The most recommended books on the World Trade Organization

Who picked these books? Meet our 11 experts.

11 authors created a book list connected to the WTO, and here are their favorite WTO books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism

Patricia Ventura Author Of White Power and American Neoliberal Culture

From my list on today’s fascism and resisting it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been trying to understand people’s politics since I was a kid and wondered why my dad, who had been a boy in Sicily under Mussolini, spoke so fondly of “il Duce”—even though Dad was an otherwise independent thinker who believed in people’s inherent dignity, not to mention a man who was an immigrant and an outsider and thus exactly the kind of person fascists hate. I think this background partially explains why I focus my writing on interpreting the significance and appeal of widespread and, in some cases, morally indefensible and contradictory cultural-political ideologies such as neoliberalism and racism.

Patricia's book list on today’s fascism and resisting it

Patricia Ventura Why did Patricia love this book?

Folks familiar with the term “neoliberalism” usually describe it as the economic system that tries to unleash the market by getting the government out of the way. I like Globalists because it shows how unleashing the market demands that government gets in the way—of workers’ rights, movements for equality, and, most ominously, democracy itself. Since it’s impossible to understand fascism without tackling capitalism, a book explaining how we got to today’s market principles is vital.

I see this book as a history of the neoliberal economists who encouraged political leaders to use state violence and repression to unleash free trade and shape the global economy. Globalists tell the story of how modern capitalism developed into today’s vast landscape of inequality that makes a fertile ground for fascism and violent extremism to develop.

By Quinn Slobodian,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

George Louis Beer Prize Winner
Wallace K. Ferguson Prize Finalist
A Marginal Revolution Book of the Year

"A groundbreaking contribution...Intellectual history at its best."
-Stephen Wertheim, Foreign Affairs

Neoliberals hate the state. Or do they? In the first intellectual history of neoliberal globalism, Quinn Slobodian follows a group of thinkers from the ashes of the Habsburg Empire to the creation of the World Trade Organization to show that neoliberalism emerged less to shrink government and abolish regulations than to redeploy them at a global level. It was a project that changed the world, but was also undermined time and again…

Book cover of Economic Reform and Employment Relations in Vietnam

Tran Van Hoa Author Of Vietnam's Reforms and Economic Growth

From my list on Vietnam’s reforms and economic growth.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professional economist and econometrician with over 50 years of teaching and research experience. I've published articles in more than 200 international publications and been on the senior teaching staff of top U.S. and Asian universities. In recent years, I have also been interested in serious scholarly studies on developing economies in Asia and as an economic consultant to several Asian government ministries.

Tran's book list on Vietnam’s reforms and economic growth

Tran Van Hoa Why did Tran love this book?

For readers interested in sectoral analysis and especially labour studies, the book discusses the transformation of employment relations in Vietnam since Doi Moi in 1987. These relations have been a key part of Vietnam’s reforms and a necessary pre-condition to the country’s long-awaited WTO membership in 2007.

The book first examines the nature of employment reforms, analyses the motivation behind new policy initiatives, and then examines the detail of reforms in a range of business enterprises. The book’s sources of information are based on extensive original research.

By Ngan Thuy Collins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Economic Reform and Employment Relations in Vietnam as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The transformation of the Vietnamese economy from socialist planning to a market economy has led to Vietnam having one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world; and to also to Vietnam engaging much more with the international economy, joining the World Trade Organisation in 2006. This book fills a significant gap by surveying the economic reforms in Vietnam, where most studies have concentrated on other 'young tiger' economies. In particular it discusses the transformation of employment relations which have been a key part of the reforms and a necessary pre-condition to WTO membership. It examines the nature of…

Book cover of Clashing over Commerce: A History of US Trade Policy

Francine McKenzie Author Of GATT and Global Order in the Postwar Era

From my list on why international trade is all about politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of history at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. I have written about the history of international organizations, international trade, the British Commonwealth, and Canada in the world. Although these topics have taken me in different directions, I have always examined the political currents that run through them. Politics emerge in relation to ideology, policymaking, leadership, norms, values, interests, identity, international relations, and global governance. I have been especially interested in connecting economics and politics. Many scholars write about trade policies, organizations, and negotiations as though they are technical and narrowly economic when they are agents, instruments, and expressions of international politics. 

Francine's book list on why international trade is all about politics

Francine McKenzie Why did Francine love this book?

Irwin’s history of US trade policy from the colonial period to the early 21st century will convince you that you cannot write about domestic and international politics without writing about tariffs and trade.

Because international trade affected people, regions, and sectors of the economy in different ways, trade policies elicited support and opposition. Given the importance of the United States to the global economy, it is crucial to understand how trade policy has been mired in politics.

While Irwin’s study focuses on the United States, there is no reason to think trade is less combustible elsewhere. 

By Douglas A. Irwin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Should the United States be open to commerce with other countries, or should it protect domestic industries from foreign competition? This question has been the source of bitter political conflict throughout American history. Such conflict was inevitable, James Madison argued in The Federalist Papers, because trade policy involves clashing economic interests. The struggle between the winners and losers from trade has always been fierce because dollars and jobs are at stake: depending on what policy is chosen, some industries, farmers, and workers will prosper, while others will suffer. Douglas A. Irwin's Clashing over Commerce is the most authoritative and comprehensive…

Book cover of Reforming the Unreformable: Lessons from Nigeria

Alexander Thurston Author Of Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement

From my list on post-independence Nigeria.

Why am I passionate about this?

From the moment I first began reading about Nigerian history, I was drawn to the country’s complexity – the mix of religious traditions, ethnic groups, languages, cultures, and intersecting histories. As a graduate student, I delved deeper into the history of Islam in northern Nigeria, first by reading the secondary literature, then by exploring primary documents, and eventually by conducting my own fieldwork. Sadly, as my interest in Nigeria grew, so too did the country’s ongoing tragedies, including the violence perpetrated by Boko Haram. Nevertheless, there is much more to Nigeria than conflict, as is amply demonstrated by the tremendous contributions of Nigerian novelists, musicians, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, and scholars.

Alexander's book list on post-independence Nigeria

Alexander Thurston Why did Alexander love this book?

Nigeria’s most famous economist and the current Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Okonjo-Iweala is a formidable figure nationally and globally. Her memoir about her time as Finance Minister during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo (in office 1999-2007) gives insight into debt relief negotiations and major economic reforms. Those reforms look less transformative in retrospect – at least 40% of Nigerians remain mired in poverty, and Nigeria’s debt has climbed again, including during Okonjo-Iweala’s second stint as Finance Minister – but the memoir remains important for understanding Africa’s largest economy.

By Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A report on development economics in action, by a crucial player in Nigeria's recent reforms.

Corrupt, mismanaged, and seemingly hopeless: that's how the international community viewed Nigeria in the early 2000s. Then Nigeria implemented a sweeping set of economic and political changes and began to reform the unreformable. This book tells the story of how a dedicated and politically committed team of reformers set out to fix a series of broken institutions, and in the process repositioned Nigeria's economy in ways that helped create a more diversified springboard for steadier long-term growth.

The author, Harvard- and MIT-trained economist Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,…

Book cover of Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution

Srdja Popovic Author Of Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World

From my list on teaching you how to change society for better.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm super passionate about educating people on how to empower themselves and change the world. I do a lot of different things for a living. And my organization CANVAS works with the groups who are involved in the pro-democracy struggles and “art of the revolution.” Starting as a student activist in my homeland, ruled by ruthless dictator Slobodan Milosevic, I was blessed to meet and work with some of the most courageous people. Throughout the last 25 years, I've tried to capture, share, and transfer successful tools common people may use in order to address injustice, inequality, or small tangible problems through mobilizing their peers – and thus make their communities or the world a better place.

Srdja's book list on teaching you how to change society for better

Srdja Popovic Why did Srdja love this book?

Have you heard of “Yes Men”, possibly the most inspiring and creative contemporary group of American activists? People who made powerful corporations like VW look ridiculous and excuse for their emission scandal cheating, and very same people who have shut down the WTO? If “yes”, learn about the coolest tools they and other pranksters have used to empower themselves to change the world. If “no” take this book, buckle up for a wild ride and find an activist toolbox for making your community a better place.

By Andrew Boyd, Dave Oswald Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Elegant and incendiary." Naomi Klein. Beautiful Trouble brings together dozens of seasoned artists and activists from around the world to distill their best practices into a toolbox for creative action. Sophisticated enough for veteran activists, accessible enough for newbies, this compendium of troublemaking wisdom is a must-have for aspiring changemakers. Showcasing the synergies between artistic imagination and shrewd political strategy, Beautiful Trouble is for everyone who longs for a more beautiful, more just, more livable world and wants to know how to get there.

Book cover of Managing Institutional Complexity: Regime Interplay and Global Environmental Change

Oran R. Young Author Of Governing Complex Systems: Social Capital for the Anthropocene

From my list on global environmental governance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my professional life exploring the roles social institutions play in guiding interactions between humans and the natural environment in a variety of settings. Along the way, I pioneered research on what is now known as global environmental governance, devoting particular attention to issues relating to the atmosphere, the oceans, and the polar regions. Although I come from the world of scholarship, I have played an active role in promoting productive interactions between science and policy regarding matters relating to the Arctic and global environmental change.

Oran's book list on global environmental governance

Oran R. Young Why did Oran love this book?

There is a tendency to focus on regimes as self-contained governance systems.

But in reality, there are typically more or less complex interactions between or among environmental regimes. Some regimes (e.g. the ozone regime and the climate regime) interact with one another in significant ways.

In other cases, a number of distinct regimes play influential roles in dealing with the same problem (e.g. climate change). This leads to the emergence of regime complexes regarded as sets of institutional elements that are not arranged in a hierarchical order but that all play roles in dealing with major issues like climate change.

The research challenge then is to identify conditions leading to mutually beneficial or synergistic interactions in contrast to conditions giving rise to interactions that are harmful or that produce interference in the operations of distinct regimes.

By Sebastian Oberthur (editor), Olav Schram Stokke (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Experts investigate how states and other actors can improve inter-institutional synergy and examine the complexity of overlapping environmental governance structures.

Institutional interaction and complexity are crucial to environmental governance and are quickly becoming dominant themes in the international relations and environmental politics literatures. This book examines international institutional interplay and its consequences, focusing on two important issues: how states and other actors can manage institutional interaction to improve synergy and avoid disruption; and what forces drive the emergence and evolution of institutional complexes, sets of institutions that cogovern particular issue areas.

The book, a product of the Institutional Dimensions of…

Book cover of End of Globalization: Lessons from the Great Depression

Tobias Straumann Author Of 1931: Debt, Crisis, and the Rise of Hitler

From my list on the Great Depression and its impact on history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I began to study history at the university, I have always wondered why things could get so wrong in Europe in the 1930s. The key to understanding this crucial period of world history was the failure of economic policy. In the course of my studies, many of my questions have been answered, but I am still wondering about the extent of human and institutional collapse. Hence, to me, the Great Depression is such a fascinating topic that you can never leave once you started doing research about its causes and consequences.

Tobias' book list on the Great Depression and its impact on history

Tobias Straumann Why did Tobias love this book?

Financial crises are not only catastrophic because of their devastating economic consequences. They also unleash radical political forces undermining the foundations of our free and open society. Widely praised for his work on Germany in the interwar years, Harold James is the best historian to describe the vicious circle of crisis, radicalization, and national isolation in the 1930s and to discuss the question: can it happen again?

By Harold James,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Globalization" is here. Signified by an increasingly close economic interconnection that has led to profound political and social change around the world, the process seems irreversible. In this book, however, Harold James provides a sobering historical perspective, exploring the circumstances in which the globally integrated world of an earlier era broke down under the pressure of unexpected events.

James examines one of the great historical nightmares of the twentieth century: the collapse of globalism in the Great Depression. Analyzing this collapse in terms of three main components of global economics--capital flows, trade, and international migration--James argues that it was not…