A brilliant, eye-opening work of history that speaks volumes about today’s battles over international trade, immigration, public health and global inequality.
Before the First World War, enthusiasm for a borderless world reached its height. International travel, migration, trade, and progressive projects on matters ranging from women’s rights to world peace reached a crescendo. Yet in the same breath, an undercurrent of reaction was growing, one that would surge ahead with the outbreak of war and its aftermath.
In Against the World, a sweeping and ambitious work of history, acclaimed scholar Tara Zahra examines how nationalism, rather than internationalism, came to ensnare world politics in the early twentieth century. The air went out of the globalist balloon with the First World War as quotas were put on immigration and tariffs on trade, not only in the United States but across Europe, where war and disease led to mass societal upheaval. The “Spanish flu” heightened anxieties about porous national boundaries. The global impact of the 1929 economic crash and the Great Depression amplified a quest for food security in Europe and economic autonomy worldwide. Demands for relief from the instability and inequality linked to globalization forged democracies and dictatorships alike, from Gandhi’s India to America’s New Deal and Hitler’s Third Reich. Immigration restrictions, racially constituted notions of citizenship, anti-Semitism, and violent outbursts of hatred of the “other” became the norm—coming to genocidal fruition in the Second World War.
Millions across the political spectrum sought refuge from the imagined and real threats of the global economy in ways strikingly reminiscent of our contemporary political moment: new movements emerged focused on homegrown and local foods, domestically produced clothing and other goods, and back-to-the-land communities. Rich with astonishing detail gleaned from Zahra’s unparalleled archival research in five languages, Against the World is a poignant and thorough exhumation of the popular sources of resistance to globalization. With anti-globalism a major tenet of today’s extremist agendas, Zahra's arrestingly clearsighted and wide-angled account is essential reading to grapple with our divided present.
About the Author
Tara Zahra is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a professor of history at the University of Chicago. Recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she lives in Chicago, Illinois.
Lively and ambitious…Every story in this book is relevant and absorbing; Zahra plaits her narrative strands together with such deliberation and skill that nothing is out of place. — Jennifer Szalai - New York Times
[A] superb history of the interwar period… Zahra has produced one of the best and most timely works of global history of the past few years. — Gavin Jacobson - The New Statesman
In this original, ambitious history, Zahra homes in on the early 20th century to show, with a fascinating cast of nationalists, pacifists, and reactionaries, how globalization prompted resistance and genuine suffering from the outset. — New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice
A panoramic history of anti-globalisation… Zahra deftly weaves cutting-edge scholarship and human stories into concerns about democracy, markets and nation-states. — Duncan Kelly - Financial Times
It’s impossible in a review of this, or any, length to do justice to the richly layered tapestry Zahra weaves…Reading Against the World against the backdrop of the present makes it hard not to conclude that the path forward lies not in more deglobalization - or more globalization - but in more justice.
— Sean T. Byrnes - Jacobin
Drawing lessons from current events, Zahra’s newly published book Against the World builds its case from Zahra’s archival research in seven countries. Using those materials, she shows how anxieties about the perceived and real consequences of globalization fueled wide-ranging efforts to change or slow cross-border flows of people, goods, and capital. The cast of characters includes Benito Mussolini, Mahatma Gandhi, and other famous nationalists, as well as people usually at the margins of power, including migrant women.
— Elizabeth Station - UChicago Magazine
Everything Tara Zahra touches turns to gold—and her new masterwork on what happened between the world wars when liberal globalization met mass politics is no exception.… Impossible to put down. — Samuel Moyn, author of Humane
Against the World not only alerts us to the central intellectual folly of our age. Splendidly timely, it also explains our bewildering present of war and rancorous mass politics, and outlines both challenges and possibilities in our shared future.
— Pankaj Mishra, author of Bland Fanatics
Deeply researched, timely, and erudite… a page-turning account that is a must-read for anyone interested in how and why the world's current conditions are not unique. — Caroline Elkins, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Legacy of Violence
Against the World is a tour de force: Tara Zahra brings her formidable talents as a writer and scholar to this elegant, consistently surprising, and richly peopled book.
— Sunil Amrith, author of Unruly Waters
Every day brings another headline about the end of globalization but, as Tara Zahra shows us in her lively and learned new book, we have been here before.… Through vivid portraits of contemporaries from Czech shoe baron Tomás Bat’a to Hungarian-born feminist Rosika Schwimmer, she reminds us that the politics of separation spawn new conflicts of their own. — Quinn Slobodian, author of Globalists
Against the World represents a new and better kind of global history.… This is the best book about the mass politics of globalization yet written.”
— Jonathan Levy, author of Ages of American Capitalism
Against the World counterintuitively offers a global history from the perspective of its discontents. Brilliantly conceived and masterfully told.
— Mae Ngai, Bancroft Award–winning author of The Chinese Question
Discouraging yet important, expertly rendered political history. — Kirkus
Thought-provoking contribution. . . Against the World is at its best in recalling the unexpected ways in which the collapse of the imperial world of nineteenth-century trade and bourgeois hegemony played out in the era of mass politics. It sketches a convincing and fresh picture of the torment World War I brought to eastern Europe and of the plight of Europe’s Jews, in particular. Zahra also draws out the new forms of mass mobilization that flourished between the wars and the new actors who emerged onto the political scene.
— Mark Mazower - Foreign Affairs
[Zahra] sets out to examine antiglobalism and nationalist politics between the two world wars…[she] believes that, by understanding this period better, we can defuse the unresolved tensions between globalism and democracy in our own time…vigorous and informative — Tunku Varadarajan - Wall Street Journal