New book: Gridlock: Why Global Cooperation Is Failing When We Need It Most, by Thomas Hale ’04 *12, David Held, and Kevin Young (Polity Press)

The authors: Hale, who majored in the Woodrow Wilson School and returned to Princeton to complete a Ph.D. in politics, is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government. His research explores how we can manage transnational problems effectively and fairly. Held is a professor of politics and international relations at Durham University. Young is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The book: As international problems have grown worse, international institutions have become less equipped to address them. The breakdown of cooperation affects a range of issues, including security, economics, and the environment. In a recent summary article in Social Europe Journal, Hale and his co-authors wrote that following World War II, new international institutions “provided the momentum for decades of sustained economic growth and geopolitical stability,” but over time, those institutions have lost their problem-solving capacity.

Opening lines: “The director of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) recently spoke proudly before a gathering of distinguished physicists to announce the discovery of a Higgs boson particle. This fundamental building block of our universe, the so-called ‘God particle,’ had been theorized by physicists in the early 1960s, but it took them another 50 years to prove its existence. His comments were brief, but he took great care to stress the following to his audience: ‘It is a global effort, it was a global effort, and it’s a global success.’ …

“This kind of success, in which countries work together to achieve a common goal through international institutions, is increasingly rare.”

Reviews: “In highlighting the historical contingency of no longer effective mechanisms, the authors are not just pessimistic, but almost frightening,” wrote Jean-Christophe Nothias of The Global Journal. “In their telling, gridlock results in further gridlock and the condition will only become more pervasive.” … Will Hutton of The Irish Times referenced the book in a recent story about the G8, noting the authors’ view that “the issues that need confronting are multiplying and growing more complicated.”

Audio: Listen to a podcast featuring Hale, Held, and Young, recorded at the London School of Economics earlier this month.