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About the book
  • Published: 3 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781787632004
  • Imprint: Bantam Press
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $35.00

Extreme Economies

Survival, Failure, Future – Lessons from the World’s Limits




Inspiring and thought-provoking, Extreme Economies is filled with lively stories about human experience at society's limits, and the lessons these economic outliers can provide for our future.

Longlisted for the Financial Times & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award 2019

'A highly original approach to understanding what really makes economies tick.' Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England
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In search of a fresh perspective on the modern economy, Extreme Economies takes the reader off the beaten path, introducing people living at the world’s margins. From disaster zones and displaced societies to failed states and hidden rainforest communities, the lives of people who inhabit these little-known places tend to be ignored by economists and policy makers. Leading economist Richard Davies argues that this is a mistake, and explains why the world’s overlooked extremes offer a glimpse of the forces that underlie human resilience, help markets to function and cause them to fail, and will come to shape our collective future.

Whether trekking with Punjabi migrants through the lawless Panamanian jungle or revealing the clever trick Syrians use to underpin trade in the world’s most entrepreneurial refugee camp, Richard Davies brings a storyteller’s eye to places where the economy has been destroyed, distorted, and even turbocharged. In adapting to circumstances that would be unimaginable to most of us, the people he encounters have become economic pioneers whose lives help us reflect on our own.

At once intimate and analytical, Extreme Economies draws the lines between personal narratives and global trends, shedding light on today’s biggest economic questions and providing vital lessons for our turbulent future.

  • Pub date: 3 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781787632004
  • Imprint: Bantam Press
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • RRP: $35.00

Praise for Extreme Economies

“Breathtaking. An entertaining, fascinating, important reminder of the power of economics to shape all of our lives.”

Ed Conway, Economics Editor of Sky News

“Richard Davies balances economics with art, exposing the trade-offs made by people living today and forcing us to question the outcomes of our decisions.”

Will Page, Chief Economist at Spotify

“We learn most about ourselves at times of extreme stress and challenge. Using nine compelling country case studies, Richard Davies brilliantly demonstrates that the same is true of our economic systems. In its approach and insights, Extreme Economies is a revelation - and a must-read.”

Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England

“Exciting to see economics strike out into the real world showing how trauma and chaos can yield raw truths about markets, monopolies and the state.”

Simon Jenkins

“Davies visits economies pushed to the limit and examines what their response teaches us about resilience in the face of climate change, demographic shifts and state failure.”

Financial Times

“An exploration of the lessons to be drawn from disaster-stricken economies and imperilled (but innovative) people, which ranges from the jungles of Panama to post-tsunami Indonesia to the prison system of Louisiana and Syrian refugee camps.”

The Economist - Books of the Year 2019

“Richard Davies obviously made the kind of road trip many of us only dream of to write Extreme Economies. I tore through it. An economist who can write so well while at the same time explaining the economic principles so clearly is always a joy.”

Diane Coyle

“Accessible and original. The author draws on sociology and anthropology and the simple power of observation and conversation to bring economics alive.”

Vince Cable, New Statesman Books of the Year

“A must read for anyone feeling desperate about the state of world affairs today, Extreme Economies demonstrates with vivid clarity and humanity how those in the most challenging situations can prosper. Many economists are quite narrow in their thinking about life’s challenges, this book beautifully demonstrates why the world’s most interesting places force us to think more openly.”

Lord Jim O'Neill, Chair, Chatham House

“A highly original approach to understanding what really makes economies tick. Both insightful and accessible to non-economists.”

Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England

“Extreme Economies makes sense of the forces shaping the future. Taken together, the books nine deep dives are a much needed reminder that an economy is not what happens when equations interact with data. An economy is what happens when people -- real people, people with names -- interact with people. Anyone who wants to learn economics, is learning economics, or pretends to know some economics should read this book.”

Paul Romer, winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences

“We can't forecast the coming decades, but it is enlightening to look at extreme economies for clues what we may be in store for. Davies book is fascinating.”

Professor Robert J. Shiller, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences

“A fascinating book on economics in extremes. What happens when things go really wrong or are really different.”

Martin Wolf, Financial Times