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World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability

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The reigning consensus holds that the combination of free markets and democracy would transform the third world and sweep away the ethnic hatred and religious zealotry associated with underdevelopment. In this revelatory investigation of the true impact of globalization, Yale Law School professor Amy Chua explains why many developing countries are in fact consumed by ethnic violence after adopting free market democracy.

Chua shows how in non-Western countries around the globe, free markets have concentrated starkly disproportionate wealth in the hands of a resented ethnic minority. These “market-dominant minorities” – Chinese in Southeast Asia, Croatians in the former Yugoslavia, whites in Latin America and South Africa, Indians in East Africa, Lebanese in West Africa, Jews in post-communist Russia – become objects of violent hatred. At the same time, democracy empowers the impoverished majority, unleashing ethnic demagoguery, confiscation, and sometimes genocidal revenge. She also argues that the United States has become the world’s most visible market-dominant minority, a fact that helps explain the rising tide of anti-Americanism around the world. Chua is a friend of globalization, but she urges us to find ways to spread its benefits and curb its most destructive aspects.

368 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2002

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About the author

Amy Chua

12 books581 followers
Amy Chua is a Professor at Yale Law School and author of the debut novel THE GOLDEN GATE, coming 9/19/2023. She is also the bestselling author of numerous nonfiction books, including World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (2003), which was selected by both The Economist and the U.K.’s Guardian as a Best Book of 2003, Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance – and Why They Fall (2007); The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America (2013); and Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations (2018). Her 2011 memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was a runaway international bestseller that has been translated into over 30 languages.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 155 reviews
Profile Image for Whitaker.
294 reviews502 followers
June 1, 2011
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 tight intellectual searchlight on a very specific set of circumstances, albeit one shared by several countries around the world. She’s talking about a situation where a developing nation has a majority of people mired in poverty and misery, where a small and very wealthy elite dominates trade and capital in that country, and where the poor and the elite comprise differentiated groups with a pre-existing history of mutual suspicion, hate and oppression.

This last point cannot be emphasised enough as some comments I have read elsewhere appear to think that Prof Chua blames capitalism and democracy as the causes of racism. This is not only far from what she is saying, she takes great care to emphasise in the book that this is indeed NOT what she is saying.

Her framework provides an explanation as to how the introduction of unfettered free markets and an unrestrained democratic electoral process can in the specific circumstances referred to above exacerbate and worsen an already tense situation. The tensions were already there; unleashing unfettered free markets and democracy in such countries is like throwing kerosene and gunpowder on an existing fire. KABOOM!!

Her framework is derived from a survey of countries in South-East Asia, Africa and South America where these pre-conditions existed, and she shows how the selling of free-markets and free-elections in these countries led to crony capitalism, inter-ethnic strife, and in the worst cases genocide. All of this is great, but what was even better was her acknowledgement and emphasis that capitalism and democracy in the developed nations did not arise in an unfettered form but through a process of gradual liberalisation.

The emphasis is on it being a process over generations. It makes hell of a lot of sense really when you think of it: people must learn to think outside the confines of tribal and ethnic loyalties. This doesn’t happen overnight; it takes generations for these kinds of reflexive loyalties to slowly die out.

Many Chinese make a big deal out of clan relations and dialect groups. Since Chinese “dialects” are dialects only in name but are really different languages, a rough analogue is to think of the Irish, Greeks and Italians in the US helping each other out. We had Hokkiens, Hainanese, Hakkas and Teochews (all Southern Chinese), and as for helping each other out, boy did we do it in a big way.

Clan associations are like chambers of commerce but more so: they provide loans, scholarships and other forms of assistance to people from the same clan (i.e., same dialect group, same surname, and same village. Theoretically, if you belonged to the same clan, you could all trace your ancestry back to the same common ancestors). You helped each other out because you wuz all brudders. Dialect groups were such a big deal that you couldn’t even marry outside your dialect group.

The point however is that even though it was a big deal, it’s much less so with my generation in Singapore. (Hell, I don’t even know who my putative ancestors are supposed to be, much less the location of the ancestral village!) And even less so for those coming after mine. I know older people for whom this is super-important though: some of them still bemoan the fact that the “good” old days of being able to ask someone from your clan to give you a job, sneak you a free ride, or do you a favour are over. Now, I happen to think that’s a good thing, but like I said, some things die hard.*

The only place where I wasn’t convinced by Prof Chua was towards the end where she tried to extend the paradigm of market-dominant minorities to Israel (in the Middle East) and the United States (globally) in order to provide one, albeit not the only, explanation for resentment against these two countries. However, as she herself manfully admits, the situation is far too complex to admit of a single explanation. Unfortunately, once the dynamics of the market dominant paradigm is treated as just one possible strand out of many, I start to question its utility as a method of analysis for current geopolitical tensions.**

Notwithstanding this weak last third, the book is still very powerful and compelling***, and an excellent antidote to mantras of free-markets and free-elections bringing about the end of history.

* It’s still important in China though. I remember reading about a village in China where all the officials came from one clan and all the tradespeople came from another.
**As an aside—and this is where I deplore the marketing and commercialisation needs of publication as a business—I think that if Prof Chua had omitted these sections, the book would not have been as catchy or as marketable. How large a market would there be of people interested in reading about the role of free markets and democracy in exacerbating ethnic tensions, no matter how nuanced and well-researched? As compared, that is, to the market for readers who would be attracted to a book on how the export of unfettered free markets and democracy breeds resentment against, and endangers, the US itself.
*** Check out Martin Jacques’s review in The Guardian.

Profile Image for Kerry.
147 reviews62 followers
August 29, 2012
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 envy is very much the same within individual nations. In individual nations, the concentration of massive wealth is in a few ethnic market-dominant minorities which also creates ethnic hatred and envy.(i.e. Chinese in SE Asia, whites in Latin America and South Africa, Jews in post-communist Russia...etc)

Democracy in the hands of the non-market dominant but more much numerous people of an ethnic majority will create instability as they reach for long denied wealth, resources and privilege.

Readable and I believe an accurate observation.
Profile Image for Andrew.
1,992 reviews699 followers
January 4, 2011
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 imbalances generated by globalized capitalism, but she could elaborate a bit more. And it's unfortunate that one of the few concrete suggestions she offers-- property rights for slum dwellers, an idea cribbed from De Soto-- has been shown to do little to no good. Beyond that, we the readers are offered not much other than a set of well-meaning platitudes.

So what is left is a snapshot. It's a very good one, and she makes a compelling case against the export of liberal democracy. I'm clearly not the right audience here. It's more designed for readers who tend to be more on the capitalist end of the spectrum than myself, who still have an unshakable faith in the free markets-and-liberal democracy model. I appreciate the effort, I really do, and I really enjoyed sitting down and reading it, but ultimately my political mind is left wanting something more.
Profile Image for S.P..
Author 1 book7 followers
January 21, 2009
Chua links unfairness of ‘market dominant minorities’ and the rise in instability in the world through the increasing use of democracy and the ethnonationalism this generates among the less privileged majority. It is a fascinating angle, and in the examples given it seems to fit part of the explanation for much trouble around the world. Further she expands this view at the regional level (Israel as the market dominant minority in the Middle East) and then global level (the US as the market dominant minority of the World), both of which seem to fit the increased hostilities towards these minorities. While I found her ‘Future of Free Market Democracy’ to be a little be optimistic in some cases, I found the analysis thought provoking and it has certainly added another layer to my understanding of the way the world works.
Profile Image for Ed .
479 reviews33 followers
January 29, 2017
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 the outside is a treacherous undertaking, trying to do both is insane. The question is not what could be better but what could be worse. Civil war might be worse. A cholera epidemic might be worse. Civil war and a cholera epidemic simultaneously would be worse, but not by much, than the IMF showing up with demands for structural change and economic conditionalities in exchange for loans while the United Nations insists on overseeing elections.

Chua knows her territory from a few different angles. She first began thinking about her thesis while a young associate with a Wall Street law firm that was working on privatizations of government controlled companies in Latin America—in her case the national telephone company of Mexico. Spending months in conference rooms in Mexico City she noticed that those making the decisions on the deal—decisions that enriched a few people—were taller, lighter skinned and more European looking than those who ran copies and brought coffee. The clerks and coffee servers were shorter, darker and indigenous looking—they didn’t make any decisions and they certainly didn’t get wealthy.

Another viewpoint involved her family. Chua is from a wealthy Chinese family long resident in the Philippines where they are part of the richest (and most powerful) 1% of the population. Her grandparents had a sprawling house in a suburb of Manila attended by a score of Filipino servants who lived in a dank basement and who worked whatever hours their employers decided. Chua’s grandmother was murdered, most likely by her chauffeur. He fled and the police spent little time and energy trying to arrest him, writing off the killing of an old woman as all but justifiable given the resentment of the native population against the Chinese bourgeoisie. Amy Chua was shocked at this attitude—although she didn’t share her grandparent’s disdain for their servants she expected that the police would protect them as citizens of the Philippines.

She developed the idea of the “market dominant minority” in developing nations, looking at the Chinese in Southeast Asia—particularly Thailand and Indonesia; Caucasian dominance in majority Amerindian countries of Latin America, such as Bolivia and Peru; Indians in central Africa and Ibos in Nigeria. In each case there is tremendous resentment against the racially defined oligarchy. In some the resentment resulted in large scale slaughter, economic ruin and exile for the Chinese, Ibos and Indians.

At first glance Chua’s ideas seem counter-intuitive. How could anyone be opposed to better economic conditions and more representative government in developing nations? She shows that the actual real-world results of such reforms are often the further enrichment of those who already control most of the wealth in the nation while political power passes to those already organized to take, almost invariably the military. The combination of the rich getting a lot richer while the most corrupt acquire formal, political control is inherently unstable.

While neither a historian nor an economist, Chua has done her research, knows her subject and writes beautifully. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Eric_W.
1,920 reviews355 followers
January 3, 2010
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 marginally better off.

As an example, Chua cites the Chinese entrepreneurs in the Philippines who represent 1-2% of the population, yet own a vast majority of the businesses and wealth. She argues that for the United States to export free-market capitalism while promoting and exporting democracy is inherently destabilizing because the democratized poor majority will try to retake the wealth from the capitally dominant ethnic minority and this leads to disaster.
255 reviews1 follower
December 8, 2014
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, this book was really quite good. It's an insightful and incisive commentary on western foreign policy that truly exemplifies how the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions. I think the one sentiment that stuck with me was that we're trying to export a free market democracy when no western country has had a truly free market democracy in 50+ years. Overall, excellent read if you can get through the author's prose or you deal well with scholar-ese
Profile Image for Travelin.
461 reviews45 followers
June 7, 2021
Final Update 2/27:

Her profile really gives it away: As of 2011 she was mostly known for a different book, regarding a wildly different topic. This much older book read like a college thesis, as if someone naively cherry-picked someone else's simplistic concept, kept discovering interesting, misunderstood asides, but never challenged her original, naive thesis and never tied together facts in a meaningful way. She seems to be revealing a common bias among financial leaders, without really being their most effective spokesperson for exploitive capitalism. She is more transparent than most in admitting her bias. She is still defending Enron and ridiculing a humanitarian organization which complained about pro-Enron police.

And yet I still have to say that she can't be as stupid as she seems, as she reaches book's end. It seems altogether too transparent a pretense. The capstone example: she's aware that many people consider taxes a solution to the "problem," as suggested in my original review. She disposes of such solutions with one sentence: "To put it bluntly, there is not enough to tax, and nearly no one who can be trusted to transfer." With a footnote to someone else's paper regarding international aid. Tricky.

It doesn't seem to matter that the first third of this book is spent contradicting herself, showing time and again how ethnic Chinese minorities, 1-3% of the population, control 50% or more of the wealth in Southeast Asia. (90% of the Vietnamese economy in the 1950s!). If the ethnic Chinese have such skill running conglomerates, banks, and so on, why do they seem to keep falling down when it comes to getting taxes distributed to non-Chinese majorities in their own countries? If taxes won't work, why would voluntary contributions be more effective, at least according to her final chapter? True, no top capital tax rate exists at an international level, if you ignore contributions to the World Bank, the IMF, etc. It would be an interesting calculation to see the effect of *enforced* trickle down, through taxes, on a country-by-country basis.

I did sort of like the idea of distributing company shares to the poor. It's a shocking suggestion if it originated from her, along with a bizarre way to inject democracy directly into market capitalism, but would it work if 75% of businesses are small businesses?

Reconsidering what I wrote below, reading a little more of this book did help a little. No one should dismiss problems introduced by free market democracy, especially versions imposed by US foreign policy. A perfect example, which she doesn't seem to mention, is the hardship caused in post-Soviet Russia by a Harvard economist or two who kept advising rapid and harsh laissez-faire capitalism, all under the drunken dictatorial policies of Yeltsin.

Yes, U.S. economics is diplomacy at the end of a gun. Eisenhower knew this, and maybe, just maybe his high top tier tax rate went straight to the "military industrial complex." Yes, the U.S. only believes in Democracy on its own terms, and the United Nations and various dictators in the Middle East are really just convenient puppets, even if Amy Chua doesn't altogether disapprove. Yes, the U.S. (and China?) could contribute a higher percentage of its GDP to world aid. But what is one to think when Amy Chua suggests that improving education could increase "ethnonationalism?" Nothing.

Original review:

Bought this used, extremely suspicious that it wasn't the work of some strange, invented bias. Indeed, it addresses a problem which doesn't really exist, with solutions which may be anti-democratic.

It starts with the story of the author's aunt, who was murdered in her home by at least three of her extensive, badly treated and badly paid servants in the Phillipines. Like much of the Chinese population in the Phillipines and Asia, says the book, her aunt had a great deal of money. What is the lesson to be learned about her aunt's murder? Well, exporting democracy, claims the book, is a threat to ethnic minorities who hold most of the wealth, among others.

I see. Democracy is the problem, not economic hardship. Let me solve the book's "problem" right now.
The U.S. under Eisenhower, which, socially, was a far more racist place than today's United States, had at least an 80% tax rate on the highest income, wealthiest Americans. Taxes, like death, are the ultimate democratic force. People today simply don't care whether the wealthiest people are Chinese, Martians, or Jews, so long as the economics are treating the populace in general fairly enough.

Could some governments, like the Marcos family in the Phillipines, try to keep all the taxes for itself? Absolutely. What's my answer to that? More democracy.

The book even goes so far as to suggest, after listing a few of his major abuses (financed by the U.S.), that Marcos was ultimately a good governor, since the local Chinese population could work with him, while giving him just 10%. It was his wife, says Amy Chua, who was the stupid one, profligate even. She was also demanding a far larger cut of company revenues for herself...

About one of Amy Chua's two major examples: Democracy, she says, not economics was behind the extreme anti-Semitism in Germany's Weimar Republic. I see. She's saying that Germany didn't have anti-Semitism before the Weimar Republic? She's saying that the nature of anti-Semitism didn't get worse after hyperinflation destroyed the Weimar Republic's economics?

Let's talk about Jews and economics. Ms. Chua is exceptionally precise in describing Jewish economic leaders in the Weimar Republic and modern Russia. She does point out that Jewish people were not running the economy of the Weimar Republic. I can't find where she does the same for the U.S., although she talks a lot about U.S. free market democracy breeding ethnic hatred (against the U.S.).

It is getting more common to hear that Jews run the U.S., at least in Europe and on the internet. Huh. But Bill Gates isn't Jewish. Warren Buffet isn't Jewish. Jeff Bezos isn't Jewish. Nelson Rockefeller wasn't Jewish. Henry Ford wasn't Jewish. Woodrow Wilson wasn't Jewish. If Jews run the U.S. then how in the hell is today's Germany the exceptional world power that it is?

People in the U.S. cared a lot more whether you were Jewish when Woodrow Wilson was exporting democracy to the Weimar Republic. Luckily we care less. Tax the rich and export more democracy. The Martians should be intelligent enough to understand that taxes and democracy are better alternatives anyway.
Profile Image for  Aggrey Odera.
225 reviews43 followers
February 2, 2022
I was assigned chapter 2 of this (the one where she goes to Bolivia) for a class I’m taking with Chua, but the book ended up being a quick (and somewhat fun) read, so I ended up reading all of it. Like the class itself, the book reads like a decently curated collection of articles from The Economist, combined with some good Wikipedia-ing - PPE 201, that is. Chua is famously known as a parsimonious scholar at my law school. She makes claims that are big, the hope being that what she loses in nuance she makes up for in daring. For that reason, even before Tiger Mum, she was a Malcolm Gladwell of sorts for the legal academy: Her work discussed and enjoyed by people outside the academy for its provocative nature, but not thought highly of (nor, to be quite honest, paid much attention to) within it. She sells more books than perhaps any other law professor here, but brokers the least professional esteem. The fun part, then, was simply in looking at the many ways Chua has been wrong (and right) since the book came out in 2003. But one quickly also comes to realize that giving Chua credit for predicting in some ways the rise of the Latin American pink tide (and the right wing blowback after) is perhaps just as silly as faulting her for the many factors overlooked by her too-broad theories. In the end, the book is liberal whimsy posturing as geopolitical analysis. But it is fun to read.
Profile Image for John Sibley.
Author 11 books129 followers
February 14, 2012
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 the United States, ethnic Koreans are a market-dominant-minority compared to the African American majority.
In New York Koreans, are less than .1 percent of the population,yet own 85 percent of produce stands, 70 percent of grocery stores, 80 percent of nail salons, and 60 percent of dry cleaners. Director Spike Lee touched upon this in his classic movie " Do the right thing" .
In my home town Chicago,on the mostly black Southside[ also in the collar counties] you can easily see how the Koreans, over the past three decades, now control 80 percent of the $2.5 billion African American beauty business which historically like ' preaching' and 'burying' people was always a black business.
Amy Chau has written a riveting and powerful book.
Profile Image for Marks54.
1,336 reviews1,154 followers
April 11, 2011
This is a sharp book about the perils faced by economically prosperous ethnic minorities in countries around the world, with the ultimate point that creating too many losers in an economy can imperil democracy - as well as the winners - and lead to authoritarian rule. Short, but very well written.
5 reviews2 followers
December 10, 2012
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 contention that launching a process of democratization unhinged from the constitutional checks and balances in place in the developed world is a recipe for political violence and instability. This flawed approach characterizes the way the developed world has gone about building democracies in failed and fragile states during the last half century, and consequently (illiberal) democratization has counter intuitively planted seeds of more violence and chaos in these states, not less. Ethnic identity constitutes the major determinant of group allegiance in developing societies rather than shared national identity, further exacerbating the potential for political violence in such societies, and is recognized by both authors as a significant destabilizing factor in the face of rapid democratization.

Where these writers tend to differ is not so much in the nature of the problem – excessively rapid and illiberal democratization executed in an environment of intense Western pressure across the developing world is more likely to increase than decrease political violence, at least in the short-term - but in their views of its underlying and intermediate causes and potential remedies. For Collier, the problem of democratization leading to more violence for the world’s the “bottom billion” derives primarily from a lack of accountability and legitimacy in their state leaders and governments, and the need to cultivate a shared sense of national identity to trump and subsume sub-national ethnic identities. Chua, however, emphasizes the role of markets alongside rapid democratization as a catalyst for political violence and internal conflict by amplifying the economic (and indirectly, in some cases, the political) power of ethnic “market dominant” minorities. For Chua, the basic incongruity between the political empowerment of the previously disenfranchised majority and the market driven concentration of wealth among ethnic minorities through the process of democratization is a dangerous destabilizing force in fragile and failed states.

The keen observation that Western liberal democracies were not created in the blink of an eye but rather evolved gradually over time in incremental fashion is crucial to the criticism leveled by these authors at the way the developed world has tried to democratize the bottom billion. Both Chua and Collier share the view that the pace of recent democratization in developing countries is not simply unrealistic to effect positive change there, but fundamentally flawed and potentially quite dangerous since other critical components of liberal democracies are yet to be established these countries. Collier in particular stresses the historical importance of inter-state warfare and ethnic conflict in shaping state boundaries and forging national identities in Europe over the course of several centuries, and how these shared national identities have contributed to collective efforts to produce public goods, namely security and government accountability. Developing states have not followed the same path of war and conflict to reach independence, and therefore have not fashioned the same sense of shared identity and patriotic citizenship, impeding collective efforts to create public goods. There are therefore structural impediments to achieving strong democracies in developing states highlighted by these authors, such as the lack of government accountability, the weak rule of law, the absence of shared identity and few or no constitutional protections for the human rights of minorities. Given the deep ethnic divisions common to many developing societies, and the long legacy of autocratic rule and frequent coup d’états since independence characterizing to the politics of developing countries, the potential for political violence is considerable in the face of elections without economic, legal or institutional reforms. Chua and Collier share this core sentiment about the dangers of overly rapid democratization in the developing world before these structural obstacles and poor provision of public goods remain unaltered.

Both writers appreciate there is an important economic dimension to this problem of rapid democratization, although they do not describe the economic dimension in similar terms or lend equal weight to it in their analyses. Collier develops a fairly subtle argument in this respect around the evidence he has gathered showing that democracy is likely to reduce political violence provided a certain level of average income in society is met (i.e. the middle-income level), but likely to increase it if average incomes fall short of that level. But for Collier this evidence confirms that the underlying causes of the problem are not so much economic as political: that in countries where governments lack accountability and legitimacy (typically low-income states), democracy increases the prospects of violence. Middle-income countries tend to already be on the path to political and economic reform, with higher levels of government accountability and legitimacy, so democracy serves to further enforce those trends, undermining the basis for group grievances and thus reducing prospects of violence.

In contrast to Collier’s analysis, Chua attributes the relationship between political violence and democratization to economic factors, particularly the role of markets that often accompany the democratization process in the form exported by Western nations to fragile and failed states. Chua argues that extreme economic disparities apparent in developing countries lie at the heart of the potential for political conflict due to the way wealth is concentrated among the political elites and market-dominant minorities, fueling envy, resentment and fear among the poverty stricken majority. In her view globalization has only exacerbated these extremes of wealth in the developing world and heightened the economic dominance of a small minority in these states. Chua places particular emphasis on the ethnic makeup of market-dominant minorities in developing societies as a pivotal factor in creating this volatile mix of a politically empowered but economically deprived majority by way of rapid free-market democratization (in this analysis the United States is also guilty of being a market dominant minority to the rest of the world as the economic engine of global capitalism, spurring anti-Americanism from friends, foes and competitors alike). The consequent potential for violence is seen to be more severe where ethnic market-dominant minorities exist, causing a backlash against either markets, democracy, the market-dominant minorities themselves, or some combination among them. This argument bears some similarity to Collier’s focus on the detrimental and divisive effects of ethnically based loyalties in developing countries preceding national identity, but Chua elevates the importance of the economic power of these minorities and their alienation from wider society to a far greater degree than Collier. Consequently her criticism of the efforts of the developed world to democratize fragile and failed states is decidedly more Marxian (and controversial) in nature than Collier, and seeks to disentangle the positive political potential of democracy as a force of freedom from what she sees as the negative economic downside of globalization and free markets that have spread alongside democracy to developing countries in the past thirty years.

The prescriptions offered by Collier and Chua to address the problem of democratization fueling further political violence and instability vary considerably. In Chua’s case part of the solution rests in finding ways to allow poor majorities in developing states to participate in the wealth effects of markets and to reduce income disparities. Chua focuses on ameliorating the economic and political dominance of minorities by extending education and employment opportunities to the uneducated and dirt poor majorities. She also advocates wealth redistribution through tax reforms, titling programs to spread land ownership across the population, shares in the ownership of state companies and markets for the poor, and government interventions to rebalance wealth across ethnic groups; a form of affirmative action for repressed, indigenous majorities in developing states. Finally, Chua is confident in the power of market-dominant minorities (including the US vis-a-vis the rest of the world) to change their negative image by providing public goods like healthcare, education and charity to society and the potency of symbolic acts by leaders of state to bridge ethnic divides, such as Nelson Mandela’s support for South Africa’s white rugby team in 1995. Recognizing and addressing group grievances for Chua is very much the name of the game: the onus is on prevention by tackling the causes of political violence. This approach therefore inevitably leads to the suggestion that the process of democratization itself must be reexamined and alternative versions of democracy explored beyond free-market democracy. But at no point in ‘World on Fire’ does Chua see reason to abandon democracy promotion in failed and fragile states, and on this she shares common ground with the optimism of Larry Diamond, as does her contention that alternative available models of democracy lend support to calls for the spread of democracy in the world.

Unlike Amy Chua, Paul Collier is of the view that political violence cannot be prevented by addressing group grievances. Instead, Collier advocates harnessing such grievances where possible to bring about positive social and political change. One intriguing proposal he offers along these lines is to harness the power of political coups in developing states rather than seeking to eliminate them since the very threat of a coup can serve to discipline governments and force them to embrace the democratic process. This thoughtful argument approaches some of the logical thinking behind Diamond’s optimism about the future prospects for democracy in the world based on internal factors and the recognition among autocratic leaders since the early 1990s that their political survival cannot be sustained through endless violence, that they are increasingly threatened by regime fractures, and that they therefore have no option but to embrace the democratic process. Collier also shares Diamond’s optimism around external factors and the ability of the international community to foster democratic change in developing states through a variety of mechanisms: foreign aid conditioning to direct the flow of funds towards those most in need based on verification of public spending, introducing international standards of conduct to elections to stamp out sham elections and vote rigging, and the supply of security through international military bodies who abide by a set of clear guidelines for action. Collier’s prescriptions are therefore anchored in the notion that political violence is best addressed through measures that make violence more difficult, rather than in attempting to eradicate the grievances that give rise to political violence.
Profile Image for Brett.
623 reviews24 followers
March 18, 2011
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 genocide--of those minorities with disproportionally large economic presence.

The first half of the book is Chua's description of market-dominant minorities in various cultures: the Chinese in southeast Asia, "whites" in Latin America, Jews in Russia, and the market dominent ethnic groups of Africa, including those still benefitting from colonialist histories. In the second half of the book, she describes some of the atrocities that have arisen in combination with free markets and democratization.

What I thought was missing was a cogent analysis of how market-dominant ethnic minorities became so prevalent beyond some vague notions about cultural work-ethic. I would have liked to hear Chua talk more about relative educational opportunity, access to resources and capital, and to see more of an emphasis on colonialist heritage. In addition, while the problems that Chua identifies are certainly real, I'm not sure what alternative to democratization there is to believe in. Clearly, a rapidly democratizing society with extreme wealth imbalance does pose risks, but it's not palatable to suggest that the status quo is acceptable either. Surely we must be able to somehow encourage democratization while also mitigating the resentment that can be directed at market-dominant minorities.

It's a complex topic, and I think Chua's book would be stronger if it were about 100 pages longer, giving her appropriate space to reflect on some of the issues she raises in greater detail.
Profile Image for Doug.
197 reviews12 followers
October 17, 2011
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 modernization and globalization. Sierra Leone was a classic case between markets and democracy in the face of a market-dominant minority – here, the entrepreneurial Lebanese, who for decades controlled the country’s diamond mines. There was a backlash against democracy, an extended period of crony capitalism, and then the inevitable explosion.

The author uses the term 'minority' very liberally in identifying market-dominated minorities - ethnic minorities who, for whatever reason, tend under market conditions to dominate economically, often to a startling extent, the 'indigenous' majorities around them - but if anything, she can expand that definition. Replace that term with 'corporate executives' or 'oligarchs' and it's not a bad proxy for the direction the United States is headed. I wish there was more discussion on what policy changes could be implemented to address the problems, her main recommendation that the market-dominant minorities should play nice with other people doesn't seem very practical or leave me very optimistic.

Overall, an interesting read, and any book that takes jabs at Thomas Friedman gets bonus points, globalization isn't the solution to everything and the cause of a lot of other problems.

Fun fact, the author of this book also wrote Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
Profile Image for Willy.
113 reviews14 followers
June 19, 2016
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 religious/ethnic structure, culture, and in some (though not all, or even the majority) cases, preexisting capital.

the author posits that everyone, on average, tends to benefit from economic liberalization, but these groups tend to benefit vastly more.

examples of these groups: Lebanese in certain parts of Africa, the Chinese in Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines, Igbo in Nigeria (called the 'Jews of Africa), Jews in several regions, European settlers in Latin American countries (not just old family aristocracy in Latin america--- somewhat recently settlers as well), and many many more examples.

the book documents the populist backlash that very frequently
accompanies disproportionate success, the anti democratic backlash from the minority, and the most disastrous state of all- ethnic violence on a large scale.

highly recommended, though I will probably read other accounts/studies of ethnic conflict as well to get a broader understanding of the field.
Profile Image for Russell.
140 reviews6 followers
December 3, 2007
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 globalization softening needs be pushed for by the United States to protect both the market dominant minorities and the locals.

My thoughts are that these Jews, Chinese, and others are, in fact, the forefront, the pioneers of our modern civilization. A civilization that succors and sustains us. Why should we try and handicap them? They are us.

This book is a great companion to Yuri Slezkine's "The Jewish Century."
Profile Image for Sarah.
12 reviews
October 2, 2008
In the first few pages of World on Fire, Chua divulges her own family's tragedy in connection with the effects of exporting free-market democracy. Such a dramatic introduction to the issue drew me into this book, and encouraged me to trudge through some of the economic jargon and statistics, as the sensitive topic was all informed by the author's personal loss.
Having witnessed this phenomenon with the Chinese in Southeast Asia prior to reading the book, it was provocative to rethink my own observations in terms of Chua's theories and research. Ultimately, the ideas in this book informed the basis of my Fulbright proposal to photograph a Chinese minority in Vietnam, where history has already proven Chua's thesis.
Profile Image for Cherie.
3,331 reviews27 followers
September 27, 2007
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 which the US is viewed throughout the world (and how it does business), and Chua feels that it is obvious why we are hated--b/c of our image outside is not necessarily untrue. Very fascinating.
Profile Image for Gwern.
263 reviews2,426 followers
June 19, 2013
That was actually pretty good (better than one might guess from reading the discussions of her later tiger-mother book), many interesting observations. Her paradigm seems pretty generally applicable outside the First World. I took extensive notes.
Profile Image for Shawn.
229 reviews20 followers
September 2, 2015
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 and free markets in places where the majority of the population harbor a hatred for a minority political class. Everywhere, free markets invariably concentrate wealth into the hands of a market-dominant minority, while democracy increases the political power of the more impoverished majority. Thus, the simultaneous promotion of free markets and democracy is simply asking for trouble because it pits a frustrated indigenous majority, easily aroused by demagogic politicians, against a wealthy minority.

Free markets do not spread wealth evenly. Instead they concentrate glaring wealth in the hands of a minority. Around the world, market-dominant minorities control virtually all of the most valuable and advanced sectors of the economy, monopolizing access to wealth, and producing seething, ethnic resentment among the indigenous majorities around them.

Chua demonstrates how the simultaneous spread of markets and democracy causes hatred and ethnic violence throughout the world. She shows how democracy is too often inimical to the interests of the very minorities who are encouraging it. Chua’s point, in a nutshell, is that, democracy shouldn’t be forced upon developing counties until an assessment is made of the potential repercussions resulting from having ones fate determined by the masses.

Democratization has been a central pillar of American foreign policy. We have been exporting free market capitalism to the world; oblivious to the ethnic hatred and instability we are helping to breed. In developing countries, the United States promotes raw, laissez-fair capitalism, right along with universal suffrage. As a result, the forces of democratization and marketization collide. Markets enrich the minority while democratization increases the political voice of the impoverished majority. The result is an ethnically charged political pressure cooker.

Chua effectively demonstrates that the simultaneous pursuit of free markets and democracy hasn’t led to peace and prosperity, but rather to confiscation, autocracy, and mass slaughter. Chua cites a frightening number of case study examples. Chua gives us a global tour of the world’s class conflicts. Only a few of them are reviewed as follows:


In Zimbabwe, whites made up just one percent of the population and yet controlled 70% of the best land. These whites, originally form Britain and Ireland, did not come to own the land legitimately. The original colonizers duped, killed, and expropriated their way to control the best land, leaving the indigenous majority to scrubby, marginal areas.

In the 1930’s, “white supremacy” was legislated in Zimbabwe. This included laws excluding blacks from ownership of arable farmland, from trades and professions, and from settling in white areas, including all towns and cities. The result was that blacks were forced into what essentially amounted to slave labor.

However, with the coming of democracy, Robert Mugabe rose to power and he encouraged the violent seizure of white-owned commercial farmland. Millions of dollars worth of sugar, tobacco, and maize have gone up in flames, as gangs of landless people invaded, looted, and burned white-owned farms. These assaults were encouraged by Mugabe, who designated millions of acres of land for confiscation. This is the result of democratization in the face of a 1% colonizer-minority. The results have been catastrophic, as Zimbabwe’s currency, stock market, tourism, and foreign investment have all collapsed.

Not just in Zimbabwe, but all over Africa, handfuls of whites have engorged themselves on natural resources and human labor, creating enclaves of spectacular wealth that is surrounded by mounting hatred among indigenous peoples. In Zimbabwe, in recent years, furious mobs wielding sticks, axes, crossbows, iron bars, sharpened bicycle spokes, and AK-47 rifles have invaded and ripped apart white-owned commercial farms. Usually in groups of hundreds, these mobs ransack and destroy, hurling stones and gasoline bombs, singing revolutionary songs, drinking crates of looted beer, fighting, raping, and abducting like wild dogs.


In Ethiopia, Eritreans historically constituted a starkly successful merchant class concentrated in Addis Ababa. Although Eritreans have lived in Ethiopia as long as the country has existed, the government suddenly stripped them of their citizenship and declared them non-citizens. The Eritreans have been expelled. The deported Eritreans were forced to sign over their property to full blooded Ethiopians.

South Africa

In South Africa, 77% of the population is black and 11 percent white. The whites consist of Afrikaners, descendants of 17th century Dutch and French Huguenot settlers, or British entrepreneurs. Generations ago, these whites turned the black majority into a mass pool of uneducated, disenfranchised, dehumanized labor. The blacks were held in check by a police state.

Today, 65% of black South Africans live in abject poverty. AIDS is pandemic, accounting for 40% of all adult deaths. Whites own 80% of the land and virtually all of the mines, banks, and major corporations. The unemployment rate among blacks is 48%.


Nambia was colonized by the Germans in the 1890’s and they turned the black Nambians into forced labor. After WW II, Nambia was annexed by South Africa and the land was parceled into farms for white settlers. The black majority was relegated to tribal land reservations. Today, Nambia has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the world. Most blacks engage in communal subsistence farming. A tiny minority of whites own the most productive land and control all sectors of the economy. Nambia has the worlds largest uranium mine, but it is owned by the British. In 2000, De Beers recovered roughly 570,000 carats of high quality diamonds in Nambia, yet sixty percent of Nambia’s blacks lack even access to sanitary toilets.

Sierra Leone

The first Lebanese arrived in Sierra Leone around 1895. Before long Lebanese traders could be found on every street corner peddling mirrors, beads, pocketknives, jewelry, and cheap imported textiles. The Lebanese also purchased rice and palm products form the Africans, which they exported.

Eventually the Lebanese opened shops. By the 1930’s, the Lebanese controlled the road transport industry. By the 1950’s, they dominated the agricultural and diamond mining sectors of the economy. By the early 1990’s, even though less than 1% of the population, the Lebanese dominated all of the most productive sectors of the economy including gold, finance, retail, construction, and real estate.

In 1999, as a result of modernization and globalization, members of Sierra Leone’s rebel force, the Revolutionary United Front, slaughtered an estimated six thousand civilians, raped thousands of women, and hacked off the limbs of thousands more. The rebels took over the diamond mines from the Lebanese, with disastrous economic consequences. Many of the Lebanese left the country. Because the illiterate majority couldn’t operate them efficiently, the diamond fields are now under the control of the United Nations. About 70-80% of Sierra Leone’s population is illiterate and lives in desperate disease-ridden poverty.

This dynamic is similar throughout West Africa, which consists of the world’s poorest countries. Africa fits solidly into a larger global pattern wherein the same basic processes are destabilizing the world.


In Rwanda, a fourteen percent Tutsi minority historically dominated the Hutu majority in what essentially amounted to a feudal kingdom, with the Tutsis overlords and the Hutus their vassals. Then Belgian colonizers arrived and made the line between Tutsi and Hutu more divisive. Because the Belgians ruled Rwanda indirectly, through the Tutsi chiefs, they openly favored the Tutsi, giving them superior education and positions, while the Hutu were reduced to a more humiliated pool of forced labor.

Then, in 1957, quite remarkably, the Belgians started promoting a transition to independent democracy. As might be expected, the majority Hutus won 90 percent of the top political posts. In 1994, Hutus killed 800,000 Tutsis within 3 months, hacking them to death with machetes. Soon after, the Hutus conducted campaigns of pillage, arson, and murder against Tutsis, displacing and killing many thousands of them. Most of the victims were well-educated Tutsi men, but women and children were killed as well, often clubbed or speared to death. Radio announcers encouraged Hutu listeners to kill all Tutsis and not to take pity on women or children.

Huto extremists and Hutu militias promoted genocide like a carnival romp, calling for the extermination of the entire Tutsi population. Hutus young and old rose to the task. In just one hundred days, ordinary Hutus killed eight hundred thousand Tutsis, mostly with machetes. Neighbors hacked neighbors to death in their homes and colleagues hacked colleagues to death in their workplaces. Doctors killed their patients and schoolteachers killed their pupils. Within days, the Tutsi population was all but eliminated.


The author describes the white minority in Kenya as “Kenyan Cowboys”, who are descendants of former colonists. The Kenyan Cowboys endeavor to preserve themselves in a time warp of British colonialism. While the great majority of Kenya’s 31 million blacks struggle to survive on less than two dollars a day, these Kenyan Cowboys spend their days sipping tea, playing bridge, polo, and cricket. On weekends they go on safari and in the summer they jet set off to Europe. These fun loving decadent, bafflingly immature, young men and women spend the rest of their time frequenting anachronistic private clubs. Although discrimination supposedly ended in the 1960’s, all the club members are white and all the staff is black, much like in many country clubs in the American South. Today Kenya periodically explodes with vicious ethnic riots and looting.


Indians and British colonialists were historically a starkly dominant minority in Burma. However, twice in the early 20th century, enraged Burmans proceeded to slaughter Indians in an orgy of violence. Today there are very few Indians left in Burma. However, a new minority has moved in: the Chinese.

Burma has one of the most repugnant military governments. The government seized power in 1988, after gunning down thousands of unarmed demonstrators. This government held elections in 1991, but refused to honor the landslide victory of Noble Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, instead placing her under house arrest. The government then launched forth a rigorous capitalism that ushered in a takeover by the Chinese. The capitalism brought virtually no benefits to the indigenous population.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Thousands of Chinese immigrants swept into Burma and now own nearly all of the shops, hotels, restaurants, and prime real estate, dominating at every level of society. Burma produces much in the way of natural resources, like teak, jade, rubies, jade, and sapphires; but the benefits accrue almost exclusively to the Chinese. One Chinese-owned jewelry company reportedly controls 100 gem mines and produces over 2,000 kilograms of raw rubies a year.

Governmental officials are paid off by the Chinese at every level. The vast majority of indigenous Burmans cannot compete with the 5% Chinese minority. They live in extreme rural poverty and typically engage in subsistence farming. Most have no more than a 5th grade education. Many thousands of poor, displaced Burmans live in shantytowns on the outskirts of Mandalay, within eyeshot of the fancy mansions of government officials or wealthy Chinese.

As might be expected, just below the surface, anti-Chinese hostility seethes among the oppressed majority and alcoholism is sharply on the rise. Ironically the indigenous Burmans mostly drink Tiger Beer that is manufactured in China.

This same scenario is characteristic of virtually every country in Southeast Asia, where there is stark Chinese dominance and intense resentment among indigenous majorities. In places like Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, ethnic Chinese tycoons, some richer than entire nations, oversee multibillion-dollar financial empires.

The Philippines

Two-thirds of the 80 million ethnic Filipinos live on less than two dollars a day. Forty percent spend their entire lives in temporary shelters. Seventy percent own no land. A third have no access to sanitation.

The Chinese are just 1% of the Philippines population, but control 60% of the private economy. Millions of Filipinos work for the Chinese, who dominate industry and commerce at every level of society. All menial jobs, domestic servants, squatters, and peasants are Filipinos.

Hundreds of Chinese are kidnapped every year by ethnic Filipinos and many victims are brutally murdered, even after ransom is paid. Unlike in other southeast Asian countries, the Chinese in the Philippines share their economic dominance with a powerful and glamorous Spanish blooded gentry class, known as hacienderos. The hacienderos still live like feudal lords and control almost all of the land in the countryside.

The most notorious case of crony capitalism in recent history is that of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Ferdinand, the illegitimate son of a Chinese lawyer, placed the entire Philippines under martial law in 1972, so that he could kick crony capitalism into high gear. Using funds from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the U.S. Government, Marcos suppressed all political opposition, jailing rival politician Benigno Aquino. Marcos granted a handful of cronies massive monopolies in exchange for payoffs.

Ferdinand’s wife, Imelda Marcos, made herself a silent partner in every major corporation. Imelda was declared one of the ten richest women in the world by Cosmopolitan magazine in 1975. On a one-day shopping spree in New York City, Imelda spent two million dollars on jewelry. She spent some 40 million on art, most of which turned out to be fakes. She had a collection of private aircraft and she traveled with an entourage of four jets, one just for her luggage. She bought the Crown Building on Fifth Avenue in New York for 51 million and the Herald Center for 60 million.

Imelda Marcos

Just before the “People Power” revolution that toppled Marcos, and shortly before Ferdinand and Imelda fled the Philippines, then vice-president George Bush visited the Philippines and told Marcos: “We love your commitment to democratic principals.


In Boliva the ethnic underclass is huge, encompassing the great majority of the Bolivian people, most of whom have no access to heat (even though it gets freezing cold at night), clean water, or medical care. The life expectancy of Bolivian miners is 45 years because of lung-destroying silicon particulates they inhale all day. Whites make up 5 to 15% of the population, mestizos 20-30%, and Indians 60-65%.

The Amerindian majority is largely excluded from the economy. Most live in poverty, with no secondary education, no access to sanitation, and terrible teeth. Bolivia’s whites enjoy wildly disproportionate wealth and status. Private schools, foreign degrees, international business contacts, and fluency in English, French, and German, reinforce the market dominance of the whites over the majority, many of which speak only indigenous languages.

Bolivia is one of only four countries – the others are Peru, Guatemala, and Ecuador – in which Amerindians still constitute a majority of the population. In other Latin American countries, like Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, the indigenous peoples have been largely extinguished.

The disdain of the Spanish elite for the colored masses is a deeply ingrained feature of the history of every Latin American nation. The phenomenon of a light-skinned, landowning, western-educated elite minority, is a stark reality in all but a few Latin American countries.

Revolution in 1951 extended universal suffrage and free education to the Indian majority, nationalized all major mines, and expropriated six thousand vast estates to redistribute them in family sized plots among the Amerindians. This was not a communist takeover, but simply a majority-supported confiscation from a market-dominant minority. These confiscations do not target the institution of private property, but rather just the hated ethnic minority.

The Amerindian


Mexican officials, lawyers, and business executives are light-skinned, foreign educated, and have elegant sounding European names. Conversely, the people who do photocopying, clean floors, and other menial tasks, are shorter, darker, and more Indian blooded. Lightness of skin correlates directly and glaringly with wealth and social status.

In the state of Chiapas, just 35 years ago, Amerindians were forbidden to walk on the sidewalks or look lighter skinned Mexicans in the eye. The line separating the rich and poor consists of old Spanish wealth, typically rooted in the plantation, or more recently in entrepreneurial Jewish immigrants.

The psychological effects of the Spanish Conquest have been crushing and lasting. The Spanish missionaries, backed by Spanish military force, did their best to destroy indigenous rituals, traditions, and kinship systems, all viewed as incompatible with the Christian faith. The Spanish confiscated indigenous land. The communal landholdings of Amerindians were turned over to the plantation economy. By the early 20th century, over 80% of rural Mexican families were landless. Large agricultural estates emerged that were owned by a handful of Spanish-blooded families, at the expense of a demoralized, expropriated, rural proletariat of Amerindians. As elsewhere, alcoholism became an outlet for indigenous frustration. This system is intact in most every Latin American country today except Boliva, Mexico, Cuba, and Peru, which have enacted agrarian reform.


Profile Image for Babak Fakhamzadeh.
446 reviews33 followers
December 14, 2013
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 minorities, though it seems the more common term now is simply dominant minorities, which in most non-western economies dominate their economies. In south east Asia, it's the Chinese, in much of south America and southern Africa, it's whites, in west Africa it's the Lebanese, but it's also the Ibo and other regional tribes in regions of Africa which are not historically their own and, to some extent but more importantly, perceived, the jews in Russia.

The issue with market-dominant minorities is that the west's focus on introducing laissez-faire capitalism together with universal suffrage as the cure for the woes of the developing world, in these locales, actually breeds conflict, as a rich, economy controlling, minority is pitted against a poor majority which ends up controlling politics while having little social mobility nor the ability or the resources to lift the bulk of the population out of poverty.
Interestingly, though anti-globalists typically understand that the capitalist modus operandi fosters, to some extent, the poverty gap which is present in many developing countries, they don't see, or perhaps don't want to see, that making these countries more democratic, would actually be counter productive as it won't give the poor access to the economic power of the select few, who are not just the well-off, but also often a distinct ethnic group.

Chua, who herself comes from a well-off Chinese family with extensive business interests in the Philippines, points out that, in the west, laissez-faire, or cut-throat, capitalism was never introduced hand in hand with universal suffrage, giving developing countries different problems to deal with than the west itself ever had to face. Also, she shows that economies lead by market-dominant minorities are at risk to go down one of three roads:

+ A backlash against markets, by the politically empowered poor, against the market-dominant minority's wealth. An example for this is Zimbabwe.

+ A backlash against democracy, by the market-dominant minority. Examples of this are economies which are characterized as 'crony capitalism', like Ferdinand Marcos' Chinese-protective dictatorship and Siaka Stevens' Sierra Leone.

+ Physical violence directed at the market-dominant minority. An example of this is the Rwandan genocide, where the market-dominant minority was only of a perceived ethnicity, as the barrier between Hutus and Tutsis was very permeable.

Besides economies with market-dominant minorities being powder kegs of revolt, inciting frustration and hatred in the poor, the US has been the market-dominant minority of the world, enforcing their rules on the poor people of the world, either directly or through institutions such as the World Bank or the IMF, which are heavily influenced by the US.
In this context, Thabo Mbeki, in a 2002 speech, talked of global apartheid.

After the book's introduction, most of the rest of it is just a long list of examples supporting Chua's claims, which does get a bit tiring as the central thesis is quite obvious.

Unfortunately, her list of suggested remedies is rather vague, effectively coming down to her suggesting that the market dominant minorities should take up active roles in alleviating poverty in their respective locales.

Chua points out that, currently, in the west, there are no examples of market dominant minorities but that, in the past, there were, referring to the US south in the first half of the last century and the, in part perceived, market dominant Jews of pre-world war 2 Germany. On top of this, the west deploying mechanisms for wealth distribution to alleviate the effects of capitalism while slowly introducing universal suffrage allowed for the west to construct the welfare states they are.
However, the fact that currently no market dominant minorities exist in the west doesn't mean that no resentment can build up against the market dominant classes. With currently, all western countries slowly dismantling what is the welfare state, dissatisfaction with the market and its effects is growing, which will not unlikely result in both a political backlash and violent protests. Most recently, obvious examples of these are Greece, Iceland and France.

Unfortunately, in the long run, there doesn't seem to be a way to put the capitalist genie back in the bottle without a global catastrophe or global rescinding of capitalist values. If one or a group of countries will try to structurally mitigate the effects of capitalism, the money will just flow to countries with more relaxed laws and, combined with that, more repression of its population, making it practically impossible for any individual country to push the redistribution of wealth, necessary to keep the market dominant classes from becoming excessively powerful over the politically dominant majority.
Profile Image for Cole.
10 reviews17 followers
March 3, 2020
Woke AF.

This book makes me question some of my notions and makes me think more deeply than most other books I’ve read recently. As current news, it’s out-of-date, but it’s especially interesting to see that some of the author’s predictions have come true.

It’s nuanced, and I’m not sure of I agree with it all. Maybe I’m experiencing cognitive dissonance. Aaargh!

The author’s point about the USA not having a pure free-market economy nor direct democracy while trying to force those on other developing nations seems obviously true to me. Her explanations about why free-market economics and democracy don’t work as well in some cultures as others seem really insightful. Not politically-correct stuff by US standards.

Challenging for me. I’m re-reading some parts to try to better understand.
Profile Image for Gold Dust.
233 reviews
November 6, 2020
Bringing democracy and free markets to countries is the new colonialism. It seems good intentioned on the surface, but underneath it has the goal of generating profit for a small group of wealthy outsiders while keeping the indigenous masses poor. Unfortunately for the rich, democracy gives the poor masses power to fight against the rich minority. “As markets enrich the market-dominant minority, democratization increases the political voice and power of the frustrated majority. The competition for votes fosters the emergence of demagogues who scapegoat the resented minority, demanding an end to humiliation, and insisting that the nation’s wealth be reclaimed by its ‘true owners’” (124).

“The version of capitalism being promoted outside the West today is essentially laissez-faire and rarely includes any significant redistributive mechanisms” (195). “In some of the poorest countries in the world, the tax rate for the very wealthy is effectively zero” (267). After capitalism and democracy is brought to these countries, the majority of people in them stay poor. Their income may only increase by a few cents per day (37). Meanwhile, a minority of people, often who are not the same race/ethnicity as the majority of the people in that country, get extremely rich. “Small improvements are overwhelmed by the majority’s continuing poverty and the hated minority’s extraordinary economic success, invariably including their control of the ‘crown jewels’ of the economy” (187). Bringing democracy and free markets to these poor countries seems to be just a way for the wealthy in developed countries to further enrich themselves or their friends. It’s how they’re able to basically steal the natural resources of that country while the wealth is not given to the majority of inhabitants there. “Despite immense amounts of Western aid, the disparity between the rich and poor in Cairo had, if anything, intensified” (219). “The United States, rather than the developing world, has been the overwhelming beneficiary of globalization” (234). “Multinational companies are siphoning off the wealth of poor countries” (Michel Fortin of Africana Plus, p. 248).

Consequences of exporting free markets and democracy (125):
1. Backlash against markets (revolution, nationalizing wealth similar to socialism—this is what happened to Venezuela [143])
2. Backlash against democracy (government colludes with the rich minorities, or the rich minority becomes the government)
3. Ethnic violence, genocide (like what the Nazis did to the Jews)

Regarding #1:
The problem with giving wealth or land to the poor people is that they often don’t know how to use it, and end up wasting it (137). If they’ve done nothing but consume all their lives, they don’t know how to produce. For this strategy to be effective, the government should have forced the wealthy minority to teach the poor how to operate things before expelling them from the country. Or maybe the government could make a law forcing the wealthy minorities to hire local poor people and train them in their company, and pay them fair wages.
Despite nationalizations happening in Latin/South American countries, “within a few decades after the early wave of nationalizations, all the countries of Latin America swung back to free market, pro-foreign investment regimes. From Mexico to Venezuela, from Bolivia to Brazil, elite leaders—sometimes from the military, sometimes from the landowning class—aggressively reprivatized land, industry, mines, oil, and railroads, generating economic growth while reinforcing the power of the market-dominant ‘white’ minority’” (159).

Regarding #2:
In the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos “placed the entire Philippines under martial law in 1972 on the pretext of protecting the Philippines from the threat of a Communist takeover—a threat now widely acknowledged to have been a Marcos fabrication. A series of terrorist attacks, including the bombing of department stores, private companies, waterworks, even government buildings, all turned out to have been masterminded by Marcos himself” (154). Things like this have happened in history, and yet most people in America seem to think that it’s impossible that the US government could do similar with 9/11. If it happened in the Philippines, it could happen anywhere. Don’t be naive to think *your* authority figures can be trusted. Humans are capable of great evil.

Regarding #3:
Sadly, violent protesting often doesn’t target the true culprits of corruption or theft, but takes it out on people of the same race who have nothing to do with it (280). This happens in the US with riots. People get upset over a cop killing someone. And what do they do? They go around smashing windows, burning things down, looting, etc. This doesn’t get revenge on the killer cop. It doesn’t help the family of the victim. It just makes the city worse. It is not justice.

How the author proposes to solve the problem of the poor masses hating the rich minority:
1. Coerced assimilation and cultural eradication (180). Used successfully in Thailand. Government should declare all people in the country as the same race so that people don’t see themselves as different from one another. Make people with foreign names change their names (184). Don’t allow people to send money out of the country (184). Make all speak the same language, and teach kids in the same language. Encourage intermarriage. “Everyone is a mestizo” (49). (Although P.58 has a numbered list of 16 different classifications for races or “castas.”) So America encouraging cultural differences and not making Latino immigrants learn English is harmful because it continues the US majority viewing them as outsiders. “By raising ethnic consciousness, they may inadvertently and indirectly increase ethnic conflict” (160).
2. Taxation to provide free things to the poor (192). (As I thought before I read this book, giving the poor things like food stamps and section 8 housing keeps them thankful and dependent on the government, not likely to want to stir up revolution to overthrow it. And also not likely to try to get themselves out of poverty.) But since the wealthy/powerful probably want to set up markets in these poor countries for their own selfish gain, they are unlikely to want taxation to hinder their profit making. The things the U.S. enjoys, like tax-funded things, minimum wage, and labor laws would defeat the purpose of establishing a market there. Companies invest in poor countries for cheap labor, not so they have to follow all the same profit-sucking rules that they do in the U.S.
3. “Hold off on democracy until free markets produce enough economic and social development to make democracy sustainable” (261).
4. Educate the masses in school (264).
5. Give the poor property rights (268). I can see why this would fail. Poor people in some of these countries just have a shack that is a foot away from another shack. They have no front or back yard. Their land is just the piece their shack sits on. If they put it up for sale, who would buy it? It would be pretty worthless. Only farmers would have land of value.
6. Give the poor ownership of company stocks (268-269). This also won’t work IMO. The poor want to use their money right away. As soon as they got stock, they’d sell it and not have it anymore. They can’t wait years for it to accumulate wealth before they sell it. Money tied up in stock is of no use to the poor.
7. Affirmative action (269). I find this to be an unrealistic solution too. It works in the U.S. because the amount of minorities applying for jobs and colleges are relatively small (except for Asians) compared to the white majority. But the poor majorities in these foreign countries would all be competing to get into the same job or company. With affirmative action, the one in charge would have to fill all the openings with natives, but that will still mean that there won’t be enough openings to help everybody. It was tried in Malaysia; it “helped to create a substantial Malay middle class,” but most Malays are still in poverty (271).
8. “Voluntary generosity by market-dominant minorities” (283). Maybe this is why rich people in the US so often donate to charity. I used to think it was just for tax write-offs, but maybe it’s also so that they can deflect envy and hatred and instead make the poorer masses admire them.

My own ideas for peace:
1. Western nations could choose to stop interfering in other countries’ business. They claim they want to help, but the majority of natives in those countries do not rise out of poverty and just resent the rich minority that rules over them. So let them fend for themselves alone. The poor masses can then revolt agains their own ethnic leaders instead of ours. This advice will likely not be taken, because the companies seem to want to set up shop in those poor countries for their own selfish reasons: taking their resources (oil, diamonds) and cheap labor.
2. If foreign companies are setting up businesses in the poor nation, the companies should hire natives. Those who are employed should have the right to vote. But the poor masses should not, because they will vote for someone who encourages violence against the rich minority.
3. Western nations should refuse to trade with countries guilty of human rights abuses. Companies are unlikely to do the right thing unless they are pressured financially. Western governments can boycott the foreign countries if they don’t follow our labor laws.

An idea for black reparations in the US: free college tuition!

Last comment: The author said, “A recent number-one country song celebrates not knowing ‘the difference between Iraq and Iran’ (288). If she’s talking about the song “Were You There When the World Stopped Turning?” By Alan Jackson, those lyrics are not celebrating. They are humble. The singer is basically saying, “I don’t know much, but I know this....”
Profile Image for Rowland Pasaribu.
376 reviews69 followers
December 21, 2017
Ada banyak sekali buku tentang globalisasi, banyak yang mengatakan hal yang hampir sama. Yang ini berbeda. Memang jarang sekali membaca buku tentang globalisasi dimana etnisitas adalah inti argumennya. Itu pasti ada kaitannya dengan fakta bahwa sebagian besar penulis buku semacam itu berwarna putih dan dari barat. Penulis buku ini adalah seorang Cina-Filipina. Ini juga mengejutkan karena, sayangnya, ada sedikit tulisan Cina tentang etnisitas. Tapi buku ini adalah permata. Bukannya segala sesuatu yang menurut Amy Chua benar - bukan - tapi temanya berbeda, kaya dan menarik.

Titik awalnya adalah bahwa di banyak negara berkembang, minoritas etnis kecil yang seringkali sangat kecil memiliki kekuatan ekonomi yang sangat tidak proporsional. Seperti yang dia tunjukkan, ini tidak benar di barat: sebaliknya, kita terbiasa dengan etnis minoritas kecil yang berada dalam situasi yang berlawanan, posisi ekonomi yang sangat kurang beruntung. Kasus klasiknya adalah Asia Tenggara, di mana orang Cina, biasanya sebagian kecil dari populasi, menikmati posisi ekonomi yang sangat dominan. Di Indonesia, orang China menyumbang 1% dari populasi dan lebih dari setengah kekayaan. Hal yang sama berlaku dalam berbagai tingkat di Filipina, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia dan Vietnam. Filipina

Seperti yang dikemukakan Chua, minoritas yang kaya dan kuat menarik kebencian di mana-mana: tetapi bila minoritas tersebut berbeda secara etnis - dan sangat terlihat - maka kebencian itu dapat membawa muatan berbahaya. "Di Indonesia, jutaan orang Filipina bekerja untuk orang Cina: hampir tidak ada pekerjaan Cina untuk orang Filipina. Orang Cina mendominasi industri dan perdagangan di setiap tingkat ... semua milyarder Filipina keturunan Tionghoa. Sebaliknya, semua pekerjaan kasar .. diisi oleh orang Indonesia. " Ada sedikit intermixing sosial dan hampir tidak ada perkawinan silang. Dan perbedaannya, Chua berpendapat, telah tumbuh lebih akut dengan globalisasi dan reformasi pasar yang terinspirasi oleh barat.

Asia Tenggara adalah contoh yang akut namun tidak terisolasi. Di seluruh Amerika Latin, elite kulit putih kecil secara tradisional menikmati kekuatan ekonomi dan politik, serta keunggulan budaya dan ras. Sementara di Asia Timur sentimen anti-China telah lama menjadi kekuatan politik yang kuat, di Amerika Latin, setidaknya sampai saat ini, hanya ada sedikit etnis - yang bertentangan dengan kebencian kelas terhadap elite kulit putih. Dominasi elit putih kecil telah lama ada di Afrika bagian selatan. Meskipun mayoritas kulit hitam sekarang menikmati - seperti yang dilakukan rekan-rekan mereka di negara-negara seperti Indonesia dan Malaysia - kekuatan politik di Afrika Selatan, kekuatan ekonomi tetap kuat di tangan elit putih kecil. Di Afrika timur, elit ekonomi sebagian besar India; Di Afrika barat, seringkali, meski dalam bentuk yang kurang ekstrem, Ibos. Gambaran yang muncul adalah bahwa di banyak (meskipun tidak semua) negara berkembang, kekuatan ekonomi sebagian besar terkonsentrasi di tangan - untuk menggunakan frasa Chua - minoritas etnis "yang dominan di pasar".

Dia berpendapat bahwa perbedaan antara kekuatan ekonomi minoritas etnis kecil dan posisi kelompok etnis mayoritas yang kurang beruntung merupakan sumber ketidakstabilan politik yang besar. Etnisitas, seperti kita ketahui, berpotensi menjadi isu yang sangat mudah terbakar. "Kebangsaan itu bisa sekaligus merupakan artefak imajinasi manusia dan berakar di dalam relung sejarah yang gelap - [bibi Chua, yang berasal dari keluarga Cina yang sangat kaya di Manila, dibunuh oleh sopirnya yang dengan keterlibatan pembantu yang keduanya merupakan orang Filipina] - adalah apa yang membuat konflik etnis sangat sulit dipahami." Seperti yang dikatakan Chua, pembunuhan massal orang Tutsi oleh orang-orang Hutu di Rwanda pada tahun 1994 dan keluhan yang dirasakan orang-orang Serbia terhadap orang-orang Kroasia di Balkan sebagian terkait dengan keuntungan ekonomi yang dinikmati masing-masing orang Tutsi dan Kroasia, dan perpecahan yang dalam ini telah menimbulkan perang saudara yang sangat mengerikan.

Salah satu kesulitan yang dihadapi oleh banyak negara berkembang adalah keragaman etnis dalam skala yang sama sekali asing di barat, bahkan di Amerika Serikat. Afrika adalah contoh paling ekstrem. Pengecualian utama untuk ini adalah China, Jepang, Korea Selatan dan Taiwan, semuanya relatif homogen, berbudaya secara etnik, dan sangat sukses secara ekonomi. Chua berpendapat bahwa globalisasi telah memperburuk kesenjangan etnis dalam kekayaan di banyak negara, dengan etnis minoritas "yang dominan di pasar", karena berbagai alasan, menikmati penghargaan yang tidak proporsional, sehingga mendorong ketidakstabilan yang berkembang. Ini adalah hutang sosial seperti yang terjadi di Indonesia dengan jatuhnya Suharto dan kerusuhan anti-China – yang bisa mendidih kapan saja.

Lebih jauh lagi, dia menyarankan agar mantra barat seperti pasar bebas ditambah demokrasi tidak dipahami dan resep untuk bencana dalam keadaan seperti itu. Di sini penulis menantang realitas semacam itu, bukan untuk mengatakan klise, wacana barat modern ada pada landasan yang kuat sementara di Asia dan kawasan lainnya masih dalam proses transformasi yang belum dewasa. Anggapan barat bahwa demokrasi menghasilkan masyarakat yang lebih liberal dan toleran, namun di mana masyarakat tersebut ditandai oleh pembelahan etnis yang mendalam, fakta kebalikannya mungkin benar adanya. Tidak ada keraguan bahwa kerusuhan anti-Cina di Indonesia mencerminkan sentimen mayoritas; Demikian pula, di Zimbabwe, keinginan Robert Mugabe untuk memperlakukan peternakan putih yang lebih sesuai bukanlah daya tarik populis bagi pemilih yang sangat hitam. Bagi Chua, pasar bebas memperparah perpecahan etnik dan, selanjutnya, demokrasi dapat bertindak sebagai kendaraan untuk serangan balik etnis yang besar oleh mayoritas. Dia percaya gagasan bahwa keduanya entah bagaimana membentuk semacam lingkaran moral yang salah. Secara historis, ini tidak pernah terjadi di barat: bangkitnya kapitalisme dan pasar telah lama mendahului pencapaian demokrasi. Dan ketika demokrasi tercapai, pasar dilemahkan dengan cepat oleh redistribusi dan negara kesejahteraan, antitesis dari jenis kebijakan pasar yang diberitakan dan diterapkan ke negara berkembang oleh konsensus Washington.

Salah satu aspek menyegarkan dari buku ini bukan hanya sentralitas etnisitas, tapi juga kejujuran Chua yang menangani masalah ini. Dia tidak menghindar dari membicarakan perpecahan etnis atau prasangka rasial. Dia juga benar-benar realistis tentang keuletan dan daya tahan mereka. Akarnya sering mencapai berabad-abad yang lalu, seperti dalam kasus orang Tionghoa di Asia Tenggara.

Di bagian akhir buku ini, Chua memperluas jangkauan geografis argumennya di luar negara-negara dan menunjukkan bahwa konflik Timur Tengah harus, dalam beberapa hal, dipandang sebagai konflik regional antara minoritas etnik orang Yahudi Israel "dominan di pasar", dan mayoritas Arab yang jauh lebih besar, jauh lebih miskin dan semakin miskin sepanjang masa. Akhirnya, dia mempertimbangkan posisi Amerika Serikat di dunia pasca perang dingin dan berpendapat bahwa posisi globalnya mirip dengan minoritas etnik yang dominan di pasar (sangat putih dan dirasakan oleh orang lain), yang membantu menjelaskan gelombang pasang kebencian terhadap AS sejak 11 September dan simpati untuk peristiwa tersebut di antara banyak negara berkembang.

Di dunia barat, sebagian besar kita masih dalam penyangkalan tentang pentingnya dan potensi etnisitas. Hal ini pada dasarnya karena dunia barat berada dalam posisi istimewa seperti ke seluruh dunia, sebuah situasi yang sangat terkait dengan warna: orang kulit putih yang sedikit, dengan pengecualian untuk orang-orang Yahudi mengalami prasangka sistemik. Mereka mencapainya dan menikmati keuntungan dari keuntungan rasial. Secara keseluruhan saya sangat menikmati dan sangat menambah wawasan membaca buku ini yang menyajikan etnis sebagai prinsip pengorganisasian fundamental era globalisasi.
Profile Image for Js Saputra.
13 reviews3 followers
December 20, 2011
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, Llama Fetuses, The Sevent Oligarch, The Ibo of Careroon ), bagian kedua yang mengupas The Political Consequenses of Globalization, dengan 4 rincian (Backlash against Market, Backlash against Democracy, Backlash against Market Dominant Minorities, dan Mising Blood), dan bagian ketiga yang membahas Ethononationalism and the West, juga dengan 4 rincian (The Underside of Western Free Market Democracy, The Middle Eastern Cauldron, Why They Hate Us, dan The Future of Free Market Cemodcracy) masih sangat relevan. Tidak hanya untuk Indonesia dan Asia Tenggara, tetapi juga menjadi permasalahan dunia: minoritas yang dominan dalam pasar era global.

World on Fire dimulai dengan pengalaman tragis, yang mendasari pembahasan minoritas yang dominan dalam pasar era global. Peristiwa dibunuhnya Leona, tante Amy Chua, seolah menjadi pembenaran Amy Chua bahwa “minoritas yang dominan dalam panguasan perekonomian berkonsekuensi logis pada kecemburuan social.

Didukung observasi dan data akurat hampir di seluruh pelosok dunia “World on Fire” menjadi “refleksi” bagaimana mengurai korelasi “minoritas etnis yang dominan dalam ekononomi” dengan “mayoritas etnis yang miskin”. Kegagalan mengelola kontradiktif akan melahirkan kerusuhan social: Serbia (1990), Rwanda (1994), Indonesia (1998), Israel (1998). Dalam konotasi yang sama, kejadian pengeboman ‘menara kembar” Amerika (2001) merupakan indicator dominasi minoritas.

Setelah tujuh tahun World on Fire masih tetap relevan dan penting. Selayaknya menjadi referensi bagi para penguasa di seluruh dunia agar berkemampuan menyeimbangkan “dominasi minoritas etnis bidang ekonomi” dengan “mayoritas miskin yang dominan”.

Setelah “Word on Fire” menjadi bestseller versi New York Time, Business Week dan buku terbaik tahun 2003, Amy Chua menulis “ Day of Empire : How Hyperpowers Rice to Global” (2007), dan “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother “ (2011). Ibu dua anak yang lahir tahun 1962 ini layak mendapat hadiah nobel perdamaian karena sumbangan pemikiran yang tajam dan akurat ‘bagaimana menjinakkan pasar bebas para era globalisasi”.

Sumber: http://id.shvoong.com/humanities/phil...
Profile Image for Robert Wechsler.
Author 12 books125 followers
July 23, 2019
Chua makes a valuable, if sometimes overdone argument regarding the ways in which market-dominant minorities in countries outside the traditional West tend to thrive where there is less democracy and, often, less free markets. This situation usually leads to hatred of the minorities and sometimes violence against them. Learning the identities of the minorities and the stories behind their rise to economic dominance (and the results) is eye-opening. The application of this argument to the U.S. position in the world (which dominates the book’s subtitle) is interesting, but only partly convincing.
Profile Image for Evan.
195 reviews24 followers
November 1, 2007
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 "market-dominant minorities." For example, ethnic Chinese in much of Southeast Asia and Lebanese in West Africa. Chua's point, (fairly self-evident, I think, once it is spelled out) is that these minorities gained their economic power through exclusive transnational trade networks, which also tends to make them the "go to" people for multinational corporations. Thus, they tend to benefit disproportionately from market liberalization. In contrast, democratization reverts power to the disenfranchised majorities, who tend to want to use their newfound "civil society" to do a variety of uncivil things to these minorities.

Despite the sensationalist title, Chua actually seems ambivalent about which is worse. There is, no doubt, some justice in the retribution sought by the masses against the few who control their national wealth. On the other hand, the fact that this "justice" often takes the form of racist violence and drives the minority (along with their wealth) out of the country, can't be seen as good for any developing country. As ethnic Chinese with family in the Phillipines, Chua herself is less than thrilled at the prospect of more power falling into the hands of "the people," even as she affirms a belief in democracy.

Chua paints herself a friend both of globalization and democratization, but ultimately flounders in trying to reconcile these commitments with the problem she herself has raised. The strength of the book, however, is in its clear demonstration of the failure of "free market democracy" as it actually plays out in most of the world. Not a problem that's going away anytime soon.
Profile Image for Matt.
292 reviews11 followers
May 25, 2015
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 "market-dominant minorities" have simultaneously benefited from increasingly globalized capitalism while also being targeted by violence and persecution following democratic elections and/or popular/populist movements.

Examples included Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Croatia, Serbia, Russia, the Philippines, and more. I learned something new about a lot of different parts of the world, though couldn't help feeling like depth was sacrificed for breadth throughout the book. Chua's pieces on the Yugoslav wars gave almost no attention to Bosnia or Bosniak populations, for instance, which made me wonder if there were similar gaps in her analyses elsewhere.

One side point that I thought was particularly interesting was the idea that the US has more redistributive policies than what we tend to promote non-Western countries to adopt (often via institutions like the IMF). Universal education, access to health care (at least for the poor, elderly, and young), and other poverty assistance programs have been staples of American domestic policy - in different degrees for for different lengths of time, to be sure - providing a floor to access the most basic forms of goods and services. Doing so has dampened the effects of the rawest forms of capitalism that, Chua argues, has elsewhere tended to exacerbate not just income and consumption inequality but also underlying ethnic, racial, and/or nationalistic tensions and hostilities.
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