I need your help: what to read on the international system; TNCs; leadership?

September 2, 2015

     By Duncan Green     

OK, I need some help from the FP2P hive mind. I am getting to the crunch point on the much-trailed How baby readingChange Happens book. I have an October deadline for a consultation draft – you’ll be hearing from me at that point. To get there, I need to do some more background research in a few areas. Could you help me with suggested reading? Three big chunks:

The International System:

  • How has the international system (UN, WTO, Bretton Woods, regional bodies, ILO etc) arisen and evolved?
  • How is it changing today (rise of regional bodies, new BRICs-based organizations etc)?
  • How does it in practice drive social/political change in developing countries? Is it through hard power (international law, treaties etc) or soft (impact on norms, sharing of knowledge and ideas)
  • Any particularly good profiles of the history of particular international bodies and their impact in driving change?


  • How have transnational corporations arisen and evolved?
  • How are they changing today (rise of southern TNCs)? What are the drivers of such change?
  • How do they in practice drive social/political change in developing countries (whether intentionally or by accident, positive or negative)? Is their impact mainly direct (through jobs, tax revenues, consumers) or indirect (tech spillovers, impact on practices of domestic firms). Is Corporate Social Responsibility a significant part of their overall impact, or a marginal activity?
  • Any particularly good profiles of the history, evolution and impact of particular TNCs?

dog readingLeaders and Leadership:

What distinguishes good from bad leaders in terms of their personal formation, the systems in which they operate, and how they think and behave? Good leaders are here understood as nation builders who avoid grabbing the spoils, move political systems to a programmatic rather than patronage base, have an orderly succession when they step down, and bring improved stability, prosperity and respect for rights. Any really good biographies?

Similarly, what factors create good leaders at grassroots and activist level?

I’m looking for foundational books – big overviews like the Fukuyama history of the state I reviewed recently – and in-depth case studies. I’m interested in how these organizations and people drive change (I’m already pretty well covered on how NGOs and other activists in turn can change them). I’m not that interested in academic papers recycling vague jargon and generalizations or (shudder) the ephemera of blogs (not that any of you would have any truck with such things, I’m sure).

Over to you.

September 2, 2015
Duncan Green