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There is a certain beauty to this book. The author completely convinces the listener that there is no more important field of study to understand the world and how we got where we are then Political Science. The author is that good at laying the foundations for his points. Moreover, the author is telling an incredible complicated story with many different moving parts but he excels at telling you what he's going to tell you, tells you, and then tells you what he just told you, and then just in case you didn't understand his points he'll explain them once again by comparing and contrasting with some diametrically opposed counter examples.
This volume can be read independently from the first volume. The listener should just pick the area he is most interested in. This volume looks at the more direct relationships to how our current political entities evolved to their current configurations.
He explained China to me in such a way that I have to reconsider how I perceive them. For the last 30 years, their form of authoritarian rule might have been much better than a democracy since they have such a small middle class relative to the other classes. The concerns expressed at Tiananmen Square have fallen on the wayside in today's China. Overall, he gave a fascinating discussion concerning China.
I know that Political Science isn't the most important way to understand who we are, but it definitely helps in our understanding by thinking about our institutions, rule of law, and state structures. The one thing that the author did that really irritated me was in parts of the book he would make the false equivalence claim such as "both the Tea Party and progressive Democrats are to blame for ...", any sentence that starts that way is flawed. He argues there is a mushy middle between the two extreme positions and neither one is correct. I'll let the listener decide for himself, as for me I disagree. He also made a statement that our current congress wanted to shut down the government rather than pay for past debts owed by the federal government and putting us into a fiscal catastrophe. I just don't see it that way. It was only one political party that wanted to renege on past government debt.
Overall, the book is very likeable, makes one appreciate the role for Political Scientist and gives one valid way for describing how we got where we are today.
28 of 28 people found this review helpful
As an European, I have to confess I did have some prejudice against a mainstream American political scientist, half-expecting that the book will be 672 pages of praise of the American system. I was put to shame. This was a somber and analytical analysis of different systems, which actually did not conclude that liberal democracy is the only possible way ahead for the rest of the world.
It's hard to review a second volume of a two-volume work without comparing it to the first, and that comparison ends unfavorably for this one. While the first one was organized beautifully, geographically and historically, starting with China, and then moving through India, the Arab world, Turkey, Byzantium ending up in Western Europe, the volume two seemed more disorganized, fragmented, but then, so is the modern world. The book did have some central points, and these were repeated more times than I care for. But the repetition did serve its purpose: Although I can't give you a nice quick overview of the organization of this volume, I can certainly tell you, without much hesitation, all that you want to know about difference between clientelism and patronage, or the importance of building state institutions before democratization.
It's absolutely a book worth the time and effort, and the only reason or gets four stars from me is that I enjoyed the first volume more.
21 of 22 people found this review helpful