I am a big one for lists.
I asked my colleagues for their top reads of the decade, and this is what they sent me. You will see contributions from many disciplines, nationalities and paradigms. This is one of the things that makes IDS so wonderful (admittedly I am biased).
I hope you find this an enjoyable and useful read--I discovered several books and papers through this process and I hope you will too. To find out more about the authors click here.
James Mahoney. 2001. The Legacies of Liberalism: Path Dependence and Political Regimes in Central America. Johns Hopkins University Press.
I enjoyed this book since it brought back the long term historical perspective needed in social science approaches and did so in a solid methodological 'American' way, bringing together long term processes and 'rational' decision making, bringing the path dependency approach and methodology to political science and international relations. The book illustrates how nineteenth-century economic liberalism represented an important historical critical juncture for the region. In particular it analyses the legacies of the introduction of liberalism in the 19th century on the national development strategies and political economy of Central America. As we look forward in development in 2010 we need to remember to learn from the past.
Jeremy Weinstein. 2006. Inside Rebellion: the Politics of Insurgent Violence. Cambridge University Press.
This books deals with why rebellions abuse civilians in some contexts and not in others. Its purpose is to shift the focus of a body of research from the causes of civil war to the question of the determinants of violence within civil wars. In conceptualizing strategy as a problem of institutional choice, Weinstein explains the distinct set of organizational challenges confronted by rebel leaders and then turns to the factors that shape how individual respond in the process of organizing violence. The main strength and originality of the book is the methodology: bringing the tools of ethnographic research to bear on internal dynamics of rebel organizations. The author chose to draw heavily on personal perspectives on rebellion. The book reflects Weinstein’s interpretation of the stories told by individuals who participated in and experienced rebellion. Finally, the book offers a starting point for thinking about how instruments of influence mobilized by policy-makers may vary in their effectiveness across rebel organizations.
Jason Brownlee. 2007. Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Brownlee begins with a very timely and apt puzzle for the 2000s: why is authoritarianism so darn persistent in some areas of the globe? Through extensive and unique field work in four fascinating and important cases—Egypt, Iran, Malaysia and the Philippines, Brownlee discovers that the role that ruling parties play in authoritarian states and in particular the degree of strength and solidarity that these parties maintain is a deciding factor in whether and how such parties rule on—even by holding elections. This book argues that the answer to the conundrum of authoritarianism—and all the ramifications of authoritarianism for the welfare of multitudes of people around the globe—lies in the origins, histories and paths of political institutions. There is still a good bit of the world that proves to be highly resistant to the democratization bandwagon.
Gomathy S. Parasuraman, Kumaran Raj and Bina Fernandez. 2003. Listening to People Living in Poverty, Books for Change, 139 Richmond Road, Bangalore 5321747, 350 pages, paperback.
This is a shocking reality check based on over 250 life stories of people living in poverty in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam, as told to ActionAid researchers. 29 of these life stories are recounted in the book. They surprise and inspire. They ignite outrage at the gross injustices and exploitations of our world, and admiration for those who live in poverty and struggle against appalling odds for a better life. They make you angry. They drive you. They energise. And beyond that, what makes this such an outstanding book, and top of my list, is that these are not just case studies. The authors have used them as an empirical basis for analysis that is at once passionate, scholarly, insightful and original, shedding light on aspects of poverty, like the labouring body, which are central to the experiences of many poor people but easily and often overlooked by professionals.
Diana Coyle. 2007. The Soulful Science. What Economists Really do and Why it Matters. Princeton University Press.
Economics is in the doghouse right now. This book reminds me of why I like economics. It shows how economics has adapted itself to incorporate irrational human behaviour, the interconnectedness of human behaviour and how it has moved beyond a strict adherence to the neoclassical model, incorporating complexity and uncertainty as friends, not enemies. One day all undergraduate economics textbooks will be like this.
Ipek Ilkkaracan and Gülsah Seral. 2000. “Sexual Pleasure as a Woman’s Human Right: Experiences from a Grassroots Training Program in Turkey.” pp. 187-196 in Pinar Ilkkaracan, ed., Women and Sexuality in Muslim Societies. Istanbul: Women for Women’s Human Rights.
Women for Women’s Human Rights, a Turkish NGO, has run human rights trainings for over 5000 women in rural, often conservative Muslim areas of Turkey. These trainings include a session on exploring sexual desires, which introduces the concept of ‘sexual pleasure as a woman’s human rights’. This session is overwhelmingly the most popular with trainees! This short snappy book chapter tells the story of these trainings – an encouraging account that shows us that even in contexts of violence and constraint, openings can be created for pleasure, enjoyment and happiness in life. An influential book in women’s health circles and beyond.
Roger Petersen. 2001. Resistance and Rebellion: Lessons from Eastern Europe. Cambridge University Press
The main question is very simple: How and why do ordinary people rebel against powerful and brutal regimes? And so is the main conclusion: the choices and behaviour of ordinary people matter significantly in making change happen. However this is a complex scientific analysis on the significance of collective action, and one of the very best illustrations on how to undertake true theoretical and empirical multidisciplinary analysis.
Paul Collier. 2008. The Bottom Billion, Oxford University Press
For me, coming new to the development landscape (I am the Director of Strategic Operations at IDS), this book is a great example of writing for the general reader – making learning and research accessible; it is an effective polemic – a snappy title capturing something profoundly important, entering public discourse and influencing public policy. It is properly provocative, evidence-rich, critical, challenging – and finally (just) optimistic.
Karla Hoff and Priyanka Pandey . 2006. Discrimination, Social Identity, and Durable Inequalities. The American Economic Review, Vol. 96, No. 2 (May, 2006), pp. 206-211
There are at least three reasons why I like this article. First, it is trying to answer one of the most difficult questions in social sciences: why there is so much inequality and discrimination in the world? Second, because is a bit like the collider at CERN. The collider tries to explain the universe by looking at the infinitively small. Similarly this paper wants to explain caste discrimination by exploring a few young minds in a small Indian village rather than by grand theorising. Finally, I think it is a great example of the value of combining social sciences approaches: economics and psychology in this case. In fact I believe that economics may be doomed to failure if it doesn’t take this route more boldly.
Rachel Sabates Wheeler
Philippe Legrain. 2006. Immigrants: Your County Needs Them. Little, Brown.
This is a great book - myth busting, provocative, engages with contemporary agendas, political, built on evidence and written in a very accessible way. Fresh thinking about the X-word.
Dani Rodrik. 2007. Industrial Policy for the twenty-first century. Published in One Economics – Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions and Economic Growth, Princeton 2007
Rodrik argues that getting the institutional setting right, with an adequate balance between autonomy and embeddedness on the part of government officials, is far more important than worrying about the precise policy instruments to be deployed. This proposition is not new for political scientists, but seeing it presented so clearly by an influential economist is new. The entire book is as good as this Chapter.
Kates, R.W. Clark, W.C., Corell, R., Hall, J.M., Jaeger, C., Lowe, I., McCarthy, J.J., Schellnhuber, H.J., Bolin, B., Dickson, N.M., Faucheux, S., Gallopin, G.C., Gruebler, A., Huntley, B., Jäger, J., Jodha, N.S., Kasperson, R.E., Mabogunje, A., Matson, P., Mooney, H., Moore III, B., O’Riordan, T., Svedin, U. 2001. Sustainability Science. Science 292:641-2.
Over the past decade, there have been significant attempts at defining a new science of Sustainability. Geographers, in particular, have highlighted the need for an integrative science linking natural and social sciences to address the challenges of global change and ‘regions at risk’ from natural hazards and disasters. Questions of scale interactions – across both space and time – and uncertainties resulting from complex system dynamics are highlighted in much of this work. A regional, place-based approach is also advocated, allowing such integrative approaches to environment and development problems to be pursued in located ways. Perhaps the most important publication to have emerged over this period is the multi-authored article by Robert Kates, William Clark, et al. on ‘Sustainability Science’, which appeared in Science in 2001. Since then there has been an explosion of interest in the subject, including the launch of multiple research programmes, graduate training courses and numerous specialised journals and websites featuring the latest writings on nature-society interactions and applying the resulting knowledge to create a sustainability transition around the world.
John Le Carre. 2001. The Constant Gardener, Hodder and Stoughton.
A 'can't put down' narrative. It confronts issues of corruption, the role of governments and business and how civil society advocates confront these in turn. The producer of the film, Simon Channing Williams died earlier in the year, and he believed in responsible film making, to help the communities the film crew had met and worked with during the shoot. Therefore he set up the Constant Gardener Trust which has built sanitation facilities in the Kibera slums in Nairobi and a secondary school in the north.