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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

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  312 ratings  ·  33 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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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
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
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.

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
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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
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.
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.
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
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.
(AP Gov required reading)
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.

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 5 of 5 stars
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
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.
Graham Moss

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.
Vincent Tan
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.
Jonathan Lu
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.
Tana Gibson
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.
Oct 07, 2008 Karl rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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.
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.
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.
Matthew Powell
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.
Mar 11, 2008 zan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to zan by: Evan Jones
A great summary of the histories of a number of fascinating countries/governments. His theory is interesting, but the history of these countries is the best part.
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.
H Wesselius
Very simple crude general generalizations aboud. The curve is geared to ending in a neoliberal America - annoying,
i'd give this book a 4.5 if i could. easy to read and understand and highly educational. great model.
Basically changed the way I think about the intersection of economic potential and international relations.
Nate Parker
Sound and straight-forward idea explained over and over in a hundred pages to many.
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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
More about Ian Bremmer...
The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations? Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World The Fat Tail: The Power of Political Knowledge for Strategic Investing Superpower: Three Choices for America's Role in the World What's Next: Essays on Geopolitics That Matter (a Penguin Special from Portfolio)

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