As a follow-on from our 2018 Geopolitical Reading List, in this piece we review John C. Hulsman’s “To Dare More Boldly: The Audacious Story of Political Risk“; a fascinating insight into – and history of – the world of political risk analysis both as a rapidly expanding professional industry and a longstanding academic discipline.
As a professional geopolitical intelligence analyst I was naturally extremely excited when Princeton University Press asked us to review John C. Hulsman’s “To Dare More Boldly“. I have long found it challenging to concisely summarise what it is people in our field do for a living in a way that avoids putting the audience to sleep. To most outsiders, our field is either seen as tea-leaf reading or an academic pursuit with tenuous links to the real world. This book solves this problem in a highly entertaining fashion; diving into the world of political risk analysis from its academic roots, following it through to the multi-billion dollar industry guiding the strategic decision-making of the biggest of the FTSE and Fortune indexes that it has today evolved into. Hulsman makes the case to business leaders of the importance of political risk analysis, and uses historical examples to guide our analysis of the modern world, all while providing enjoyable stories and historical examples in the hope of making the reader better at analysis.
“To Dare More Boldly” is presented in the style of ten commandments of political risk analysis, and examines previous predictions that have been wildly off the mark. Seemingly bizarre examples – the Crusades, the British Empire, the breakup of the Beatles, Charles Manson, and the founding of the United States – are explored through the lens of political risk analysis in a manner that should remain interesting for both novice readers on the subject, and die-hard analysis veterans. The first of these commandments – “We are the risk” – explores the concept that, rather than a naturally dangerous political world threatening our stability and safety, it is in fact a strange type of political self-harm that carries the greatest threat. In the current era of populism, Trump, Brexit and Five-Star, this is a lesson that carries hefty weight. From here, “To Dare More Boldly” goes on to examine the lessons of the declining British Empire and its relevance to a modern America feeling challenged on multiple frontiers, with an important examination of the importance of avoiding the pitfalls of accepted institutional thinking. It is here that professional political risk analysts will find one of the book’s most vital lessons on bold thinking.
Overall, I would recommend this highly entertaining book to both established readers in our field along with those merely curious about the work we do. Hulsman’s storyteller style is fascinating, entertaining, and highly accessible.
Encyclopedia Geopolitica was kindly provided with a review copy of “To Dare More Boldly: The Audacious Story of Political Risk” from Princeton University Press for this article.
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Lewis Tallon is a former British Army Intelligence Officer with several years experience working and living in the Middle East and North Africa region and Asia Pacific in geopolitical, armed conflict risk and threat intelligence roles. Lewis currently specialises in providing MENA-region geopolitical intelligence support to the oil & gas industry, and the financial sector.
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