MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewIn this good-hearted and sweeping book, the political scientist Robert D. Putnam (with Shaylyn Romney Garrett) offers some hope in bleak times ... superb, often counterintuitive insights ... However, for all of its prodigious research coupled with careful qualifications, the book sometimes overgeneralizes ... Putnam’s tendency to generalize sometimes suggests a misleading symmetry. Organized worship is declining across the board, Putnam reports, citing a blizzard of data. But as a political fact, liberal denominations are near collapse while fundamentalists are ascendant ... Political science is the study of preference and power. Putnam tends to play down the role of power in favor of values and norms. Yet power can reinforce or stymie value preferences ... In his summing up, Putnam deliberately sidesteps the question of why America became less cohesive ... well worth reading for its cornucopia of data and insightful social history. Some of the generalizations should be taken with a grain of salt. Putnam’s last chapter, addressing lessons from the past on how we might reclaim a more trusting, community-minded America, is abbreviated, elevated and a little wishful. The deep corruption of democracy does not get much attention, nor does the alliance of plutocracy with aspiring autocracy. Donald Trump barely makes an appearance. At this perilous moment, we need all the optimism we can get, tempered with unflinching realism about the role of power.
RaveThe New York Review of Books...the authoritative account ... In his masterful narrative, the economic historian Adam Tooze achieves several things that no other single author has quite accomplished ... Tooze is especially good at explaining the many Fed inventions that pumped trillions of dollars into every obscure corner of the financial industry. He demystifies the impenetrably technical contrivances used by both private companies and central banks ... Tooze does a fine job of explaining the delicate dance between the bank’s leaders and its real masters in Germany ... Tooze excels at explaining the byzantine political bargaining that led to policy compromises that avoided outright depression but stifled the European economy ... Crashed does have some minor blemishes. One is its structure. Tooze generally proceeds chronologically. For the most part, this strategy works ... the text occasionally loops back on itself.