Book Bits: 16 December 2023

Political Technology: The Globalisation of Political Manipulation
Andrew Wilson
Summary via publisher (Cambridge U. Press)
‘Political technology’ is a Russian term for the professional engineering of politics. It has turned Russian politics into theatre and propaganda, and metastasised to take over foreign policy and weaponise history. The war against Ukraine is one outcome. In the West, spin doctors and political consultants do more than influence media or run campaigns: they have also helped build parallel universes of alternative political reality. Hungary has used political technology to dismantle democracy. The BJP in India has used it to consolidate unprecedented power. Different countries learn from each other. Some types of political technology have become notorious, like troll farms or data mining; but there is now a global wholesale industry selling a range of manipulation techniques, from astroturfing to fake parties to propaganda apps. This book shows that ‘political technology’ is about much more than online disinformation: it is about whole new industries of political engineering.

China’s Gambit: The Calculus of Coercion
Keitan Zhang
Summary via publisher (Cambridge U. Press)
Emerging from an award-winning article in International Security, China’s Gambit examines when, why, and how China attempts to coerce states over perceived threats to its national security. Since 1990, China has used coercion for territorial disputes and issues related to Taiwan and Tibet, yet China is curiously selective in the timing, target, and tools of coercion. This book offers a new and generalizable cost-balancing theory to explain states’ coercion decisions. It demonstrates that China does not coerce frequently and uses military coercion less when it becomes stronger, resorting primarily to non-militarized tools. Leveraging rich empirical evidence, including primary Chinese documents and interviews with Chinese and foreign officials, this book explains how contemporary rising powers translate their power into influence and offers a new framework for explaining states’ coercion decisions in an era of economic interdependence, particularly how contemporary global economic interdependence affects rising powers’ foreign security policies.

Market Liquidity: Theory, Evidence, and Policy (2nd ed.)
Thierry Foucault, et al.
Summary via publisher (Oxford U. Press)
The way in which securities are traded is very different from the idealized picture of a frictionless and self-equilibrating market offered by the typical finance textbook. In Market Liquidity, Thierry Foucault, Marco Pagano, and Ailsa Röell offer a more accurate take on the liquidity of securities markets, its determinants, and its effects. They start from the assumption that not everyone is present at all times simultaneously on the market, and that even the limited number of participants who are have quite diverse information about the security’s fundamentals. As a result, the order flow is a complex mix of information and noise, and a consensus price only emerges gradually over time as the trading process evolves and the participants interpret the actions of other traders. Thus, a security’s actual transaction price may deviate from its fundamental value, as it would be assessed by a fully informed set of investors.

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