A chronicle of charismatic former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis' battles with the leaders of the troika (the European Commission, the EU’s executive body; the European Central Bank; and the International Monetary Fund) during the 2014–2015 stages in his country’s ongoing debt crisis.
Varoufakis gives one of the most accurate and detailed descriptions of modern power ever written – an achievement that outweighs his desire for self-justification during the Greek crisis. He explains, with a weariness born of nights in soulless hotels and harsh-lit briefing rooms, how the modern power network is built ... Varoufakis built a reputation, but not a party. Indeed the world of parties – of activists huddled against the rainy windows of suburban cafes, of leaflet drops, of strikes and anti-fascist demos – is absent from this memoir. If the global left – which was on a roll during 2011-2013 – is to regain momentum, it needs leaders like Tsipras to find thinkers and doers like Varoufakis, and to nurture them. But above all it needs to talk to the mass of people in language born out of the years of toil it takes to build a party and a movement.
...a tremendously indiscreet account by Varoufakis as he draws upon his own audio recordings and diaries of top-level meetings. It is deeply personal and very well written, with an impressive array of literary allusions ... Varoufakis has had a favourable press in the anglophone world. In this book he outlines a cogent case against the austerity heaped on Greece. Eurosceptics endorsed his critique of the debt-inducing structures of the eurozone and leftists his attacks on the myopia of German ordoliberal economic philosophy in sustaining them. Less prominent in Varoufakis’s thinking, though, is the need for serious supply-side adaptation — institutional and product-market reform — in Greece to increase efficiency and competitiveness.
The problem, at bottom, is that having lost the material battle for the future of Greece, Varoufakis can only tell a story. For all his 'revelations' about the working of the IMF here, his book reveals very little that was not already known. Showing how a system fails people is not the same as acquiring the power to change that system and bring about a better world ... Adults in the Room is an essential book and it is vital that books like it be written about each one of the injustices inflicted on the vulnerable by the present masters of the world. But this effort, in particular, is clumsy and these efforts, in general, are a stopgap at best. In 500 pages, you don’t learn much from Varoufakis about what he might have done differently, or how the Greek people could have won. I suspect that’s because he doesn’t know. That’s why he’s left banging on the ramparts with an uneven book. But more than a better book, I’d like a better leader, one who wins.