Dan Drezner ’90 is not a fan of The J Curve.

Ian Bremmer has a big idea, and the title of his book literally spells it out. He argues in “The J Curve” that the relationship between “stability” and “political and economic openness to the outside world” resembles nothing so much as the letter “J.”

Countries that close themselves off completely from outside influence–North Korea, for instance–can retain a measure of political stability. They inhabit the low up-curl of the J’s left side. Countries that are completely open–liberal democracies like the U.S.–are even more stable. They occupy the highest precincts of J’s tall main stem. As countries move from closure to openness, though, political stability will fall before it rises–they slide downward, at least at first, to the low well of the J. In some cases, the fall is so precipitous that it leads to failed states, such as Yugoslavia, Somalia and Nigeria….

For those who have paid little attention to the outside world for the past few years, “The J Curve” offers a useful primer. For everyone else, it will serve as a warning about the danger of fitting the world’s geopolitical complexity into a single letter.

But isn’t “fitting” “complexity” — i.e., coming up with parsimonious theories which explain and predict the world around us — what political scientists do? Perhaps Bremmer should buy a vowel.

Print  •  Email