WHAT WE OWE EACH OTHER
A new social contract
256pp. Princeton University Press.
18.99 [pounds sterling] (US$24.95).
How to fix our world
352pp. Bodley Head. 18.99 [pounds sterling].
From global crisis to a better world
336pp. Sceptre. 16.99 [pounds sterling].
In the preface to What We Owe Each Other, Minouche Shafik quotes some despairing lines of W. B. Yeats's poem "The Second Coming" (1919), written as the poet's pregnant wife lay gravely ill from the flu pandemic. It is a strange choice, given the positive and often upbeat tone of Shafik's book. Yeats's poem is, after all, a cry of despair at the follies of humanity, warning of the risk of civilizational collapse; Shafik, by contrast, is optimistic, her argument packed with useful, well-evidenced, orthodox policy prescriptions for a new social contract.
Yeats lines are apt, however, given the subject matter--even if Shafik's hopeful framework ultimately stands in contrast to them. Things are falling apart; the world is in a mess. The multilateral coordination that provided a platform for Shafik's remarkable career as an international policy practitioner is now on shaky foundations. At the height of a global pandemic, the world's most powerful nations proved incapable of working through the World Health Organization to fund and distribute a vaccine that could save millions of lives and stabilize the world economy. Instead they capitulated to vaccine nationalism and the private interests of global corporations. Global financial mayhem, stock--and crypto-market bubbles are everywhere. Obscene levels of inequality prevail, helping to fuel political populism. There are imbalances in trade, leading to global political tensions and the threat of a new cold war. Volatile capital flows imperil economic and political stability in emerging markets. To cap it all, extreme weather events are erupting all over the planet. Yeats's poem was apocalyptic, and that was without climate change.
This is the context in which a clutch of books has appeared over...