Book Review: Us vs Them by Ian Bremmer

Us vs Them was released in April 2018 and authored by Ian Bremmer

I’ve followed Ian Bremmer on twitter for many months before the release of his new book. His tweets are part statistics borrowed from newly published academic studies and part funny but enlightening comments on current events. Ian understands all points of view. He is a refreshing source of thought in the current contentious environment between the political right and left. I bought his book to get more of the same and understand his train of thought even deeper. I comment on the book and give a candid yet concise review of the thoughts and feelings engendered while reading it.

This book aims to put us all on the same page on the current rise of nationalism and how globalism is to blame especially in what is known as the West. It splits the source of this political change into economic and cultural with an emphasis on the effect of technology. While nationalism waxes and wanes throughout history, no one knows how serious the ability of technology to further polarize the political landscape is. The text is superfluous with reporting of academic studies and repetitive. Several points are repeated throughout the first chapter which makes it frustrating to follow. The first couple chapters are a somber look at the world: you can’t help but feel anxious while reading it. However, I really like how ‘them’ takes a different identity depending on who ‘us’ is. For Democrats in the USA, ‘them’ are the citizens on the Republican side of the spectrum. For working class men, ‘them’ are the immigrants who come to steal their job. The ability of Ian to wear different shoes provides a sense of impartiality and I’m sure most readers identified with what was written.

Developing countries are also under threat from Globalism and technological advances such as in Robotics. Ian is an American who doesn’t think America is at the center of the world. China and India’s economies are growing at incredible pace but both still have low income per capita. Turkey, under the rule of Erdogan, has used Globalism to its own economic advantage. However, Erdogan pits conservative citizens against those who believe in a secular Turkey for his own political gains. Donald Trump did the same in America. This book explores the negative effect of polarizing countries into ‘Us vs Them’.

A symptom of polarization is walls. Walls take different shapes and form. Some don’t take a form at all and exist only in Cyberspace. Compare Trump’s plans to build a physical wall along the Southern US border to China’s blocking of Facebook and Google within its territory. I’m a huge fan of Ian’s ability to create analogies and find common ground between political and economic strategies happening ocean lengths away.

In the end, and it finally came, is a chapter that offers hope that, even with all the darkness looming over our willingness to polarize, there are people willing to fix. These people can be in government or the private sector. In a world changing so fast, governments must adapt, revisit their social contract with their citizens, and change the tax code. The social responsibilities of private for-profit companies is a big as ever. There isn’t a shortage of efforts to reduce poverty, hunger, and remedy the feeling of being left behind and Mr. Bremmer makes a great list of these.

To conclude, this book is a great and easy read for anyone who wants to understand the political and economic climate of today. It doesn’t demonize any side and attempts to understand all positions and points of view. All in all, this is a refreshing but alarming resource for voting people, which should be all of us.