Post-Western World’s Books of the Year (2013)



The best writing in 2013 on politics in the Global South covered, among other things, China's rise, Sino-Indian ties, India's place in the world, Asian history, liberal internationalism and life in politics.

From the Ruins of Empire. The intellectuals who remade Asia by Pankaj Mishra
Mishra masterfully recounts how Asian intellectuals thought about the intrusion of the West, which pitted Western modernity against Asian traditions, in order to explain his claim that the central event of the last century was the intellectual and political awakening of Asia. A must-read for those interested in Asia's place in the world.

China Goes Global: The Partial Power by David Shambaugh
China will never rule the world, Shambaugh claims in this excellent book on China's role in global affairs.  The reason, according to the author, is not merely economic. The book argues that China lacks close friends or allies, and that China is not normatively integrated into the community of nations. Furthermore, its reactive foreign policy keep it from taking the initiative, leaving its diplomatic footprint smaller than its economic weight would suggest. Above all, China has no soft power - its cultural products fail to set global trends like that of the United States. Perhaps the most comprehensively researched book on Chinese foreign policy this year.

Samudra Mathan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific, by C. Raja Mohan
Mohan, one of India's leading foreign policy analysts and one of the few scholars based in the Global South with a global reach, contends that the growth of India's and China's naval capabilities will extend the security dilemma between the two countries. As China's and India's economies globalize and the two states acquire interests far beyond their own territorial and regional waters, their naval footprint will grow, overlap, and generate the basis for potential conflict in the Indo-Pacific.

Pax Indica: India and the World of the Twenty-First Century by Shashi Tharoor
Tharoor's "Pax Indica" is no academic book - he does not expound any specific theory - but he attempts to bring the topic of India's place in the world to a wider readership, both in India and abroad. As he points out, "my concern is principally with tomorrow, not yesterday." In this, the author succeeds. Highly engaging, like his previous books, Tharoor manages to tell a fluid story without omitting the many complexities that make the topic so interesting.

Liberty’s Surest Guardian by Jeremi Suri
Few topics are less controversial in international politics than U.S. projects of nation-building. Strongly associated with failed attempts to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, they are seen as ill-conceived adventures of Western cultural imperialism. Yet as Jeremi Suri shows in his latest book, nation building is as old as the United States itself. "Whether engaged in North Carolina in 1869 or northern Afghanistan in 2009, the question has always been: how can Americans help to nurture more stable, modern and sustainable institutions?" Suri writes. Most thinkers in the developing world will find the mere title too off-putting to ever open the book, but it provides a candid account of a perspective far more common in Washington, D.C. than many outside observers would want to believe.

Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics by Michael Ignatieff
Ignatieff's latest book is not about politics in the Global South - and yet, the book is a wonderful testament to the state of politics, a cautionary tale about the perils, and pleasures, of political life and a must-read primer for anyone contemplating a political career, including in Brazil, South Africa, India, Indonesia or elsewhere. Given that politics in all these places suffers from a low interest by the young, more books like these - free form the traditional self-adulation - are needed. Michael Ignatieff will speak at FGV in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in May 2014.

Liberal Internationalism: Theory, History, Practice by Beate Jahn
Liberalism, Jahn argues, is a political project that aims to establish individual freedom through private property and to protect and extend this freedom through government by consent - yet, it pursues this goal through the privatization/ expropriation of common property and hence requires the production and reproduction of unequal power relations domestically and internationally. Liberalism is thus, in essence, made viable through power politics, with the mere difference that is uses liberal rhetoric as a fig leaf to conceal the ultimate goal: To provide a justification for American hegemony. Highly controversial, yet certainly worth the read for those interested in theory of international relations.

Breves narrativas diplomáticas by Celso Amorim
This is Amorim’s second book after leaving the foreign ministry, in an attempt to make sense of the momentous times Brazil went through during the first years of the Lula presidency, particularly the years 2002-2004. Given that author remains active in politics (he is currently Minister of Defense), the book understandably avoids harsh self-criticism. And yet, it makes, just like Amorim's previous book, a highly interesting read for those seeking to understand Brazil's foreign policy during the early days of the Lula administration. Publishing it in English would be an important step towards making Brazil's domestic foreign policy debate more accessible to the rest of the world.
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