THE WORLD'S BANKER: A Story of Failed States, Financial Crises, and the Wealth and Poverty of Nations

Sebastian Mallaby, Author . Penguin Press $29.95 (462p) ISBN 978-1-59420-023-6

As portrayed by Washington Post columnist Mallaby, the charming, powerful, Australian-born millionaire James Wolfensohn works to transform the World Bank, of which he is president, from a Cold War dinosaur obsessed with regulations and procedures to an organization that is leanly and meanly focused on getting underdeveloped countries onto the economic grid on their own terms. Without a doubt, Wolfensohn makes great copy: he competed in the Olympics, refinanced Chrysler in 1980 and chaired a variety of top-flight cultural institutions. Mallaby (After Apartheid ) efficiently relays anecdotes from each of these periods to reveal Wolfensohn's psychological, professional and intellectual complexion. The brilliant and deliberative leader who emerges has the "10-million-volt passion" of wanting the presidency of the World Bank, and where the book really shines is in Mallaby's ability to integrate the political, social and interpersonal narratives that lead to Wolfensohn's ascension to it in 1995. Mallaby presents Wolfensohn as forcefully advocating self-determination for poor countries (not unlike "feisty" NGO "tormentors" who oppose the Bank's version of globalization), but finds that Wolfensohn has been "obliged to reckon" with the U.S.'s varying agendas "and generally with the shifting appetites of his rich political masters." That's a characterization with which not everyone will agree, but Mallaby forges it with skill, opening his subject to further scrutiny by all sides. Agent, the Wylie Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/18/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 462 pages - 978-0-300-10801-9
Paperback - 488 pages - 978-0-14-303679-1
Paperback - 476 pages - 978-0-300-11676-2
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