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The United Nations: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Jussi M. Hanhimäki
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Oct 2008 Very Short Introductions
The United Nations has been called everything from "the best hope of mankind" to "irrelevant" and "obsolete." With this much-needed introduction to the UN, Jussi Hanhimaki engages the current debate over the organizations effectiveness as he provides a clear understanding of how it was originally conceived, how it has come to its present form, and how it must confront new challenges in a rapidly changing world. After a brief history of the United Nations and its predecessor, the League of Nations, the author examines the UN's successes and failures as a guardian of international peace and security, as a promoter of human rights, as a protector of international law, and as an engineer of socio-economic development. Hanhimaki stresses that the UN's greatest problem has been the impossibly wide gap between its ambitions and capabilities. In the area of international security, for instance, the UN has to settle conflicts-be they between or within states-without offending the national sovereignty of its member states, and without being sidelined by strong countries, as happened in the 2003 intervention of Iraq. Hanhimaki also provides a clear accounting of the UN and its various arms and organizations (such as UNESCO and UNICEF), and he offers a critical overview of how effective it has been in the recent crises in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, for example-and how likely it is to meet its overall goals in the future. The United Nations, Hanhimaki concludes, is an indispensable organization that has made the world a better place. But it is also a deeply flawed institution, in need of constant reform. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (30 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195304373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195304374
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 11.4 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 46,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jussi M. Hanhimäki is Finland's internationally best known historian. He is currently Professor of International History at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, and previously taught at the London School of Economics (1995-2000). In 2006 he was named Finland Distinguished Professor by the Academy of Finland. Hanhimäki is the recipient of the Bernath Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) and has authored or co-authored eleven books and countless articles and chapters.

Harvard University Professor Akira Iriye, a doyen of international historians, has described Jussi Hanhimäki as "a superb embodiment of the internationalized scholarship that is a precondition of any study of international relations." Iriye came to this conclusion upon reflecting on Hanhimäki's truly international career path. He left his native Finland in 1987, studied in the United States (Boston University), and spent his early postdoctoral years in Canada (Montreal) and the United States (Harvard University, Ohio University). Hanhimäki then moved to London in 1995 (LSE), before accepting his current post in Geneva in 2000. Among the institutes where he has held fellowships are: the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University; the Contemporary History Institute at Ohio University; the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the United States Institute of Peace.

A specialist of the international history of the Cold War, transatlantic relations, and the role of international institutions, Jussi Hanhimäki's recent publications include: An International History of Terrorism: Western and Non-Western Experiences (2013) and The Rise and Fall of Détente: American Foreign Policy and the Transformation of the Cold War (2012) and . He has previously authored or co-authored: Transatlantic Relations Since 1945: An Introduction (2012); The United Nations: A Very Short Introduction (2008); The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy (2004); (with Odd Arne Westad), The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts (2003); and (with A. Best, J. Maiolo and K. Schultze) International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond (2008, 2nd ed.), and other works.

Hanhimäki is currently working on two major book projects: Refugees: An International History and Transnational History of the Cold War. He also directs a project on "Terrorism and the Cold War" at the Graduate Institute in Geneva.

Product Description

About the Author

Jussi M. Hanhimaki is Professor of International History and Politics at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. An editor of the journal Cold War History, he is the author or co-author of six books, including The Flawed Architect: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy. He won the 2002 Bernath Prize from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great clear introduction into the topic! 3 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this little book very easy to read and well written. The author clearly has extensive knowledge about the history of the UN and gives a good balanced point of view pointing out both the problems and benefits that come with the largest global organisation that ever existed!

Great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Whatever happened to the League 21 Mar 2014
By opus
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I can at least claim an interest in that I have been inside The United Nations Headquarters, although only as a visitor much as one might do St Peter's or The Taj Mahal. That the Headquarters are on Manhattan Island really should be the clue that the U.N. is to America as The Delian League was to Athens, (though without those facets that are reserved for NATO) and both organisations had the same type of pretentions, notionally inclusive but merely serving the interests of the lead-power.

The U.N. is thus a reflection of American ideology, that is to say Enlightenment based and with all the delusions that come from that liberal belief. What it is not, despite any appearance to the contrary is Kantian World Peace. In short it is without teeth save in so far as facilitated by America (who conduct their show-trials at The Hague and impose their own financial disciplines via the World Bank and the WTO and the IMF).

On page 5 we are informed that the U.N. is the only really global organisation. What then of the Roman Catholic Church, The British Empire, FIFA or The Olympics? - and of course almost all multi-nationals, and N.G.O.s. Perhaps in the spirit of market competition there should be an alternative organisation attempting the same range of activities as the U.N. - and it has to be said that the E.U. seems on course to achieve that, but that would surely then lead to the problems the U.N. is supposed to suppress. Ultimately then the question - whose answer negates the U.N. - is who controls the U.N., a question which whenever put of any body has no adequate answer.

The cover of my copy is a somewhat darker and dramatic Philip Atkins painting. The book is well done so far as I can tell with somewhat thicker pages than usual for a vsi.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Ok intro. 19 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As with all very short intros - very good. Not the most interesting read - I needed it for a quick refresh prior to a career course.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TREMENDOUSLY INFORMED -- AND INFORMATIVE 6 April 2012
By Thomas Plate - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A tremendously informative -- and informed -- overview of the United Nations system. This is an overview that emphasizes both the history and sprawling expanse of the UN as a checkered but inter-linked system. It avoids the journalistic fallacy of personalizing either the Office of Secretary General or the institution itself, and is rock-solid on important details and relevant problems. It accepts the UN as a necessary world institution without in any sense ignoring its yawning structural problems. Highly recommended. I will use it as the basic introductory text for my undergraduate "The Future of the United Nations" class at university. By the way, as the series title would suggest...it is pointedly concise. In an age of wasted Internet and Blog words...BRAVO!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice, short overview of the UN, its structure, and its actions 27 May 2012
By Jeffrey Walden - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The title says it all -- this book's a short summary of the history behind the UN, the structure of the UN, the challenges facing it, and the avenues for future reform. It's a reasonably short read, although not quite one to breeze through, acronym-laden as it is (pretty much by necessity, given how the UN works).

As the author acknowledges, he's writing the book as a UN apologist. Yet at the same time, he doesn't hesitate to discuss the many times and ways the UN's fallen short of its original lofty goals. I tend to think it won't change many people's minds about the value or futility of the UN (it doesn't seem to have been written with an explicit goal of that sort), but at least it'll leave people better informed as to what the UN does and doesn't do, effectively and incompetently.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 18 Feb 2013
By Elias Valverde - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Awesome book very informative just what my teacher required. I could not have asked for more from this book g.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good intruductory book 13 Sep 2013
By Carlos Castro - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is by far the best book on the United Nations system.
The author give us a an overview of the U.N.'s roots and the challenges the organization is facing today.
I recommend it for everyone interested in U.N.
It could be a little bit lager as a book however. The Oxford Uni Press could have given this gift to the reader.
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative reading 17 May 2014
By Bastian F. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I feel better informed about UN and its difficulties, and that was the reason for me to buy the book, so great job
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