Publikation | 15.06.2020

Poverty Narratives and Power Paradoxes in International Trade Negotiations and Beyond

Latest book by GIGA President Prof. Dr. Amrita Narlikar (Cambridge University Press, May 2020)

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In her latest book Poverty Narratives and Power Paradoxes in International Trade Negotiations and BeyondAmrita Narlikar argues that, contrary to common assumption, modern-day politics displays a surprising paradox: poverty – and the powerlessness with which it is associated – has emerged as a political tool and a formidable weapon in international negotiation. The success of poverty narratives, however, means that their use has not been limited to the neediest. Focusing on behaviours and outcomes in a particularly polarizing area of bargaining – international trade – and illustrating wider applications of the argument, Narlikar shows how these narratives have been effectively used. Yet, she also sheds light on how indiscriminate overuse and misuse increasingly run the risk of adverse consequences for the system at large and devastating repercussions for the weakest members of society. Narlikar advances a theory of agency and empowerment by focusing on the lifecycles of narratives and concludes by offering policy-relevant insights on how to construct winning and sustainable narratives.

Reviews & Endorsements (selection)

“This is one of those books that will force casual observers of international trade politics to rethink their priors.“ Daniel Drezner, The Washington Post, 18.06.2020

“Ultimately, this is a book that uses the prism of the ‘poverty/powerlessness’ narratives to capture the many power shifts and struggles defining this moment in history, from the redistribution of power across states all the way to the gender, race and intergenerational challenges that have achieved an acute salience in our lifetime. It is remarkable that Narlikar has managed to elegantly connect such a wide span of topics within a relatively succinct book.” Henrique Choer Moraes, International Affairs, 96: 4, 2020

“Amrita Narlikar is the most insightful scholar of political economy in international trade relations today, with a unique focus on the place of developing countries in them. This volume will become a classic that we will read with profit and pleasure for years to come.” Jagdish Bhagwati, Columbia University, author of In Defense of Globalization

“Material interests matter but Amrita Narlikar shows with clarity and insight that economic narratives, the stories we tell, are just as important. This book is both an important methodological intervention with wide application and a significant contribution to understanding the role of poverty in shaping trade policy.” Martin Daunton, Emeritus Professor of Economic History, University of Cambridge

“Amrita Narlikar explains how poor countries can turn apparent political disadvantages to their own benefit in international negotiations. With accessible prose and convincing empirical evidence, she demonstrates the importance of seizing systemic opportunities, shaping background narratives, and knowing just how far to push. Poverty Narratives and Power Paradoxes in International Trade Negotiations and Beyond is both an original scholarly analysis and an elegant primer for practitioners.” Louis W. Pauly, University of Toronto

“Powerlessness is not all it seems. Amrita Narlikar offers a compelling new take on the uses and abuses of poverty and power in global politics.” Louise Fawcett, Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford

“This book challenges each of us. It surprises, defies, and provokes. In questioning our assumptions about power and powerlessness, it calls for a more lucid and creative posture towards who we are and who they are supposed to be.” Valérie Rosoux, FNRS – University of Louvain, author of Negotiating Reconciliation in Peacemaking

“Narlikar’s latest book shows how perceived weakness can be overcome; she conducts careful factual research to produce her findings, in this original, useful, and valuable study.” I. William Zartman, Jacob Blaustein Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC

The book is available for purchase and at the GIGA Information Centre.


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