"This book’s great service is that it challenges us to consider the ways in which our institutions and systems, and the assumptions, positions and divisions that undergird them, leave us ill prepared for the next crisis."—Robert Rubin, The New York Times Book Review
Deftly weaving finance, politics, business, and the global human experience into one tight narrative, a tour-de-force account of 2020, the year that changed everything--from the acclaimed author of Crashed.
The shocks of 2020 have been great and small, disrupting the world economy, international relations and the daily lives of virtually everyone on the planet. Never before has the entire world economy contracted by 20 percent in a matter of weeks nor in the historic record of modern capitalism has there been a moment in which 95 percent of the world's economies were suffering all at the same time. Across the world hundreds of millions have lost their jobs. And over it all looms the specter of pandemic, and death.
Adam Tooze, whose last book was universally lauded for guiding us coherently through the chaos of the 2008 crash, now brings his bravura analytical and narrative skills to a panoramic and synthetic overview of our current crisis. By focusing on finance and business, he sets the pandemic story in a frame that casts a sobering new light on how unprepared the world was to fight the crisis, and how deep the ruptures in our way of living and doing business are. The virus has attacked the economy with as much ferocity as it has our health, and there is no vaccine arriving to address that.
Tooze's special gift is to show how social organization, political interests, and economic policy interact with devastating human consequences, from your local hospital to the World Bank. He moves fluidly from the impact of currency fluctuations to the decimation of institutions--such as health-care systems, schools, and social services--in the name of efficiency. He starkly analyzes what happened when the pandemic collided with domestic politics (China's party conferences; the American elections), what the unintended consequences of the vaccine race might be, and the role climate change played in the pandemic. Finally, he proves how no unilateral declaration of 'independence" or isolation can extricate any modern country from the global web of travel, goods, services, and finance.
The real shocker of the Covid-19 virus is not its death toll there have been deadlier pandemics it's "the scale of the response," writes historian Tooze (Crashed) in this sweeping survey. In what he calls "a comprehensive crisis of the neoliberal era," nearly 95% of the world's economies suffered a reduction in GDP, he writes, and the World Bank estimates that the long-term wage loss will be $10 trillion. Month by month, Tooze covers the progression of the pandemic, tracing government action in Wuhan in January and Italy's response in March as that country went into lockdown, charting the pandemic's impact on stock markets and on mental health, the divisions in America as the presidential election loomed, the debt faced by the hardest-hit countries, and the race to create a vaccine. A comprehensive history of an unprecedented year, Tooze's account describes how the pandemic played out politically across the globe, the interplay between climate change and the pandemic, and the myriad effects of the world economy nearly shutting down in a brief period that, as Tooze puts it, made "History with a capital H.'" Readers will find this deeply informed parsing of the pandemic to be illuminating and thought-provoking.)