Ten years ago, I read and reviewed Making Globalization Work by Joseph Stiglitz – my first Big Econ tome iirc – and my attention was immediately engaged by the eminently readable style of writing. Reading Stiglitz not only raised the bar for my expectations from nonfiction writing but lowered the barriers to my resistance to the subject of economics. I went on to devour everyone from the immortal words of The Argumentative Indians to the White Man’s Burden and it’s early hints of design thinking in development.
Today however I have a smile on my lips as I sit down to write this review of Yanis Varoufakis’ And The Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe, Austerity and the Threat to Global Stability – a search for his bio turned up a piece of trivia, we’re both born on the 24th of March in the 1960s. It seemed to validate my enjoyment of his narrative style, and my daily hour of reading pleasure over the past couple of weeks.
Varoufakis’ words breathe life into what could have been a dull and dry narrative, full of mindnumbing statistics and incomprehensible GDP growth rates. He humanizes the political economy of Europe, imbuing the German Bundesbank with nefarious motives and a schoolmaster’s strict discipline, and engagingly explains the social and political motives that shape the decisions that influence and impact the whole world.
No other economist that I’ve read has managed to dramatize the stage and the actors in such a way, crafting a gripping narrative of the sweeping changes that took place in the post war era.
The FT’s Martin Sandbu merely calls it an opinionated history, but isn’t that what ultimately history is? A well-balanced review worth reading:
His intellectual rebellion (in many ways justified) against the eurozone’s consensus view of what needed to be done with his country often seemed an end in itself rather than a policy in the service of changing the world for the better.
The book is nonetheless highly readable. It is also important, outlining a perspective on global economics that influences policy thinking in broader circles than the radical left.
What I personally found amusing when digging up the book reviews that I like to use interspersed with my own opinions in my reviews, was the The Guardian’s blatantly biased put-down of the man and his writing:
Yet while this book reflects a giant ego, and will not win prizes for its ponderous style, it is not entirely without merit for those with strength to plough through the pages.
But reading the review all the way through, one sees hints of a resemblance to the outline of points made by Sandbu in the FT. My own opinion is that if you’re looking to understand the politics of economics then there isn’t a better book yet that I’ve come across.
Highly recommend; eminently readable.