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The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  864 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Prize joins a leading expert on the global economy to present an incisive narrative of the risks and opportunities that are emerging as the balance of power shifts around the world between governments and markets -- and the battle over globalization comes front and center.

A brilliant narrative history, The Commanding Heights is abou
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Paperback, 535 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by Free Press (first published 1998)
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Cait • A Page with a View
This is really well done but... honestly, just watch the PBS documentary with the same info. It's way more entertaining.
Szplug
May 14, 2011 rated it liked it
The Anti-Shock Doctrine—Yergin runs through many of the same market-transition scenarios that Klein examined in her more recent book, concluding that this trend has been, overall, a very positive and necessary thing. A brief assessment of the Liberal Consensus developed subsequent to the Second World War and carried forward into the late seventies—when a mixture of centralized government economic management, high commodity (read oil) prices, rampant inflation, persistent unemployment, and runawa ...more
DoctorM
Mar 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, economics
This should be read in tandem with Klein's "The Shock Doctrine", though I'm not quite sure which is the antidote to the other. "Commanding Heights" first appeared in 1998, and it was written in the mid-90s "End of History" era where market capitalism was triumphant, where "neoliberal" was still a good term, and globalisation was the wave of the future.

The enthusiasm for the brave new free-market world seems so utterly dated now after the global meltdown of 2008 and the retreat of much of the wo
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Lobstergirl
May 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: John Kay bibliography
Shelves: own, economics

In 1922, a year after putting the New Economic Policy in place, Lenin defended letting some small market activity proliferate, declaring that the state would still control the "commanding heights" of the economy. The authors of this book show how the opposite is true today (writing between 1998 and 2008). In the battle between governments and markets, markets have won, all over the world. Globalization has won. All of this is to society's benefit, they say. "Mistrust" of the market now "sounds a
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Frank Stein
Jan 01, 2011 rated it liked it

There were a bunch of points where I felt like quitting the book. Unlike Yergin's other book, "The Prize," on the history of the oil industry, this one can be maddeningly imprecise and repetitive. Here, he'll spend pages discussing "deregulation" or "tariff reduction," without going into a single specific. Key figures are sometimes just identified as "important reformers" instead of minister of such and such, or chairman of such a commission. It's hard to know where all these reforms Yergin talk
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Clif
Mar 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you want to know how the economic world got to where it is today from the position it was in after World War II, then this is the book to read. You need not be an economist to understand the process as the author is careful to define terms, to go back to the origin of concepts and to present economic schools of thought in uncluttered prose.

Yergin follows the progression of economic thinking as it developed from the "corporatist" idea of the 1940's to the free market thinking that dominates th
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Robert Jerome
Aug 14, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is an attempt to make a political appeal sound like a neutral world history. It portrays the last fifty years on earth as a great lesson in which human kind learned that free market capitalism is the only way to effectively manage and economy. The necessary omissions are plentiful. There is no Finland, Denmark, or Sweden. The violently repressive dictators installed through Latin America, especially Nicaragua, are portrayed as heroes of the Chicago School. Stalin's only fault was that ...more
Maxpower
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
I bought this book after reading Yergin's great epic saga about the oil industry The Prize, expecting it to offer the same kind of rich and insightful and entertaining history about capitalism. Alas, Yergin could not recapture the magic he created when he wrote The Prize. The Commanding Heights is uninteresting, not very insightful, and overall tough to get through.
Aaron
Feb 24, 2008 rated it liked it
What's the single most important thing to learn from an economics course today? What I tried to leave my students with is the view that the invisible hand is more powerful than the hidden hand. Things will happen in well-0rganized efforts without direction, controls, plans...That's the Hayek legacy."

Larry Summers
As quoted in The Commanding Heights


Overlooking my desk, there hangs one of my favorite images - a promotional photograph for Louis Vuitton, of all things. Taken by Annie Liebowitz, it
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Tom
Mar 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
In The Commanding Heights, Yergin chronicles the flirtation / infatuation with socialism that swept across the world in the twentieth century and the subsequent reaction toward a market economy that followed. From the New Deal policies in the United States to European nationalism to the Soviet centrally planned economy to the Asian tigers, each system is presented at a level that is informative without being tedious. Then, case by case, Yergin examines (some of) the shortcomings and transition t ...more
Shawn
May 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
I still remember the glitzy PBS miniseries singing the praises of the value of the derivatives trade. I'm reminded of the time Deng Xiao Peng asked an American professor how the stock market worked. The professor said you put a mirror in front of a book. Then you put another mirror adjacent to the first mirror. Then add another mirror. And another. You can do this a hundred times but as long the book is there, all the mirrors have a book.

Yes, this was the end of the Cold War, the End of History,
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Tam Nguyen
lịch sử kinh tế thế kỷ 20 đọc rất dễ hiểu với một đứa gà mờ như mình
Gavin
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A nice overview of the world economy looking at the early twentieth-century through 1998. As an aside you can choose to read the book and watch a six hour PBS documentary on the book, which is what I did.

The key thing to remember for me is that when Deng Xiaoping changed China's economy to capitalism within one year he unleashed 500,000,000 workers on the world. There is a reason that China claims double-digit growth, and at the same time created a rift in the world work force.

The last idea is t
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Tom feux
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Economic history for dummies

A most accessible survey of modern history viewed through the lens of economic evolution. The central theme is planned economies vs market based. A most satisfying answer is that both are plateaus (footholds) on the way to socio-economic perfection.
Harsh Thaker
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Politics, Economics & Policy of countries from South Korea to Chile moving from commanding heights to free market system
Ryan Mcconville
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this (relatively) brief economic history by Daniel Yergin (The Prize) and co-author Joseph Stanislaw. The book traces the power struggle between two competing economic doctrines since the end of WW2: the free market doctrine vs. state controlled market doctrine (state control includes - in increasing severity - mixed models, socialism and communism). After the early success of the New Deal in the USA, the Marshall Plan in Europe and the (seeming) rapid industrialization of the USS ...more
Justin Tapp
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Full disclosure: I've owned the book since first semester of grad school and have read certain chapters for use in papers and such, and I also own and have watched several times the PBS-produced DVDs that excellently tell the story (you can too at the link). But, I'd never read the entire book all the way through.

This book is the most comprehensive story of the neoliberal revolution ever written. It explains the post-WWII transition to state-run economies and top-down development to the much mor
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Mikayla
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this book for my International Business class. It was not my favorite book, but it was ok. It covered economic changes and events in several different countries. The part I really didn't like about it was that it was very chaotic. Each section moved back and forth in time and it was hard to follow.
David
Sep 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to David by: Robert Jones
Shelves: economics
The book outlines modern economic history, looking at the economies around the world through the 20th century, mainly from WWII on. It tracks the changes in the economies around the world in response to various global changes, and specifically the growth of the global economy. I came away with a realization that the relationship between government and economics was much more intricate and nuanced than I ever thought. There is indeed a role for government in the realm of economics - a completely ...more
Johnny Galt
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
A very successful read considering it is probably my first ever on politics and economics. It chronicles world deregulation throughout the 20th century to 2002. Fortunately, it had for the most part confirmed many of my preexisting ideas of political mingling with respect to business. Deregulation has happened for the most part in order to cut the political fat and let free market take over in order to stimulate growth and independence from government. When it grows too strong government must br ...more
Leela
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
It took me a while to finish this book. It can be a very dry subject - world economic history post WW II. But I truly believe that is a masterful piece of work, collating so much information from all the continents and then going down to the level of each country. Hats to authors.
I picked this book after I read Quest from the same author and he did not disappoint me one bit.
Read it if you want to get a better understanding of the world economy, the forces that shaped it and the forces that conti
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Shel Schipper
A good history of world economics from depression era to late 1990's. Otherwise, his history of most world countries and the way they tried to balance government control of industry versus free markets was very interesting. The overall conclusion is that too much government control stifles economies. Socialist governments tend to lead to stagnation and corruption, whereas fewer regulations that encourage free markets stimulates economic growth. Best success occurs when governments stick to laws ...more
Sean Rosenthal
Interesting Quote:

"In the 1976 Presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter, running against economic distress and campaigning as an outsider, defeated Ford. Not long after, in an effort to cheer up the nation, Carter's chief inflation fighter renamed inflation 'bananas.' After protests from banana interests, he switched the code word to 'kumquats.' That did not do any good either."

-Yergin and Stanislaw, Commanding Heights
Hussain
Aug 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
It is a great book to read in order to understand the emergence of the market economy, post WWII,after decades of Keynesian economics control. However, when the writers tried to explain how the market economy prevailed in Latin America, Asia and the Eastern Europe, the writers forgot to mention that the countries only opened up after years and years of protectionism and creating an industrial and manufacturing infrastructure.

A great book, but it certainly has a bias.
Matt Flynn
Jul 19, 2007 rated it liked it
A very long discussion of how the free market became the preferential option for the governments of the world. This is a history book, flowing from one event to the next with little analysis.

A useful tool for catching up on the successes and failures of government regulation in the past half century, and for understanding some of the basic challenges facing future policy makers.

The level of unnecessary detail can be a bit boring.
H.S. Bourgi
Jan 05, 2013 rated it liked it
A great reconstruction of the infatuation with socialism following the post-WWII period. Not nearly as critical on the monetarist policies that were initiated during the Reagan and Thatcher administrations, but a damning critique of central planning and the culture of entitlement. A great reconstruction of the rise of Asian economies, as well as Latin America's lost decade. Ultimately, a decent read for those looking to reaffirm their faith in the free market system.
Muhannad
Nov 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book reads the history of world economy since the beginning of the 20th century until the end of it, highlighting the main economical events and turnarounds, and it much helps readers to understand the world economy today, my only take on the book is that I couldn't help but feel that the authors develop a somewhat biased point of view for "free market capitalism", I would've preferred a more objective view, it is still a great read nonetheless.
Elizabeth
Jan 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: armchair economists and political aficionados
It's the perfect time to read this book. If the length seems too daunting, at least read:
--Introduction
--12: The Delayed Revolution
--13: The Age of Globalization
--14: The Balance of Confidence
That will get you up to speed on which way the pendulum is likely to swing now. But to truly do the book justice, you of course need to read it from front to back.
Barry
Jul 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Having failed to procure an 'appropriate' beach-book, I took The Commanding Heights out of sheer necessity. Turns out, it's quite the page-turner. Essentially a review of economic policies around the world since WW2 and the effect on their respective countries, the book manages to be both scholarly and engrossing.
Nicko
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Economists
Market Economics - 1
Central Planning - 0

Kensyian/Dependency Theory vs. Hayek & Chicago Boys/Laissez Faire- Free Markets

An in-depth look at globalization and how it will affect our society's future.

The best historical economic survey that I've read, covers rise and fall of ideas, people, past and present.
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Daniel Yergin is the author of the new bestseller The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World which has been hailed as “a fascinating saga” about the “quest for sustainable resources of energy,” and “the book you must read to understand the future of our economy and our way of life,” not to mention “necessary reading for C.E.O.’s, conservationists, lawmakers, generals, spies, ...more
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