The most recommended books about globalization

Who picked these books? Meet our 79 experts.

79 authors created a book list connected to globalization, and here are their favorite globalization books.
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What type of globalization book?


Book cover of Globalization and Sovereignty: Rethinking Legality, Legitimacy, and Constitutionalism

Philip Cunliffe Author Of The New Twenty Years’ Crisis 1919-2019: A Critique of International Relations

From my list on liberal international order in the 21st century.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having come of age at the End of History in the late 1990s, it seemed to me back then that the only big political questions left were international ones. Everything in domestic politics appeared to be settled. As I pursued this interest through my scholarly work as an academic, I came to understand how questions of international and domestic order were intertwined – and that one could not be understood without the other. As we’re now living through the end of the End of History, unsurprisingly we’re seeing tremendous strain on political systems at both the national and international level. These books will provide, I hope, some signposts as to what comes next.  

Philip's book list on liberal international order in the 21st century

Philip Cunliffe Why did Philip love this book?

An occasionally dense but ultimately bravura text that sought to draw out the consequences of globalization for political theory. Cohen performs the difficult but important feat of combining themes from international security with international political theory and international law, and in so doing, gets to grips with questions of political order in a way that many other books fail to do, as they remain frozen at the level of foreign policy or inter-state relations. Political order is more than policy though. Although I disagree with Cohen’s conclusions regarding the need to suppress state sovereignty through global structures and greater European integration, her honesty, hard-headedness, and attempt to interweave international security with questions of global constitutionalism remain an intellectual inspiration. 

By Jean L. Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Globalization and Sovereignty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sovereignty and the sovereign state are often seen as anachronisms; Globalization and Sovereignty challenges this view. Jean L. Cohen analyzes the new sovereignty regime emergent since the 1990s evidenced by the discourses and practice of human rights, humanitarian intervention, transformative occupation, and the UN targeted sanctions regime that blacklists alleged terrorists. Presenting a systematic theory of sovereignty and its transformation in international law and politics, Cohen argues for the continued importance of sovereign equality. She offers a theory of a dualistic world order comprised of an international society of states, and a global political community in which human rights and…

Book cover of Europe and the People Without History

Brett Bowden Author Of The Strange Persistence of Universal History in Political Thought

From my list on humankind’s place in history.

Why am I passionate about this?

The search for meaning in history is all part of the search for meaning in life. Whether archaeologists or historians, economists or physicists, they are not just looking for artefacts when digging in the dirt or scanning the skies, they are looking for evidence to piece together a bigger picture—meaning in the minutiae. I’m sceptical, but the philosophy of history remains a fascinating subject, which is why I’ve explored ideas about civilization, progress, and progressive history in a number of books and articles. My primary concern about teleological accounts of history is that they tend to deny people's agency, especially non-Western peoples.

Brett's book list on humankind’s place in history

Brett Bowden Why did Brett love this book?

This is another important work by an anthropologist challenging the genealogy of the West and its ideas and institutions. It exposes the myth of history as a supposed moral success story: ancient Greece… Rome… Christian Europe… Renaissance… Enlightenment… liberal democracy… the pursuit of happiness, etc. Wolf systematically highlights why this is a flawed and fraught notion, especially for those people who do not fit neatly into the schema.

By Eric R. Wolf,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Europe and the People Without History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Offering insight and equal consideration into the societies of the "civilized" and "uncivilized" world, "Europe and the People Without History" deftly explores the historical trajectory of so-called modern globalization. In this foundational text about the development of the global political economy, Eric R. Wolf challenges the long-held anthropological notion that non-European cultures and people were isolated and static entities before the advent of European colonialism and imperialism. Ironically referred to as "the People Without History" by Wolf, these societies before active colonization possessed perpetually changing, reactionary cultures and were indeed just as intertwined into the processes of the pre-Columbian global…

Book cover of The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty

Dennis Gentilin Author Of The Origins of Ethical Failures: Lessons for Leaders

From Dennis' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Father and husband Leader Business ethics practitioner Life long learner Cyclist

Dennis' 3 favorite reads in 2023

Dennis Gentilin Why did Dennis love this book?

I believe the adage that history provides many rich lessons, and those who choose not to heed these lessons are destined to repeat the errors of the past. For this reason, this book was my favourite read of 2023 (with a couple of honourable mentions).

The book is ultimately about a topic close to my heart: governance. But unlike my book, which focuses on governance within institutions, this book focuses on the governance of states. Using their theory of “The narrow corridor”, Acemoglu and Robinson describe how governance arrangements play a key role in creating states that grow, thrive, and become prosperous on the one hand, and decay, implode, and ultimately die on the other.

I was blown away by the vast sweep of political history provided to illustrate the theory.

By Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Narrow Corridor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Why is it so difficult to develop and sustain liberal democracy? The best recent work on this subject comes from a remarkable pair of scholars, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. In their latest book, The Narrow Corridor, they have answered this question with great insight." -Fareed Zakaria, The Washington Post

From the authors of the international bestseller Why Nations Fail, a crucial new big-picture framework that answers the question of how liberty flourishes in some states but falls to authoritarianism or anarchy in others--and explains how it can continue to thrive despite new threats.

In Why Nations Fail, Daron…

Book cover of A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World

Avinash Dixit Author Of The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist's Guide to Success in Business and Life

From my list on economics and game theory.

Why am I passionate about this?

Avinash Dixit is an emeritus university professor of economics at Princeton. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was President of the American Economic Association for the year 2008.

Avinash's book list on economics and game theory

Avinash Dixit Why did Avinash love this book?

A brilliant sweep through the millennia of commerce around the world. If you think globalization happened over the last quarter-century, you are wrong by about 5000 years. Find out how and why.

By William J. Bernstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Splendid Exchange as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A sweeping narrative history of world trade—from Sumer in 3000 BC to the firestorm over globalization today—that brilliantly explores trade’s colorful and contentious past and provides fresh insights into social, political, cultural, and economic history, as well as a timely assessment of trade’s future.

Adam Smith wrote that man has an intrinsic “propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.” But how did trade evolve to the point where we don’t think twice about biting into an apple from the other side of the world?

In A Splendid Exchange, William J. Bernstein tells the extraordinary story of global…

Book cover of Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization

Francis J. Teal Author Of The Poor and the Plutocrats

From my list on inequality and the disagreements over the cause.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have worked on the problems of poverty, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, for much of my professional life. I worked at the Centre for the Study of African Economies, which is part of the Department of Economics at Oxford University, from 1991 until my retirement in 2012. I continue to work both with the Centre and the Department as a Managing Editor of Oxford Economic Papers and Chief Editor of the Journal of African Economies. My recent book The Poor and the Plutocrats grew out of this background where I wanted to understand the links between very poor countries and those of much richer ones.

Francis' book list on inequality and the disagreements over the cause

Francis J. Teal Why did Francis love this book?

The approach of Milanovic is very different from that of Hickel in that it is intensive in the use of data which, he would argue, shows a much more nuanced picture of the success of the global economy in reducing poverty than argued by Hickel.

He begins by reproducing the ‘Elephant Chart’ from his earlier work. This is a chart showing the relative gain in real per capita income by global income level. The name ‘Elephant’ comes from the shape of the chart which shows the largest income gains to have occurred for those in the middle of the distribution and the lowest in the range of 70 to 80 in the percentile distribution and the highest for those at the very top. Those in the middle being the hump of the elephant those at the top being its trunk.

Milanovic argues that in many respects the years before the…

By Branko Milanovic,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Global Inequality as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Bruno Kreisky Prize, Karl Renner Institut
A Financial Times Best Economics Book of the Year
An Economist Best Book of the Year
A Livemint Best Book of the Year

One of the world's leading economists of inequality, Branko Milanovic presents a bold new account of the dynamics that drive inequality on a global scale. Drawing on vast data sets and cutting-edge research, he explains the benign and malign forces that make inequality rise and fall within and among nations. He also reveals who has been helped the most by globalization, who has been held back, and what…

Book cover of Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection

Carol J. Pierce Colfer Author Of The Longhouse of the Tarsier: Changing Landscapes, Gender and Well Being in Borneo

From my list on Indonesian life and policy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I worked in Indonesia much of the time between 1979 and 2009, with people living in forests. As an anthropologist, my work was initially ethnographic in nature, later linking such insights to policies relating to forests and people – as I worked at the Center for International Forestry Research in Bogor (1995 – the present). Although later in my career, I worked in forests all over the tropics, my real love remains with Indonesia, where I worked the longest and learned the most. My most recent research was in 2019, when I returned to the first community I studied ethnographically in 1979-80.

Carol's book list on Indonesian life and policy

Carol J. Pierce Colfer Why did Carol love this book?

I love Tsing’s Friction, because of its focus on how policies play out in the real world. She is able, through her in-depth understanding of life in rural Central Kalimantan, to show us how Indonesian national policies are adapted, implemented, and perverted in the field. She talks about policy implementation as seeing ‘how the rubber hits the road,' and at the same time she provides the reader with a growing understanding of the lifeways of the people of that province.

By Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Friction as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A wheel turns because of its encounter with the surface of the road; spinning in the air it goes nowhere. Rubbing two sticks together produces heat and light; one stick alone is just a stick. In both cases, it is friction that produces movement, action, effect. Challenging the widespread view that globalization invariably signifies a "clash" of cultures, anthropologist Anna Tsing here develops friction in its place as a metaphor for the diverse and conflicting social interactions that make up our contemporary world. She focuses on one particular "zone of awkward engagement"--the rainforests of Indonesia--where in the 1980s and the…

Book cover of In Search of the Good Life: The Ethics of Globalization

Scott Waalkes Author Of The Fullness of Time in a Flat World

From my list on the religious ethics of globalization.

Why am I passionate about this?

My plan to write my book clicked after I bought an apple grown in New Zealand, 10,000 miles away from my home in Ohio. How did it make sense that we could buy apples so cheaply from so far away? What was the carbon footprint of that one transaction? Growing up in Michigan in the 1970s and 1980s, I had seen our industrial cities decay as trade globalized. Later I watched with horror as global financial markets crashed in 2008. With these experiences in mind, I wanted to write about both the benefits and the costs of globalization—and about its ethicsfor religious communities like mine. So I did.  

Scott's book list on the religious ethics of globalization

Scott Waalkes Why did Scott love this book?

Professor Peters was my first and foremost guide when it came to framing the ethics of globalization from within my own religious perspective.

She helped all of us later writers by mapping the academic terrain, describing two dominant theories of globalization and two resistance theories. The two dominant theories are neoliberalism (as exemplified by Thomas Friedman) and reformist social development (as exemplified by John Maynard Keynes), while the two resistance theories stem from ecological and postcolonial perspectives.

She evaluates all four theories according to how they contribute (or don’t) to human flourishing. While I don’t always agree with her conclusions, she is asking the right questions and applying them to the most important perspectives on globalization.

By Rebecca Todd Peters,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Search of the Good Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rebecca Todd Peters provides a helpful overview of the complicated contemporary debates about globalization. By engaging in a careful reading of the cacophony of views on the subject, she unearths four identifiable positions within these debates, each offering a different moral vision of the world. As she observes, policy debates about the direction in which globalization should move are morally serious debates about what values humanity will choose as most significant in the post-Cold War world. In Search of the Good Life argues that our moral task is to ensure that globalization proceeds in ways that honour creation and life,…

Book cover of Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria

David Joselit Author Of Heritage and Debt: Art in Globalization

From my list on art and globalization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been professionally involved with contemporary art since the 1980s, when I was a curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. In the forty years since I've seen an enormous shift in the orientation of American curators and scholars from Western art to a global perspective. After earning my PhD at Harvard, and writing several books on contemporary art, I wanted to tackle the challenge of a truly comparative contemporary art history. To do so, I've depended on the burgeoning scholarship from a new more diverse generation of art historians, as well as on many decades of travel and research. My book Heritage and Debt is an attempt to synthesize that knowledge. 

David's book list on art and globalization

David Joselit Why did David love this book?

This is the best account I know of the double bind that artists subjected to settler forms of colonialism have had to endure. Taking Nigerian modern art as his case study, this eminent Africanist art historian shows how, on the one hand, colonial officials attempted to abolish the indigenous artistic heritage as "savage," or "primitive," while simultaneously blocking African artists from a European art education. To become modern required a negotiation between these dual limitations and ended up producing something very different from Western modernism.

By Chika Okeke-Agulu,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Postcolonial Modernism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written by one of the foremost scholars of African art and featuring 129 color images, Postcolonial Modernism chronicles the emergence of artistic modernism in Nigeria in the heady years surrounding political independence in 1960, before the outbreak of civil war in 1967. Chika Okeke-Agulu traces the artistic, intellectual, and critical networks in several Nigerian cities. Zaria is particularly important, because it was there, at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, that a group of students formed the Art Society and inaugurated postcolonial modernism in Nigeria. As Okeke-Agulu explains, their works show both a deep connection with local artistic…

Book cover of To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise

Chad E. Seales Author Of Religion Around Bono: Evangelical Enchantment and Neoliberal Capitalism

From my list on American evangelicalism and neoliberal religion.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've always been fascinated by the ways religion reconciles contradiction. Both of my parents were public school teachers in the panhandle of Florida, and I now work at a public university in Texas, yet the culture in which I was raised, of white evangelicalism, supported economic policies of neoliberalism that defunded public life. My interest in American religion is motivated by the question of why we participate in systems that harm us. This is an economic question, but sufficient answers must address the power of religion to shape what we see as morally good and bad. These books all do that.

Chad's book list on American evangelicalism and neoliberal religion

Chad E. Seales Why did Chad love this book?

Having grown up in a southern evangelical family in the 1980s and ‘90s, I never understood why my parents, like other southerners, were such staunch supporters of Sam Walton and Wal-Mart, when the chain store's economic approach of buy low, sell low, eroded small-town life. Then I read Moreton's book and it all made sense.

By Bethany Moreton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To Serve God and Wal-Mart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the decades after World War II, evangelical Christianity nourished America's devotion to free markets, free trade, and free enterprise. The history of Wal-Mart uncovers a complex network that united Sun Belt entrepreneurs, evangelical employees, Christian business students, overseas missionaries, and free-market activists. Through the stories of people linked by the world's largest corporation, Bethany Moreton shows how a Christian service ethos powered capitalism at home and abroad.

While industrial America was built by and for the urban North, rural Southerners comprised much of the labor, management, and consumers in the postwar service sector that raised the Sun Belt to…

Book cover of Wall Disease: The Psychological Toll of Living Up Against a Border

D.W. Gibson Author Of 14 Miles: Building the Border Wall

From my list on understanding borders in a globalized world.

Why am I passionate about this?

For over a decade I’ve been writing about the lines that define us. Whether it’s the work we do or the communities we live in, we all create “borders” in our everyday lives. I’ve interviewed thousands of people from all walks of life to gain a better understanding of the lines we use to carve out our identities and our place in this world, whether it’s on the individual level, within a small community, or on a national scale. My work is always getting at how these lines of separation function, practically speaking, particularly in an increasingly globalized, interconnected world. 

D.W.'s book list on understanding borders in a globalized world

D.W. Gibson Why did D.W. love this book?

We know a lot about the hot-button issues surrounding borders – family separations, deportation, smuggling but borders also have wildly underestimated psychological effects on individuals. Wapner impressively synthesizes data and research collected on the effects of border barriers from some of the most volatile regions in the world including India and Pakistan, Mexico and the U.S., and both sides of the peace lines of Northern Ireland. The mental health issues caused by militarized borders are alarming and almost entirely unrecognized in today’s world; Wapner brings these shocking and revelatory dynamics to light.

By Jessica Wapner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wall Disease as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A groundbreaking investigation into the hidden mental health effects of border walls, revealing the harm they bring to all who live near them.

Today, there are at least seventy border walls: from the US-Mexico border to the seventeen thousand miles of barbed wire that wall off Bangladesh from India, as well as the five-layer fence between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Border walls protect us, the argument goes, because they keep danger out. But what if the walls themselves endanger everyone who lives near them - on both sides?

In this thoroughly reported, eye opening work, science journalist Jessica Wapner reveals…