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The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall
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The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  363 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
What "Freakonomics" does for understanding the economy, "The J Curve" does for better understanding how nations behave. The J curve is a visual tool that allows us to see at a glance why some crucial countries are in crisis and unstable while others are prosperous and politically solid. In this imaginative, playful, and practical guide, Ian Bremmer, an expert on the politi ...more
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published August 29th 2006 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2006)
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Apr 08, 2009 Alan rated it really liked it
To me, the J Curve is an extrapolation of the tenet that as long as the masses are fed, they will remain complicit. A pervasive insinuation throughout the book is that the richer the majority of people in a nation are, the more stable the government. It's hard to argue with this stance, since a quick look at revolutions in the last 200 years bears this out. Regime change brought about by insurrection was often preceded by abject poverty, and severe social and infrastructure decline. This idea ha ...more
Apr 20, 2009 Rhesa rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
The main thesis of this book goes like this: For every degree of openess in a country, there is less stability, and on the contrary for every degree of stability, the measure of openess is limited. It is interesting thought, worth pondering. But I must say this seems a bit simplistic, the author even admits his theory fails to explain the case of Singapore & Dubai, 2 highly closed countries yet stable in every way.

Richard Ash
Sep 26, 2015 Richard Ash rated it really liked it
The most important idea from this book is the foreign policy implication in the conclusion. Bremmer suggests that policy experts consider how policy affects both supply AND demand. So, for example, one would seek to address both the demand for drugs and the supply for drugs. Or one would address both the supply of terrorism (by bombing them/knocking out their communications) and the demand for terrorism(economic growth/help stability of countries in the area, etc.)
Aug 16, 2010 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 22, 2015 Ernest rated it liked it
Bremmer posits the framework of the J Curve upon which to examine why (and to an extent how) nations rise and fall. This framework is built on the a graph with vertical axis measuring stability and the horizontal axis measuring openness, with a J-shaped curve (not dissimilar in look to the Nike swoosh). Bremmer examines the place that North Korea, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, south Africa, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Israel, India and China fall within the J Curve, grouping those nations by t ...more
Apr 03, 2016 Tucker rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
Bremmer’s graph plots stability against openness, resulting in a J-shaped curve. A closed state may be moderately stable. As it begins to open up (through revolution, coup, etc.), it destabilizes. As the state becomes truly open, it becomes more stable than before. It may as well do so, since: “As the authoritarian countries of the Communist bloc discovered, all closed states eventually wither or explode.” (p. 277)

“‘Stability’ has two crucial components: the state’s capacity to withstand shocks
Oct 23, 2014 Rhnair rated it really liked it
Although the book has got a bit dated, however that should not stop one from still reading this. Ian has brought out some great trends to watch out for while analysing a country. This book is highly recommended for those who are investing in various countries.

I like the recommendation given by Ian on handling North Korea, although it is going to be difficult to carry out the same, which has also been outlined by Ian. Although Kim Jong Il is no more and his son has taken over (as was correctly id
Oct 21, 2007 Miguel rated it liked it
I wrote Ian Bremmer a fairly detailed email about what he thought about several West African democracies, more specifically Mali/Senegal, that is to say, if they match a bulk of the criteria which predicate a free openly democratic society why is it that they are in such dismal economic disarray? He wrote me back an even more in-depth email, which I thought was fantastic! He likes to use the J-curve analogy as often as possible, thus he made use of the open forum for a very predictable response, ...more
Jun 20, 2016 Kenneth rated it really liked it
This book was selected by The Economist as one of the best books of 2006. Bremmer's J curve outlines the link between a country's openness and its stability. While many countries are stable because they are open (the United States, France, Japan), others are stable because they are closed (North Korea, Cuba, Iraq under Saddam Hussein). It was a very good read, fresh and clear, not burdened down with dogma and theory. It is a nice trip through history of nations such as Cuba, Russia, Israel, Sout ...more
May 07, 2007 stephanie marked it as to-read
I want to alternate between reading fiction and non-fiction, so I want to read this after Persuasion. It's supposed to be about why countries behave the way they do. It got lots of good reviews, and it apparently explains some things I've been wondering, like, "Why are Iran's ruling clerics tryign to push their nation toward international isolation?" and "Why is India so surprisingly stable?" and "Why does North Korea seem to invite a military conflict it can't possibly survive?"
I hope I get aro
Mar 05, 2009 Christina rated it really liked it
This book is a great resource, one which I expect to refer back to or read again in the future. It is logically and concisely written to make very complicated information accessible and interesting.

This book sat around my house while I was reading it, and everyone who picked it up to pass the time or flip through a few pages found it to be very interesting. I would definitely recommend it for anyone who has an interest in foreign affairs, government, or sociopolitical issues.
Aug 22, 2014 Cristin rated it really liked it
Great explanation of government control and the difference between free societies and those under despotic rule even though they both achieve stability. Also the peril of chaos at the bottom of the curve necessary for the transition to a free open society. Sometimes the chaos is just to great. Great history and background of the countries discussed. Very interesting and well written.
Jan 25, 2008 Trey rated it it was amazing
Shelves: popular-academic
This book is radically brilliant. The perfect mix of science and socio-political philosophy. It is a must read for anyone interested in an explaination of why the world is the way it is or anyone who wants to dealve into the politics and philosophy for state development. Can't say enough about how great this book is.
Dec 09, 2009 David rated it really liked it
This book altered my reasons for thinking economic sanctions are generally a waste of time, and indeed may prolong a bad situation. Having said that, I'm left wanting some sort of stick specifically targeting enemy leadership, given that this book advocates - in all but exceptional circustances - an uninterrupted supply of carrots as a means of effectuating change in unfriendly nations.
Mar 07, 2009 jane rated it it was amazing

Still in the beginning half, but despite seeing criticism of the author's arguments in this book, I really am enjoying it. Even if it may be true that his arguments could use more factual evidence, I think what really gets me about this book are the ideas and the new perspective on an old topic.

Its really interesting to me. I recommend it, thus far!
Darrell Fisher
May 25, 2010 Darrell Fisher rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Darrell by:
If you are open to new thought and willing to reconsider conventional wisdom This is a book for you Honestly I think my views concerning American foreign policy have matured since reading this book. You have any interest in politics you must OWN this book. You might not agree with every point but it will have you lock down your own thoughts
Jul 24, 2012 Jake rated it really liked it
This book has a great premise and wonderfully explains a theory that can be applied to most if not every nation; however, it becomes quite redundant after the first few chapters with the country-by-country overview.
Jonathan Lu
Jul 31, 2013 Jonathan Lu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good analysis from Ian Bremmer, very much in the same mold of (and worth reading if you liked) Thomas Friedman, Francis Fukuyama, and Fareed Zakaria. Really nothing new that none of these other guys have already talked about, but an interesting way to look at it.
Graham Moss
Nov 09, 2011 Graham Moss rated it liked it

The J Curve describes how stable a government is. On the left indicates instability and an authoritarian type rule. On the right indicates a more stable rule as in a democracy. The more stable a society is, the more likely they are to overcome a shock, such as a natural disaster.
Matthew Powell
Dec 16, 2007 Matthew Powell rated it really liked it
I was a big dork who loved econ. in college, and this book does more to explain why closed systems in government fail better than any poly/sci text ever could. After all, economics is the universal language.
Tana Gibson
Jul 02, 2010 Tana Gibson rated it did not like it
I tried to understand it. I found the author from an interview on The Daily Show with John Stewart. I blame the school system and the mainstream media for the fact that I cannot comprehend complex subjects unless they are broken up into two minute segments.
Apr 27, 2011 Stephen rated it really liked it
This pretty much sums up why all the closed societies (North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, etc.) are the way they are, and how our current system for dealing with them is intuitive yet counter-productive.
Vincent Tan
Jul 24, 2013 Vincent Tan rated it liked it
A short book with a novel thesis about the relationship between openness and stability of nation states. Basically, greater openness leads to instability - but in the long run greater stability is achieved if the nation can develop even greater openness. Intriguing to say the least.
Jun 29, 2015 Libby rated it really liked it
Though the J Curve isn't my favorite Ian Bremmer book I still recommend it. The J Curve really made me think about some of my views I have on foreign policy. It's a great read even though it's an older book.
Oct 07, 2008 Karl rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people interested in international politics
The Rockefeller Foundation puts out this book.

The J-Curve presents some common sense ideas on nation stability in both closed and open societies. Once one understands the nature of dictatorships, then we can find an appropriate way to deal with them.
Robert D
Nov 11, 2012 Robert D rated it really liked it
Shelves: ppe
The right side of the J-curve is not as interesting as the rest of it. Because of this the book gets a little long towards the end. The majority of the book does deal with the left side and the the pit of the curve so as a whole the book is quite interesting.
Christian Volk
Dec 24, 2007 Christian Volk is currently reading it
I heard this guy as a guest on KGO, and his perspective of world events seems spot on. Look forward to beginning the book.
Sep 14, 2011 Dirk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Basically changed the way I think about the intersection of economic potential and international relations.
Hans Hoffmann
Feb 01, 2016 Hans Hoffmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great analysis of how totalitarian states must decend before they ascend to more democratic forms of government
May 24, 2007 Rach rated it really liked it
i'd give this book a 4.5 if i could. easy to read and understand and highly educational. great model.
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Ian Bremmer (born November 12, 1969) is an American political scientist specializing in US foreign policy, states in transition, and global political risk. He is the president and founder of Eurasia Group, a leading global political risk research and consulting firm, and a professor at Columbia University. Eurasia Group provides financial, corporate, and government clients with information and ins ...more
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