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The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty [Kindle Edition]

Nina Munk
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

BloombergForbesThe Spectator

Recipient of Foreign Policy's 2013 Albie Award

A powerful portrayal of Jeffrey Sachs's ambitious quest to end global poverty
 "The poor you will always have with you," to cite the Gospel of Matthew 26:11. Jeffrey Sachs—celebrated economist, special advisor to the Secretary General of the United Nations, and author of the influential bestseller The End of Poverty—disagrees.  In his view, poverty is a problem that can be solved. With single-minded determination he has attempted to put into practice his theories about ending extreme poverty, to prove that the world's most destitute people can be lifted onto "the ladder of development."
            In 2006, Sachs launched the Millennium Villages Project, a daring five-year experiment designed to test his theories in Africa. The first Millennium village was in Sauri, a remote cluster of farming communities in western Kenya. The initial results were encouraging. With his first taste of success, and backed by one hundred twenty million dollars from George Soros and other likeminded donors, Sachs rolled out a dozen model villages in ten sub-Saharan countries. Once his approach was validated it would be scaled up across the entire continent. At least that was the idea.
        For the past six years, Nina Munk has reported deeply on the Millennium Villages Project, accompanying Sachs on his official trips to Africa and listening in on conversations with heads-of-state, humanitarian organizations, rival economists, and development experts. She has immersed herself in the lives of people in two Millennium villages: Ruhiira, in southwest Uganda, and Dertu, in the arid borderland between Kenya and Somalia. Accepting the hospitality of camel herders and small-hold farmers, and witnessing their struggle to survive, Munk came to understand the real-life issues that challenge Sachs's formula for ending global poverty. 
         THE IDEALIST is the profound and moving story of what happens when the abstract theories of a brilliant, driven man meet the reality of human life.

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"An engaging, eye-opening read" --The Guardian

"The Idealist tracks the messianic economist Jeffrey Sachs s doomed attempt to solve African poverty by establishing a network of model villages where his pet theories could be tested before being escalated. The author, Nina Munk, who spent six years interviewing Sachs and visiting the Millenium Villages, is a delicate, careful writer. She not only reminds us that there are good, solid reasons why certain areas of the world remain desperately poor, she raises troubling questions about the credibility of an economist embraced by rock singers and film stars." --The Spectator

"A sharply rendered and deeply disillusioned account of [Jeffrey Sachs'] personal quest to end poverty.... With impressive persistence, unflagging empathy and journalistic derring-do, Ms. Munk returns over a five-year period to Dertu and one other village to document the project's progress.... Heartbreaking." --The Wall Street Journal

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 8182 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385525818
  • Publisher: Anchor (10 Sept. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #208,425 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A salutary tale, exquisitely well-written. 23 Dec. 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jeffrey Sachs is fearsomely smart, driven and idealistic. The word hubris could also have been invented for him. His is an example of how the deceptively compelling simplicity of the Western rationalist / mechanistic approach can lead us so far up the garden path. The apparently 'obvious' solutions to this top economist with a (somewhat questionable) track record in turning round second world economies, solutions so self-evident only a moron could fail to see them, turn out not to be quite so self-evident after all. This book does an excellent job of chronicling the many creative ways in which the messy realities of life, and especially life in the 'developing world', acted together to stymie his best efforts in ways which he could not have predicted. What he could have predicted, however, was that perverse forces of some kind would inevitably act against what he was trying to do. He did not do that and went into the whole Millennium Village Project with a wide-eyed innocence which any gap year student who had spent a bare six months volunteering on a third world development project would have found laughable. You can't help feeling that if he'd done some time as a young man in the Peace Corps this whole debacle would never have happened.

What is as remarkable as the story itself, though, is that Nina Munk has crafted a compelling, page-turning story out of what most people would think was rather a dry topic. She is a gifted wordsmith and I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in development or simply the pitfalls of believing the Western rationalist-centric view of the world can deliver the answers the world needs on its own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read. 26 Mar. 2014
By Molly
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As someone who works in development (PhD) I have had concerns over the MVP and Sachs general attitude to the complexities of development since before the publication of "The End of Poverty" (2005). His astounding lack of interest in the voices of the people and his complete inability to grasp complexities within development (to ensure the best outcomes for people actually living In poverty) had been disturbing. Especially, since, as mentioned within this book, academics like Robert Chambers have been writing about the need for community involvement, perhaps especially, within rural development initiatives since the early 80s. The fact that Sachs has been fêted and fawned upon by celebrities and people hoping for easy answers and quick fixes the last 10 years has meant that real debate and dialogue have been pushed aside and made invisible. Nina Munk has done a great service with her book in highlighting to people not within development that superficial bandaid solutions are not worthy of anyone, let alone those people who need help the most.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars definetely worth a read 5 Feb. 2015
By Lookfar
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an interesting insight into the Millenium Villages project. The journalist has taken her time in collecting evidence by interviewing the people who are actually on the field. However, when adressing something of this importance (millions of dollars are being poured into the project). I would expect something more than a journalistic cronicle. The book lacks data, not just reviews from the news but solid data that can guide the reader towards an unbiased conclusion. We may not like the way things are done, we may even not like the characters that are doing the things, but that does not mean they may not have done something of value.
To be read critically, and in conjuction with other books on the same topic.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bright buffoon is still a buffoon 27 Oct. 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A cautionary tale of a smart-alec who was so smart he could sort out Africa, and lots of other places too like Russia and Poland. Or so he thought. He has left a trail of damage, waste, and sanctimonious simple-minded but clever sounding twaddle wherever he has been. You do not want this chap arriving in your village with his wads of dollars and pushy style. Send him away. This book deserves to be widely read in the developing world, and elsewhere too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight 10 April 2014
By Radish
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I heard an interview with Nina Munk and felt compelled to buy this book, which was brilliant. This is great for anyone working in development or even those who just have an interest. Nina is not a development expert, but her insight and analysis of people and situations is excellent. I would highly recommend this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Easy read about an important subject 18 Sept. 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Monk's book is incredibly readable. Whilst I knew something of Sach's work I was not aware of the Millennium Villages project and it is was all very interesting. I suspect history will be kinder to Sachs than Munk who clearly saw his work up close with all its failings.
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