering politicians if the Fed provides the goods. The power of the Fed is such that the Left wing of the Democrats would like to see Jerome Powell defenestrated because he doesn’t do enough for the environment as if they expect the chairman to legislate as well. I suppose the role of the Fed is secure as long as the green buck stays loved by markets.
The ambient atmosphere of the book is one of bashing the orange man and the GOP. And here Tooze goes astray. I give to him that the White House press conference monologues about the use of untested medicine, house bleaches, etc. does not exude basic knowledge of the facts but there are many others to share the blame, particularly the CDC because of the inability to ramp up testing and contact tracing. Ultimately, the orange man passed 2 major stimulus plans and financed generously the rapid development of vaccines. I do not think that the image of the new president with sharply declining cognitive abilities provides comfort either. However, the Left ignores that if he delivers the goods. For example, at the G7 in Cornwall the US donated half a billion of Pfizer vaccines to 92 poorer countries (which Pfizer sold at cost). That built up bridges and improved international relations, after Trump’s insular, US centric view.
The bashing carries on with Steve Mnuchin and his refusal to grant more SDRs to the IMF until the author acknowledges there were still $200bn undrawn SDRs.
Tooze fails to apportion the blame to the culprit, China. It is not a coincidence that the two countries that fared the best, Taiwan and South Korea, acted early simply because they absolutely do not trust China. China should have advertised to the world about the risks in December of 2019 when they were locking down 17 million people and muzzling whistle blowers. The culmination of this process was the WHO, January 14 2020, announcement that there is no evidence for human to human transmission. If there is something that became apparent from this crisis is that the survival of the CCP alone drives policy in China. China is not to be trusted and governments need to err on the side of caution in the future when dealing with them. This is completely missing from the book.
I enjoyed Tooze's other books and he remains one of my favorite authors. It's always hardest to understand the present.
His previous books about the impacts of WWI and of the subprime meltdown are important reference points for how we've responded to crises in modern times - sometimes competently, sometimes not, sometimes with a degree of egalitarian fairness, sometimes not. Shutdown is a brilliant case study in globalization.
Top reviews from other countries
The author is aware that his readers will have followed events closely and doesn't re-report them, reminding us briskly and effectively of key moments and how they affected economic and financial decisions. Which is not to say that it is in anyway inhumane or coldly logical; on the contrary, his own humanity shines through and he takes care to outline the human consequences of both plague progress and policy decisions.
They say that an impartial account is one that accords with one's own prejudices, and if that is so then this is an impartial account for me. In particular, the change from monetarist post 08 policies that did nothing more than exacerbate inequality, to fiscal solutions that distribute money direct to individuals and the services they need, is recounted in detail. Even the Germans eventually succumbed, in one of Merkel's abrupt turnabouts which made for interesting reading. Also interesting is the way that the QE merry-go-round provided artificial liquidity to fund things like unconditional cash payments to unemployed US workers and furlough payments elsewhere.
This huge change in political philosophy, a reversal from the disaster of pure monetarism, must surely now be permanent and hence there is a lot in here that will help in looking to the future. Also, of course, there is the role of China. To be fair I don't think he says a lot that you won't already know (the importance of its economy versus the security and humanitarian threats posed by CCP behaviour) but even so his perspective is helpful.
So, if you're hesitating (and it is expensive for a Kindle book) I would highly recommend clicking on buy.
Shutdown is about the challenge of Covid19 to a world still shaking from the 2008 financial and mired by extraordinary political uncertainties - Trump, Brexit, Middle East, Turkey / Erdogan and many others. It is also a story about how the vaccine was developed in the west, China and Russia but how poorer countries have been expelled from the use of that vaccine and, although some funds and loan were forthcoming, they remain under the cosh of the virus.
The world's institutions are shown to be seriously imperfect. This may have already been known but the virus triggered a technological response which was required and successful but the ultimate use of technology, as Tooze so wisely shows, has been variable in the extreme. The dominant sign of the times is that the west and the incredible rise of China is unhinging the world along with its pummelling of nature (from a standpoint of environment as well as diseases). The world is in a mess despite its greater wealth, so unequally split across the world and within nations. It is a situation that is worsening and Tooze shows how, in times of great stress, such as the Covid19 pandemic, the world's institutions are unable to bring together public and private partnerships to resolve it.
My impression is of a world divided into so many groupings, many antipathetic to working with each other (notably the Republicans in the US, which Tooze rightly demonizes as incapable of imaginings vistory on democratic grounds and focused purely on division and remapping the US into non-democratic fiefdoms). "We ain't seen nothing yet" is his final statement. We have seen a lot, of course, much if it completely unedifying but Tooze is right to express his concern that the future offers so many uncertainties (natural, human-made and the combination of the two allied to human frailties that come to the fore throughout) that, while we may learn lessons from the past, the future will make us forget many and forge its own path.
Tooze is probably the most readable and exciting historian writing in English today, and I would recommend not just this but his other books as well. His work focuses (each book in radically different ways) on the politics and political economy of elite technocracy in America and Europe, as leaders deal with challenges both from within their own states and without, cooperating to construct (or vying to disrupt) rival international orders. As it is considerably shorter than his other books it would work very well as an introduction.