Top 5 Books: February 2021

Krisztina Csortea

‘International Affairs has the best book review section of any journal in the field. Many people subscribe to it for that reason alone.’

Professor Sir Michael Howard.

Every issue of International Affairs features a comprehensive book review section which assesses the latest writing on all facets of international studies. In this, the latest in our Top 5 Books series, Book Reviews Editor Krisztina Csortea presents her picks from the January 2021 issue. Join the conversation and share your must-read new books on global politics and international relations in the response section below. Enjoy!

1) The constitution of Myanmar: a contextual analysis

Written by Melissa Crouch. Published in Oxford by Hart Publishing.

Krisztina says: As the world reels from the effects of the ongoing military coup in Myanmar, Melissa Crouch’s pertinent analysis of the country’s democratic constitution has taken on a grim relevance. Crouch’s piercing examination of Myanmar’s 2008 constitution shows the perforating influence of the nation’s military on its creation, structure and implementation. Far from establishing the foundations of a stable democracy, Crouch persuasively argues that the constitution exists as part of a wider legal and institutional reality designed to preserve Myanmar as a military state.

Read the full International Affairs review here.

2) This is not propaganda: adventures in the war against reality

Written by Peter Pomerantsev. Published in London by Faber and Faber.

Krisztina says: Pomerantsev provides a fascinating window into the world of online political misinformation and its effects. From Islamist radicals to Russian troll farms and the rise of QAnon, Pomerantsev charts the rise of online conspiracy theories in political discourse across the globe in the 21st century. The vast range of empirical examples this book engages with provide compelling accounts of the impact of disinformation from Brexit to the war in Syria.

Read the full International Affairs review here.

3) Deaths of despair and the future of capitalism

Written by Anne Case and Angus Deaton. Published in Princeton by Princeton University Press.

Krisztina says: Deaths of despair is a thoroughly compelling yet flawed treatise on the particular decline in health and welfare outcomes experienced by white middle-class Americans in the US. Focusing on this highly (and not unproblematically) politicized disparity, Case and Deaton argue that a range of structural features of American capitalism have lead to the rise of what they term ‘deaths of despair’ from suicide, drug and alcohol abuse. While limited in its capacity to offer concrete solutions and by its somewhat narrow social frame, Deaths of despair nonetheless provides a chilling analysis of American capitalism’s destructive effects.

Read the full International Affairs review here.

4) Active measures: the secret history of disinformation and political warfare

Written by Thomas Rid. Published in New York by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Krisztina says: In Active measures, Rid provides a fascinating yet labyrinthine account of disinformation’s role in politics. Charting disinformation across the modern political era, Rid’s account provides a vast range of examples of uses of political disinformation through history. While its division between non-political and social-facts is likely to be a point of some contention as is its omission of discussion of contemporary Chinese politics, Active measures remains a highly valuable book for anyone interested in understanding how disinformation functions as a political phenomenon.

Read the full International Affairs review here.

5) The new map: energy, climate and the clash of nations

Written by Daniel Yergin. Published in London by Allen Lane.

Krisztina says: As an assessment of the changing geopolitics of energy, Daniel Yergin’s new book will fascinate anyone interested in how energy is shaping contemporary international relations. With its in-depth account of the rise of American oil and gas self-sufficiency in the aftermath of the shale revolution, The new map skillfully charts the impact of transformations in the global fossil fuel market on US and Russian foreign policy. Even as the book’s engagement with the renewable energy sector leaves much to be desired, The new map remains an important contribution to existing debates on the role of fossil fuels in contemporary geopolitics.

Read the full International Affairs review here.

Krisztina Csortea is the Deputy Editor of International Affairs.

This blog features her picks from the book reviews section of our January 2021 issue. To read the reviews in full, click here.

To find more suggestions from the IA Bookshelf series, click here.

If you are interested in reviewing a book for the journal or registering as a book reviewer with International Affairs you can find our book review application form here.

All views expressed are individual not institutional.

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