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World on Fire World on Fire World on Fire

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  934 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
For over a decade now, the reigning consensus has held that the combination of free markets and democracy would transform the third world and sweep away the ethnic hatred and religious zealotry associated withunderdevelopment. In this astute, original, and surprising investigation of the true impact of globalization, Yale Law School professor Amy Chua explains why many dev ...more
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Published January 6th 2004 by Anchor Books (first published 2002)
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I LOVE THIS BOOK! It’s tight, nuanced, dismissive of simplistic explanations, and—except for an unfortunate lapse towards the end—doesn’t overreach in its analysis. What’s great about this book is not only what it’s about but what it’s NOT about. It’s not about how capitalism is evil; it’s not about developing countries being unsuited for democracy; and it’s emphatically not about capitalism and democracy being the causes of inter-ethnic hatred and violence.

Prof Chua takes care to focus her tig
Amy Chua's talent is gathering evidence. This shouldn't surprise me-- she was a lawyer by training-- but she ignores what generates market-dominant minority, and in doing so, leaves out a critical part of how to solve the problems she articulates. Furthermore, she has a way of hazarding her own solutions. First she suggests market reforms, then education, and then kind of backpedals on both of those.

She's quite right in saying that there's no universal panacea for the instabilities and imbalance
How exporting fee market democracy breeds ethnic hatred and global instability

If creating participatory democracy in nations that are now ruled by oligarchs, kings, sultans or presidents for life and if opening up backward economies in the developing world are good things, what could be better than doing both at the same time? While it might sound lovely, Amy Chua’s very incisive, well reasoned and beautifully written book shows that while trying to impose either democracy or free markets from t
Jan 03, 2010 Eric_W rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-affairs
We read this in our college reading club several years ago. It's an excellent book to read along with Niall Ferguson's War of the World: Twentieth Century Conflict and Descent of the West and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein. Chua's basic premise is that ethnic economic disparities that often arise in times of economic progress lead to ethnic strife during economic instability. Market dominant ethnic majorities become much richer even as ethnic majority poor get ...more
Oct 17, 2011 Doug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I really liked reading Joseph Stiglitz's Globalization and Its Discontents, and this book adds an ethnic dimension to the thesis of how America's rigid adherence to imposing laissez-faire capitalism on developing nations is causing more harm than good and leads to a backlash against globalization.

In the West we tend to think of Sierra Leone as a country where modernization and globalization have not yet penetrated. But Sierra Leone reached this stage of savagery in part as a result of moderniza
John Sibley
Feb 13, 2012 John Sibley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amy Chau's " World On Fire" should be required reading for both non-fiction and fiction writers. Why? It will reveal how there is always an inherent tension between market-dominant-minorities which causes inflamed dormant ethnic hatred. Which can help show why characters in a novel react to social forces.
Author Chau reveals how in certain pockets of the United States market-dominant-minorities control the market of the ethnic majority. A glaring example is that in all the major inner cities in
Dec 03, 2007 Russell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book Amy Chua explains how the first tide of globalism is invariably brought by "market dominant minorities", read: jews, chinese, overseas Europeans of all stripes. The local population invariably revolts against globalism by killing the messenger in riots, pograms, etc.

This step of the analysis was excellent. Globalism, the great wave of the hour is still entrenched in the great issue of the last century, ethnicity.

Her further analysis fell flat for me. She implied that some kind of gl
Sep 27, 2007 Cherie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: activists, those who question globalization, economists
B: Someone put this on my desk at work--I returned from the weekend to find this waiting for me. I don't know who left it, but it is a fascinating book. Chua examines why so many developing countries undergo ethnic violence and economic instability after adopted "free market democracy." She looks at how a select minority of people rule a country--and what happens when the majority try to get control of what they feel belongs to them. A lot of it is a critique of the United States and the way in ...more
Jj Li
Dec 07, 2014 Jj Li rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I first found Amy Chua when all the controversy over Tiger Mom erupted, so when I went through youtube trying to find an interview of her talking about the book, I actually found an interview about this book instead. What she said there actually really impressed me, so I picked this one up. I haven't read any of the author's other books, because quite honestly the content doesn't interest me and I'm not a fan of the author's writing style. I find it a little wordy and heavy.

That being said, thi
Aug 09, 2014 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting look at how America's policy of trying to promote both full-participation democracy and laissez-faire capitalism has had unexpected consequences. The book primarily deals with the inequalities the version of capitalism we export causes, how they certain around minorities in various countries and how that can lead to ethnic hatred which is easily exploited by charismatic demagogues. She expands her theory to examine both the situation in Israel and the hatred of America among much ...more
Dec 03, 2015 Nils rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Basic thesis: "market dominant minorities" tend to be the big winners of globalization in their respective countries, and that disproportionate success makes them the target of majorities who (not incorrectly) see them as a symbols and embodiments of unequal effects of globalization. In undemocratic polities, this can lead to horrific violence, either endemicly or acutely; but it may be no better in a democracy, where majoritarianism may lead to its familiar Tocquevillean tyranny. In short, the ...more
I'd give this book gets 4 stars as a conversation-starter, 3 stars in terms of depth and cohesiveness.

The thesis, stated early in the introduction, is "that the global spread of markets and democracy is a principal, aggravating cause of group hatred and ethnic violence throughout the non-Western world." Chua, later to gain notoriety as the self-proclaimed Tiger Mother, certainly conveys more nuance than what's obvious from that one line, examining a wide range of locales where what she calls "ma
Andy Rapt
Jun 28, 2014 Andy Rapt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is junk of the lowest order with extremely unconvincing arguments that showcase the writer's ignorance of historical forces. But worse of all is her aneurism inducing good old fashioned patriotism.
After I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom I wanted to punch this lady on the face, but after this one I just want to wring her neck!
This book is even more offensive than Mein Kampf, but what do you expect from a writer who claims to be a descendant of a DEMIGOD!
Go ahead, check it out. It's in the
Willy C
Jun 19, 2016 Willy C rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
longer review incoming for this book as well:

for now, I'll just heartily recommend it to anyone interested in international development, ethnic violence, and economic justice in the developing world.

rough summary: in many countries, there exist 'market-dominant minorities' who are dominant in many sectors of the economy. economic liberalization and globalization, generally promulgated by Western do-gooders, tend to enrich those minorities as a result of their entrepreneuralism, tight-knit reli
Sep 02, 2015 Shawn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is such a pleasure to read an author like Amy Chua, whose intellect ascends forth from the pages, with an enamoring beauty, that deeply stimulates the reader with the force of sheer common sense. Chua’s steady presentation of facts, interlaced with her insightful analyses, slowly brings the reader to intellectual climax. If all the globes peoples could see with the clarity of Chua, we might quickly find solutions for many of our problems.

Chua unveils the absurdity of promoting both democracy
Jan 21, 2015 Narma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political
I agree with Chua's approach to the roots of nationalism and ethnic hatred, however, I don't necessarily believe market democracy itself is responsible for the 21st century ethnocentrism. There is a large role that democracy as whole (not just market democracy) plays in socially empowering minorities and assimilating the majority to accommodate the minority. This sort of influence can often leave a majority with a loss of identity. This loss of identity, I believe, is the leading cause of nation ...more
Aug 29, 2012 Kerry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Published in 2003, Yale Law Professor Amy Chua wrote that bringing democracy to Palestine will likely only bring a Hamas government hostile to western interests. Which is what happened. Chua argues that exporting democracy and capitalism to unstable regions may actually increase strife.

In the broadest terms, Chua believes the concentration of wealth in market-dominant America with a minority of the world population generates hatred and envy in world of have-not nations.

She feels this sort of en
Dec 25, 2010 Ilya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine an alternative-history United States, where a 2% Jewish minority owns about 60% of the economy, including most chains of department stores and supermarkets, most manufacturing companies, most newspapers; almost all the billionaires are Jewish. The vast majority of Christians live in squalor, have no land, no savings and no education; they hate the Jews with all their hearts, and the Jews return the feeling of contempt. Anti-Semitic murders and kidnappings are frequent, and the Christian- ...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Before starting on Chua's treatise, I was rather skeptical of the book which has the subtitle "How exporting free market democracy breeds ethnic hatred and global instability". Published shortly after 9/11, I was assuming the book was riding the wave of America's need to have the attacks explained.
Not so much, though I'm sure the book benefited from the related interest upon its release, devoting the last part of the book to the causes of the event in question.
Chua focuses on market-dominant m
Dec 01, 2011 Jarek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A free market think tank opposed this book while misunderstanding its thesis, which is probably as good of a recommendation as they come.

Reading this book I was reminded a little about reading recent Michael Lewis articles. It reads well, the arguments seem tight and are backed up with more examples and anecdotes than you care to think about, it's generally agreeable, and you want to believe it, but at times it's hard to tell which stories are taken for more than they're really worth and what is
Dec 10, 2012 Doron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Response to both Amy Chua in ‘World On Fire’ and Paul Collier in ‘War, Guns and Votes’ - my views on their criticism of how the developed world has tried to build democracies in failed and fragile states, how their opinions agree, how they differ.

Amy Chua and Paul Collier share some penetrating insights into the problems associated with the spread of democracy since the early 1990s in their respective works, ‘World on Fire’ and ‘War, Guns and Votes’. At the forefront of their analyses is the con
Oct 21, 2013 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book Chau suggests that the policies of market liberalization and democratization that are promoted as part of the Washington consensus of globalization can have disastrous consequences for groups of people that she describes as “market dominant minorities.” She describes situation after situation where an ethnic minority that has come to be identified with affluence and ownership during periods of market liberalization end up being scape-goated in times of political (and economic) uphea ...more
May 15, 2012 Doreen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I greatly enjoyed this book, though I did have certain misgivings, given her reporting on Malaysia. From (anecdotal) experience, I disagreed with her assertion that there is almost zero intermarriage between Malays and Chinese: I have seen and heard of enough marriages of that sort to feel that her sources are incorrect. Granted, ethnicity in Malaysia (and a point she does not mention) is also very much subsumed in religious identification: nearly all Muslims are considered Malay unless they mak ...more
Jan 03, 2014 Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmmm...some lawyer writes a book with this kind of subtitle. Must be an ignorant anti-capitalist screed, right? Actually, no. Amy Chua is no Naomi Klein. She was an economics major at Harvard. Her father, Leon, is famous in my field (

The book is about economically-dominant minorities, and inspired by the murder of her Chinese-Filipina aunt Leona at the hands of her chauffeur. She advocates wealth redistribution from economically dominant minorities to the less well
Js Saputra
Dec 20, 2011 Js Saputra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my opinion. But, I wrote in Indonesian:

Saya beruntung, 7 tahun yang lalu, 28 April 2004, salah satu mantan murid, sehabis melawat ke Amerika, mengantar ‘buah tangan’ berupa buku. Seolah, mantan murid itu, tahu apa yang sedang saya pikirkan dan impikan yaitu “World on Fire” karya Amy Chua.

Kini, ternyata ketika saya baca ulang buku setebal 348 halaman, tersusun dengan pendahuluan, bagian pertama yang mengulas The Economic Impact of Globalization dengan 4 rincian (Rubies and Rice Paddies, L
Oct 31, 2007 Evan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in neoliberalism
I did read this book a few years ago, but remembered it today while writing about the May 1998 anti-Chinese riots in Jakarta. In 2004, it was one of the shrewder books I had read disentangling free trade from democratization, and hence arguing against the neoliberal ideology of the Washington consensus.

The basic thesis, which is easy to grasp without reading the book, is that in many parts of the world (especially the so-called developing world), national economies are largely in the hands of "
Kerry Mccaskill
Jul 10, 2007 Kerry Mccaskill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most brilliant books I've ever read. It sounds like a dull topic but the writer's passion for the subject brings it to life. Full of fascinating and surprising details about how democracy works (or, more accurately, doesn't work) when superimposed on other cultures and economic systems. It provides gripping examples demonstrating why economic democracy and political democracy have to be introduced in the proper sequence or political democracy will not only fail but fail spectacularly ...more
Oct 26, 2007 Liza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My mom saw an interview with Chua and decided to buy this book. I don't know if she'll ever read it, because she prefers the newspaper, but I might have to persuade her otherwise. Chua's thesis is that the market dominance of ethnic minorities incites ethnic hatred and that this is becoming increasingly problematic with globalization. World on Fire was published in 2003, so the examples she references have become all the more stark with recent developments in Burma (where Chinese are the market- ...more
Mar 18, 2011 Brett rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brett by: Jeannette Ward
Amy Chua got a lot of ink earlier this year for her essay about motherhood, but since I'm perpetually behind the times, I'm just getting to her 2004 book about globalization, democracy, and market-dominant minorities. Her thesis is pretty sound: in societies where market-dominant minorities exist (and her research is convincing that these do exist in many places in the world), the sudden democratization can create a volatile environment that can lead to persecuation--and in extreme cases, even g ...more
Jun 13, 2012 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before she became known as the Tiger Mother, Chua wrote this important book. In it, she argues persuasively that the presence of "market dominant minorities" (think Tutsis in Rwanda or ethnic Chinese in the Philippines and Indonesia, or any place where a small ethnic minority group controls the bulk of the country's resources and often its political apparatus too) means that instituting free market democracy often exacerbates ethnic or sectarian hatreds. The free market initially allows those wi ...more
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Amy L. Chua (born 1962) is the John M. Duff, Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School. She joined the Yale faculty in 2001 after teaching at Duke Law School. Prior to starting her teaching career, she was a corporate law associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. She specializes in the study of international business transactions, law and development, ethnic conflict, and globalization an ...more
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“As it happens, the first souvenir I bought was a dried llama fetus. Revolting as it may sound, my poor stillborn llama is actually rather cute. Frozen in the fetal position and dried stiff like beef jerky, it has the gentle, smiling face of a camel and plenty of soft, if slightly formaldehyde-scented, fur. I bought the llama fetus partly because it horrified me, but also for educational purposes, so that my eight-year-old daughter Sophia could show it to her class. (She refused.)

Bolivians buy llama fetuses to ward off evil in its many guises. Bolivian miners—who, with a life expectancy of forty-five years, basically live their entire adult lives dying—look to llama fetuses for protection against dynamite explosions and the lung-destroying silicon particulates they inhale all day. Downing high-proof alcohol also helps. “The purer the alcohol, the purer the minerals I find,” one miner told me wryly.”
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