Political Risk by Condoleezza Rice & Amy Zegart: Review

Title: Political Risk

Author: Condoleezza Rice and Amy Zegart

Publisher: Hachette

Price: Rs 599

Pages: 321

One author of the book, Condoleezza Rice, who served as National Security Advisor from 2001 to 2005 and was the 66th US Secretary of State from 2005 to 2009, makes this an important read. Currently, co-authors Amy Zegart and Condoleezza Rice are with Stanford College/ University. The authors have been teaching the political risk class for several years. In 2015, Condoleezza turned to Amy and said, “You know, we really ought to turn this course into a book.” That’s how the book came into existence.

Authors have talked about ‘Political Action’ and not about ‘Government Action’, to highlight the growing role of risk generated outside the usual places like capital, army barracks and party headquarters. We see this happening all around us in India, latest example being Sterlite Plant at Tamil Nadu. Book says “Not just any kind of political risk, but twenty-first-century political risk, where the political action of small groups, or even lone individuals, supercharged by connective technologies, can dramatically impact business of all kinds.” This line is the premise of the whole book. The authors have taken examples from across the world.

Authors have demonstrated that “Technology has enabled a transnational group of all types — non-governmental organisations, activists, international labour unions, cyber vigilantes, criminal syndicates, terrorists, militias, and religious and ethnic organisations – to become more significant source of risk for business.”

In ten chapters, the book gives political risk framework, and talks about understanding political risks, analysing risks, mitigating risks, responding to crisis and also strengthening political risk muscles. One can never anticipate and nullify all the risks, but yes the book will help one to avoid guesswork in managing political risk. The book also talks about successful and unsuccessful attempts by the corporate to solve political risks, and covers a wide range of industries which helps in understanding the concept in its totality.

There is only one example from India, which concludes with the finding, “The same information at the same moment can mean different things to different people even when the stakes are high and everyone shares a fervent desire to ‘get it right’. Communicating risk is hard.” There might be only one example from India, but in the minds of alert reader, many Indian examples will flash through while reading the book. Book talks about some important concepts like ‘Cumulative risk’ and also discusses why when two most powerful leaders of the world meet they discuss ‘pig’ for hours. This is an important book for anyone who is interested in business. A similar book can be written in Indian context because in India there are more than 10 issues outside politics that are mentioned in the book which affect the business.

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