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

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,238 ratings  ·  151 reviews
For over a decade now, the reigning consensus has held that the combination of free markets and democracy would transform the third world and sweep away the ethnic hatred and religious zealotry associated with underdevelopment. In this astute, original, and surprising investigation of the true impact of globalization, Yale Law School professor Amy Chua explains why many de ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 6th 2004 by Anchor (first published 2002)
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Start your review of World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability
I LOVE THIS BOOK! It’s tight, nuanced, dismissive of simplistic explanations, and—except for an unfortunate lapse towards the end—doesn’t overreach in its analysis. What’s great about this book is not only what it’s about but what it’s NOT about. It’s not about how capitalism is evil; it’s not about developing countries being unsuited for democracy; and it’s emphatically not about capitalism and democracy being the causes of inter-ethnic hatred and violence.

Prof Chua takes care to focus her tig
Aug 29, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Published in 2003, Yale Law Professor Amy Chua wrote that bringing democracy to Palestine will likely only bring a Hamas government hostile to western interests. Which is what happened. Chua argues that exporting democracy and capitalism to unstable regions may actually increase strife.

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

She feels this sort of en
How exporting fee market democracy breeds ethnic hatred and global instability

If creating participatory democracy in nations that are now ruled by oligarchs, kings, sultans or presidents for life and if opening up backward economies in the developing world are good things, what could be better than doing both at the same time? While it might sound lovely, Amy Chua’s very incisive, well reasoned and beautifully written book shows that while trying to impose either democracy or free markets from t
Amy Chua's talent is gathering evidence. This shouldn't surprise me-- she was a lawyer by training-- but she ignores what generates market-dominant minority, and in doing so, leaves out a critical part of how to solve the problems she articulates. Furthermore, she has a way of hazarding her own solutions. First she suggests market reforms, then education, and then kind of backpedals on both of those.

She's quite right in saying that there's no universal panacea for the instabilities and imbalance
Dec 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-affairs
We read this in our college reading club several years ago. It's an excellent book to read along with Niall Ferguson's War of the World: Twentieth Century Conflict and Descent of the West and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein. Chua's basic premise is that ethnic economic disparities that often arise in times of economic progress lead to ethnic strife during economic instability. Market dominant ethnic majorities become much richer even as ethnic majority poor get ...more
Jj Li
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I first found Amy Chua when all the controversy over Tiger Mom erupted, so when I went through youtube trying to find an interview of her talking about the book, I actually found an interview about this book instead. What she said there actually really impressed me, so I picked this one up. I haven't read any of the author's other books, because quite honestly the content doesn't interest me and I'm not a fan of the author's writing style. I find it a little wordy and heavy.

That being said, thi
Jan 21, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, thoughts
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 domin ...more
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
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 t
John Sibley
Nov 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Response to both Amy Chua in ‘World On Fire’ and Paul Collier in ‘War, Guns and Votes’ - my views on their criticism of how the developed world has tried to build democracies in failed and fragile states, how their opinions agree, how they differ.

Amy Chua and Paul Collier share some penetrating insights into the problems associated with the spread of democracy since the early 1990s in their respective works, ‘World on Fire’ and ‘War, Guns and Votes’. At the forefront of their analyses is the con
Oct 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I really liked reading Joseph Stiglitz's Globalization and Its Discontents, and this book adds an ethnic dimension to the thesis of how America's rigid adherence to imposing laissez-faire capitalism on developing nations is causing more harm than good and leads to a backlash against globalization.

In the West we tend to think of Sierra Leone as a country where modernization and globalization have not yet penetrated. But Sierra Leone reached this stage of savagery in part as a result of moderniza
Dec 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
In this book Amy Chua explains how the first tide of globalism is invariably brought by "market dominant minorities", read: jews, chinese, overseas Europeans of all stripes. The local population invariably revolts against globalism by killing the messenger in riots, pograms, etc.

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

Her further analysis fell flat for me. She implied that some kind of gl
Oct 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sarah by: Megan Campbell
Shelves: politiconomy
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 obse
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: activists, those who question globalization, economists
B: Someone put this on my desk at work--I returned from the weekend to find this waiting for me. I don't know who left it, but it is a fascinating book. Chua examines why so many developing countries undergo ethnic violence and economic instability after adopted "free market democracy." She looks at how a select minority of people rule a country--and what happens when the majority try to get control of what they feel belongs to them. A lot of it is a critique of the United States and the way in ...more
The American Conservative
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
'Amy Chua brings a wonderful breadth of knowledge to her book. There is hardly a corner of the world she has not looked into, scarcely an entrepreneurial minority she has missed.'

Read the full review, "Minority Report," on our website:
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Dec 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: current-affairs
Before starting on Chua's treatise, I was rather skeptical of the book which has the subtitle "How exporting free market democracy breeds ethnic hatred and global instability". Published shortly after 9/11, I was assuming the book was riding the wave of America's need to have the attacks explained.
Not so much, though I'm sure the book benefited from the related interest upon its release, devoting the last part of the book to the causes of the event in question.
Chua focuses on market-dominant m
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 develop
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school-reads
for my intro to Justice and Peace Studies class. interesting arguments against liberal peace theory, globalization, and ethnic conflicts
Gold Dust
Nov 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 comp
Feb 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
In this book Chau suggests that the policies of market liberalization and democratization that are promoted as part of the Washington consensus of globalization can have disastrous consequences for groups of people that she describes as “market dominant minorities.” She describes situation after situation where an ethnic minority that has come to be identified with affluence and ownership during periods of market liberalization end up being scape-goated in times of political (and economic) uphea ...more
Robert Wechsler
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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. po ...more
Oct 31, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in neoliberalism
I did read this book a few years ago, but remembered it today while writing about the May 1998 anti-Chinese riots in Jakarta. In 2004, it was one of the shrewder books I had read disentangling free trade from democratization, and hence arguing against the neoliberal ideology of the Washington consensus.

The basic thesis, which is easy to grasp without reading the book, is that in many parts of the world (especially the so-called developing world), national economies are largely in the hands of "
Dec 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Brett by: Jeannette Ward
Amy Chua got a lot of ink earlier this year for her essay about motherhood, but since I'm perpetually behind the times, I'm just getting to her 2004 book about globalization, democracy, and market-dominant minorities. Her thesis is pretty sound: in societies where market-dominant minorities exist (and her research is convincing that these do exist in many places in the world), the sudden democratization can create a volatile environment that can lead to persecuation--and in extreme cases, even g ...more
I'd give this book gets 4 stars as a conversation-starter, 3 stars in terms of depth and cohesiveness.

The thesis, stated early in the introduction, is "that the global spread of markets and democracy is a principal, aggravating cause of group hatred and ethnic violence throughout the non-Western world." Chua, later to gain notoriety as the self-proclaimed Tiger Mother, certainly conveys more nuance than what's obvious from that one line, examining a wide range of locales where what she calls "ma
Aug 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmmm...some lawyer writes a book with this kind of subtitle. Must be an ignorant anti-capitalist screed, right? Actually, no. Amy Chua is no Naomi Klein. She was an economics major at Harvard. Her father, Leon, is famous in my field (

The book is about economically-dominant minorities, and inspired by the murder of her Chinese-Filipina aunt Leona at the hands of her chauffeur. She advocates wealth redistribution from economically dominant minorities to the less well
Kerry Mccaskill
Jul 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
One of the most brilliant books I've ever read. It sounds like a dull topic but the writer's passion for the subject brings it to life. Full of fascinating and surprising details about how democracy works (or, more accurately, doesn't work) when superimposed on other cultures and economic systems. It provides gripping examples demonstrating why economic democracy and political democracy have to be introduced in the proper sequence or political democracy will not only fail but fail spectacularly ...more
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
longer review incoming for this book as well:

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

rough summary: in many countries, there exist 'market-dominant minorities' who are dominant in many sectors of the economy. economic liberalization and globalization, generally promulgated by Western do-gooders, tend to enrich those minorities as a result of their entrepreneuralism, tight-knit reli
Oct 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
My mom saw an interview with Chua and decided to buy this book. I don't know if she'll ever read it, because she prefers the newspaper, but I might have to persuade her otherwise. Chua's thesis is that the market dominance of ethnic minorities incites ethnic hatred and that this is becoming increasingly problematic with globalization. World on Fire was published in 2003, so the examples she references have become all the more stark with recent developments in Burma (where Chinese are the market- ...more
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Amy L. Chua (born 1962) is the John M. Duff, Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School. She joined the Yale faculty in 2001 after teaching at Duke Law School. Prior to starting her teaching career, she was a corporate law associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. She specializes in the study of international business transactions, law and development, ethnic conflict, and globalization and th ...more

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“Even today, many poor and lower-middle-class whites feel more solidarity with Bill Gates and George W. Bush than with African-Americans or Hispanic-Americans of comparable economic status. Indeed, as many have observed, large numbers of working-class whites in the United States oppose welfare and increased government spending on social services, often voting against what might be expected to be their economic self-interest. It is widely suspected that racism (together with a thriving ideology of upward mobility) plays a role in this pattern.” 0 likes
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