September 25, 2022
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Best summer books of 2022: Politics

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How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them
by Barbara F Walter, Viking £18.99/Crown $27

The amount of interest that this book has aroused in the US is a disturbing testament to current levels of concern about political division and violence in America. Drawing on examples such as Yugoslavia, Syria, Libya and Myanmar, Walter, a professor at the University of California, argues that America ticks many of the boxes that predict civil conflict, including a politics of ethnic resentment, democratic decay, widespread gun ownership and a fearful population.

Freezing Order: A True Story of Russian Money Laundering, Murder and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath
by Bill Browder, Simon & Schuster £20/$28.99

The author has been trying to get the west to take the threat from Putin’s Russia seriously for many years. In return, the Putin regime has pursued him around the world. Browder’s new book recounts this struggle and is part thriller, part policy prescription. In the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine it has deservedly gone to the top of the bestseller lists.

Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy
by Henry Kissinger, Allen Lane £25/Penguin $36

Now aged 99, Kissinger is still writing books. Here he profiles six leaders he has known — Lee Kuan Yew, Konrad Adenauer, Richard Nixon, Charles de Gaulle, Margaret Thatcher and Anwar Sadat — and draws general lessons about the character and intellect of leaders who are able to change the world.

The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order: America and the World in the Free Market Era
by Gary Gerstle, OUP £21/$27.95

A history of modern America in the “free market era” that was hailed as an “instant classic” by the FT review. Gerstle argues that the unleashing of market economics was the central theme of the last 50 years of US history. In this book, he traces the ideas, people and events that defined a “neoliberal order” — ending with the populist backlash of the Trump years.

One Party After Another: The Disruptive Life of Nigel Farage
by Michael Crick, Simon & Schuster £25

Nigel Farage has never been elected to parliament but — as the Godfather of Brexit — he has a good claim to be one of the most influential politicians in postwar Britain. A lively, chaotic and sometimes sinister figure (witness his close friendship with Donald Trump and admiration for Viktor Orbán), Farage is an ideal subject for Crick — one of Britain’s most experienced political journalists.

Liberalism and Its Discontents
by Francis Fukuyama, Profile £16.99/Farrar Straus and Giroux $26

Fukuyama has been one of the most influential political theorists in the west for more than 30 years. Here he looks at the growing challenges to the classical liberalism that he believes in — including identity politics, a neoliberalism that has led to rising inequality and the global revival of authoritarianism. The book recommends ways to revive the liberal cause.

The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping’s China
by Kevin Rudd, PublicAffairs £25/$32

A Mandarin-speaking former prime minister of Australia, Rudd has become one of the most influential western commentators on relations between China and the west. He correctly takes the prospect of a war between the US and China very seriously and comes up with a plan to avert disaster, which he calls “managed strategic competition”.

The Vanishing: The Twilight of Christianity in the Middle East
by Janine di Giovanni, Bloomsbury £20

An award-winning war correspondent, with a particular expertise on the Middle East, di Giovanni focuses on the persecution and “vanishing” of Christian communities in the Middle East — the birthplace of the religion. Focusing in particular on Egypt, Gaza, Iraq and Syria, she examines the impact of Islamist militancy and tells the stories of the individuals and families affected.

Summer Books 2022

All this week, FT writers and critics share their favourites. Some highlights are:

Monday: Economics by Martin Wolf
Tuesday: Environment by Pilita Clark
Wednesday: Fiction by Laura Battle
Thursday: History by Tony Barber
Friday: Politics by Gideon Rachman
Saturday: Critics’ choice

The Revenge of Power: How Autocrats Are Reinventing Politics for the 21st Century
by Moisés Naím, St Martins Press £23.99/$29.99

A leading international affairs journalist takes on one of the big political puzzles of our era — why is authoritarianism making a comeback? Naím skilfully combines reportage with social-science research to identify the new tactics used by authoritarians, highlighting the three “P”s: populism, polarisation and “post-truth”.

Dismantling Global White Privilege: Equity for a Post-Western World
by Chandran Nair, Berrett-Koehler £19.99/$24.95

The Black Lives Matter movement has driven debate about “white privilege” in the US. Nair, a Malaysian intellectual, argues that white privilege is a global phenomenon — with its roots in colonialism. In a measured and very readable book, he argues that forms of white supremacy manifest themselves in everything from geopolitics to international business, culture, the media, education, fashion and sport.

The Atlantic Realists: Empire and International Political Thought Between Germany and the United States
by Matthew Specter, Stanford University Press £24.99/£30

“Realism” is one of the most influential theories of international relations. Concentrating on the power relations between states and often denounced as immoral, it has powerfully influenced statesmen such as Kissinger. Specter’s new history traces the ideology back to the age of imperialism and the German geopoliticians of the interwar period — including the Nazi lawyer Carl Schmitt — who envisioned a world order divided into blocs, each dominated by a major power.

Dancing on Bones: History and Power in China, Russia and North Korea
by Katie Stallard, Oxford University Press £22.99/$29.99

The stage for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was set by a long essay by the Russian leader, brooding on the shared history of Russia and Ukraine. That will have come as no surprise to Stallard — a former correspondent in both Moscow and Beijing — whose book entertainingly demonstrates how the manipulation of history is central to the authoritarian politics of China, Russia and North Korea.

The Great Experiment: How to Make Diverse Democracies Work
by Yascha Mounk, Bloomsbury £20/Penguin $28

The populations of western democracies have become much more ethnically diverse in recent decades. That seems to be fuelling the rise of populist politics tied to ethno-nationalism — most obviously with the election of Donald Trump. Mounk, a political theorist, makes a powerful argument that emphasising individual, rather than group rights, is crucial to reconciling diversity and democracy.

Tell us what you think

What are your favourites from this list — and what books have we missed? Tell us in the comments below

Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century
by Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman, Princeton University Press £25/$29.95

The authors believe that the nature of authoritarian leadership is changing. Modern authoritarians are less reliant on brute force. Instead, they argue, leaders like Viktor Orbán and the late Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, “conceal autocracy within formally democratic institutions”. This book offers an entertaining and disquieting guide to how this is done.

The Power of Crisis: How Three Threats — and Our Response — Will Change the World
by Ian Bremmer, Simon & Schuster £20/$28

Rising nationalism and international conflict is making it much harder to solve the common problems facing humanity. This is a clear and compelling study of three urgent threats: climate change, technology and global health emergencies. Bremmer concludes optimistically that international crises can also create new impetus and opportunities for international co-operation.

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