Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Efforts to make the world run smoothly in the face of global economic disasters from the Great Depression to the Covid-19 recession are recapped in this sweeping study of international economic institutions. Cambridge University economics professor Daunton (State and Market in Victorian Britain) surveys a century of initiatives to develop currency exchange rates, international trade and capital flows, and national economic policies. He elaborates three historical movements: the shift in exchange rate policy from the gold standard to the 1944 Bretton Woods system of fixed but flexible exchange rates to the current regime of floating exchange rates; the long struggle to negotiate lower tariffs through the arduous General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and other processes; and the ambitions of poor countries to develop and win fairer deals on trade and aid from an international order dominated by rich nations. Daunton focuses on the ideas of such figures as John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman, and highlights both watershed moments and minor kerfuffles, including the "chicken war" of 1962 that pitted American poultry exporters against European trade barriers. Tackling a mountain of material on this complex subject in lucid, elegant prose, Daunton spotlights the constant tension between the elite goal of global economic efficiency and voters' demands on national governments for equality, stable jobs, or welfare spending. The result is a robust history that elucidates the human impact of the machinery of global trade and finance. Photos. (Nov.)
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Review by Library Journal Review
Daunton's (emeritus, economic history, Univ. of Cambridge; Trusting Leviathan) book is a rather exhaustive and reflective history of the development of the governance of the world economy over the past 90 years. It discusses policies (floating exchange rates), legislation (the Trade Expansion Act of 1962), organizations (the International Monetary Fund, or IMF), and people, such as leaders, policymakers, and theoreticians. The post-World War II economic order established in Bretton Woods, NH, in 1944 included the IMF and the World Bank that provided for rules-based decision-making and encouraged multilateral trade, while allowing countries to pursue their own domestic policies, Daunton writes. This lasted until the early 1970s, which saw a radical turn to floating exchange rates, freer flow of capital between countries, and a deprioritizing of national economic policies, while the crises of the 2007--09 Great Recession and the COVID pandemic brought no new international economic order. Throughout, Daunton advocates for a more equitable economy. He also discusses the developing world and the euro. VERDICT This economic history will be appreciated by readers with a sophisticated background in the field.--Shmuel Ben-Gad
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
An esteemed academic unravels 100 years of economic history and its social consequences. This is a dauntingly long, detailed, meticulously researched book, and it has the feel of a textbook for advanced students. Daunton, emeritus professor of economic history at Cambridge, has a massive story to tell, tracing the development of the institutions that have managed the global economy from the London Economic Conference of 1933 to the present day. Stability has always been the goal of economists and technocrats, and for a decade after the London Conference, it was largely provided by Britain, with the pound being the dominant currency. This changed with the rise of the U.S., although Britain was still powerful enough in 1944 to sit down with the U.S. and design the Bretton Woods Agreement, which set out postwar arrangements. A series of agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization, were established, all underpinned by the dollar as the reserve currency. It was a stable environment for many years; however, to many developing countries, it looked like a party to which they had not been invited. By 2000, supply chains were becoming globally integrated, and capital was crossing borders with few restrictions. Daunton tracks the financial crises of the past few decades and acknowledges that globalization, while increasing the wealth of the wealthy, had also created a well of discontent and a sense that the old methods were no longer working. The emergence of China and the Eurozone also spelled the end of American economic hegemony. Daunton would like to see new thinking to tackle global issues like climate change and income inequality, but he does not know how the story might end. A more solid conclusion from a 1,000-page book would have been welcome, but perhaps uncertainty is a feature of the subject. Daunton tackles an endlessly complex subject with authority and fairness. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.