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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin. 

Disasters are inherently hard to predict. But when catastrophe strikes, we ought to be better prepared than the Romans were when Vesuvius erupted or medieval Italians when the Black Death struck. We have science on our side, after all. Yet the responses of many developed countries to a new pathogen from China were badly bungled. Why?

While populist rulers certainly performed poorly in the face of the pandemic, Niall Ferguson argues that more profound pathologies were at work - pathologies already visible in our responses to earlier disasters.

Drawing from multiple disciplines, including economics and network science, Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe offers not just a history but a general theory of disaster. As Ferguson shows, governments must learn to become less bureaucratic and more 'antifragile' if we are to avoid the impending doom of irreversible decline.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2021 Niall Ferguson (P)2021 Penguin Audio

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Very interesting but way too long

I enjoyed it but if I had been reading rather than listening I doubt I would have got into it. At half the length it would still be too long.

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Excellent as always

Despite being written in August 2020 Ferguson provides perspective to Covid pandemic. As all evidence indicates that Covid emanated from China as most other viruses such as SARS, the 1957/58 Asian flu etc did one has to stand up for democratic values and not bend to a one world power system under President Xi. Inevitably as Ferguson points out we are entering a new Cold War with a much cleverer enemy than Soviet Russia. Essential reading for all those who wish to live in a Democracy.

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  • Paula
  • 18-06-2021

Historical material persuasive, topical somewhat less so

I have read many of Ferguson’s books so I had a good idea what to expect from him - and this book is typical of the thorough and multidisciplinary analysis he offers.

The material on COVID (though enlightening) was undermined by intelligence/data/events post publication in August 2020. And, of course, by the highly partisan, politically charged information communication matrix of modern times - especially since the election of Trump in 2016.

The use of scale-free network analysis in respect of COVID was fascinating - though what Ferguson missed was the importance of one characteristic of such networks - it is true that they are extremely resilient against arbitrary damage (knock out a few - even quite a lot of - randomly chosen nodes and communication can be rerouted very effectively) but it is also true that such networks are very fragile against deliberate and targeted attack.

Knowing this, it is easy to see that eliminating Trump (the ultimate highly connected node in respect of one “side” of political discourse) from Twitter, Facebook etc essentially decimated conservative discourse in the election period (and, in fact, subsequently). Important for that section of this book because the entire COVID story is strongly, almost viciously politically partisan.

An approach to management of the COVID discourse and response focused on a partisan contest in which the interests of the people played the part of, at most, the football is, I think fundamental…and is way underplayed in this book.

Irrespective, the book lays out a basis for critical analysis and Ferguson’s own is not “holy writ” there is space to argue, to consider the implications of alternative lines of analysis.

I enjoyed the book, gained much from it, was sometimes very vocally disparaging of the author, sometimes surprised and respectful. Overall, if this had been a graduate class, I’d have been very happy that I’d enrolled.

Read it critically, it can only help you grow your understanding of the topic and your capacity to critically analyse fact-grounded argument.

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  • S. C. Cass
  • 15-06-2021

Should have waited

Well written and we'll delivered. Sadly, by the time published, the Covid information was out of date as the author and publisher knew must be the case. An example is the acceptance of the lab leak cover up. Should have waited for at least 12 months information before publishing. The rest of the book is excellent.

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  • Mike M
  • 03-06-2021

Curates Egg

I found the book to be an interesting and well written account of the history of natural and man-made disasters and succeeds in setting into context our own experience of Covid19. My reservation is that when he analyses recent history I feel the Author shows bias. Eg. Donald Trump's behavior is glossed over yet Obama and Clinton are harshly criticized Clintons piccadillos are dwelt upon particularly heavily.

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  • Mark J.
  • 24-05-2021

Highly interesting listen

An overall excellent listen, however I was very disappointed by Ferguson's blind acceptance of certain narratives, in particular that surrounding the Syrian conflict. this calls into question much of what seems to be an excellent analysis of the subject matter.

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  • Mike
  • 29-05-2021

not his best work

Covid element feels a bit like an I told you so type account, a stopped clock is right twice a day. best stick to explaining the past. To be fair this is mainly a book about other disasters and it is interesting there. I cringed a bit when he tried his hand at explaining science, the guy is clearly just regurgitating things he has read without really understanding them. But he knows his political and financial history and I always enjoy his fresh take on perceived wisdom.

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  • A. J. Taylor
  • 18-07-2021

Classic Ferguson

I love Niall Ferguson as a historian and this didn’t disappoint. Ferguson narrates this book and he is excellent and extremely listenable. I feel that it brings the book alive and places his passions and feelings into it. The content of the boom is interesting and provides some thought provoking ideas that link with some of his previous works. There has been criticism that he wrote this book in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and didn’t wait until it’s end. But as he explains in the book, what end? When? That’s not his point and the book doesn’t need it. All disasters are to some extent political and I feel from reading this book that is true more than ever. Will need to listen again to fully take in all of the ideas, however this book was not boring and therefore that’ll be not difficult to do. Not a showstopper, but a solid piece of work.

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  • H Newsam
  • 15-06-2021

As Ever agree or disagree Ferguson makes you think

A great, wide analysis of disaster. All kinds and throughout history. Very interesting and to be honest entertaining.

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  • Simon Weston
  • 20-05-2021

Absolutely fascinating!

What a great listen. Really impressive, well researched and excellently narrated.

Now I have to buy a hard copy at my local bookstore! Thank you.

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