• Doom

  • The Politics of Catastrophe
  • By: Niall Ferguson
  • Narrated by: Niall Ferguson
  • Length: 16 hrs and 35 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (367 ratings)

1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $35.00

Buy for $35.00

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

"All disasters are in some sense man-made."

Setting the annus horribilis of 2020 in historical perspective, Niall Ferguson explains why we are getting worse, not better, at handling disasters.

Disasters are inherently hard to predict. Pandemics, like earthquakes, wildfires, financial crises. and wars, are not normally distributed; there is no cycle of history to help us anticipate the next catastrophe. But when disaster strikes, we ought to be better prepared than the Romans were when Vesuvius erupted, or medieval Italians when the Black Death struck. We have science on our side, after all. 

Yet in 2020 the responses of many developed countries, including the United States, to a new virus from China were badly bungled. Why? Why did only a few Asian countries learn the right lessons from SARS and MERS? While populist leaders certainly performed poorly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Niall Ferguson argues that more profound pathologies were at work - pathologies already visible in our responses to earlier disasters.

In books going back nearly 20 years, including Colossus, The Great Degeneration, and The Square and the Tower, Ferguson has studied the foibles of modern America, from imperial hubris to bureaucratic sclerosis and online fragmentation.

Drawing from multiple disciplines, including economics, cliodynamics, and network science, Doom offers not just a history but a general theory of disasters, showing why our ever more bureaucratic and complex systems are getting worse at handling them.

Doom is the lesson of history that this country - indeed the West as a whole - urgently needs to learn, if we want to handle the next crisis better, and to avoid the ultimate doom of irreversible decline.

This audiobook includes a downloadable PDF of images and tables from the book.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2021 Niall Ferguson (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“[Doom] hopscotches breezily across continents and centuries while also displaying an impressive command of the latest research in a large number of specialized fields, among them medical history, epidemiology, probability theory, cliodynamics and network theory.... Belongs on the shelf next to recent ambitious and eclectic books by authors like Jared Diamond, Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Steven Pinker.... Promises to make a contribution to improving our management of future disasters.... Insightful, productively provocative and downright brilliant.” (New York Times Book Review)

Doom seeks to understand why humanity, time and again through the ages, has failed to prepare for catastrophes, whether natural or manmade.... Forecasting, network science, economics, epidemiology, together with the psychology of leadership are all considered in a dazzlingly broad examination of the ‘politics of catastrophe’.... Magisterial...[an] immensely readable book.” (The Financial Times

Doom covers an impressive sweep of history at a lively narrative clip and weaves a lot of disparate strands together into an engaging picture.” (The Guardian

What listeners say about Doom

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    239
  • 4 Stars
    84
  • 3 Stars
    27
  • 2 Stars
    8
  • 1 Stars
    9
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    244
  • 4 Stars
    53
  • 3 Stars
    9
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    3
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    198
  • 4 Stars
    72
  • 3 Stars
    27
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    8

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Get through the first chapters

Get through the first three chapters. The rest is well worth your time. You will not regret the experience

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent read

Even when the author went on a tangent or down a rabbit hole, I learned something.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Good report on the work of several others.

This was an excellent report/summary of the points of several works done throughout the recent past. It was nice to be reminded of the points of the researchers/writers/authors of these previous works. However, I got tired of the continued introduction of ideas I had already been introduced to by reading the works myself. I was hoping for more insight from Ferguson himself because I have enjoyed his point of view on several podcasts and cable programs.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Historical Context

Ferguson’s “Doom” effectively situates covid 19 amongst other disasters in human history but also shows how a political disaster often develops after a natural one has occurred.

I enjoyed Niall’s review of the events of late 2019-2020 as even though these events where recent, key details could’ve easily been missed in the chaos of living through the pandemic.

Yet sometimes it felt as though the book was too heavily focused on Covid-19. Certainly this event was central to current political discourse but I fear that too many people are likely burned out of the pandemic.

All in all the book is worth a listen especially if you enjoy Ferguson’s work as I do. His unique style weaves popular culture, economics and political analysis into the dissection of historical events providing rich and thought provoking insights.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

How dare you challenge me

Niall,
How dare you challenge my preconceived notions. What give you the right to expand my mind to think about what I was unaware of.

This is agreed book. He has written a comprehensive and fact based argument for understanding the ineptitude and sometimes corrupt leadership. Far from blaming this person or that person, Niall, warns about losing focus on the things that matter.

Thank you Niall Ferguson.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Dozens of historical episodes and vocabulary words on every page!

I’m just now enjoying Niall Ferguson’s “Doom” a thick volume, chock full of historical analysis.

I can’t help but thinking you’d enjoy it.

In particular each page seems to have a dozen or more important historical references, only 20% or 30% of which I had previously heard of.

I therefore enjoy having the gaps in my recollection filled in, and hopefully through assimilation, benefit from learning the new ones that flash by.

Topics range from mathematics, to computer science, to biology, politics, war, statecraft etc.

Listening to it on Audible has the advantage of listening to Naill’s pleasant accent at 1.33x speed. Lots of foreign words properly pronounced!!

Though the book, as title suggests, has a pessimistic tone, it’s hard to argue with the factual accounts, presumably backed up by recorded contemporaneous historical documents. Interpretation on the otherhand of course is subject to some biases, if only to dramatize or to weave a coherent narrative.

One interesting example is history of plagues.

Ferguson the historian, no relation to the famous Epidemiologist of same name, suggests that each medical advance of the Renaissance was greeted in following decades by social adaptation, (basically more densely inhabited cities, and more intercity trade) that used the advantages created by the advances to not just improve health, but to increase the virulence of subsequent plagues…essentially leaving society no better off 50 years later regarding morbidity.

Kind of like economists description of technological advances that don’t result in profits, because all competitors use the same efficiency gains to lower equilibrium prices.

And similar to urban planners dilemma.

In Southern California, I have witnessed, when a traffic jammed freeway is widened, new traffic immediately bottlenecks up again within weeks as new commuters jump on the widened road. And adding insult to injury, new home builders build 100,000 homes in the newly productive ex-urbs enabled by the widened road. The result being urban sprawl.

Anyhow each page seems to have a dozen vocabulary words or historical incidents, 70% which are new to me. That, I think, is indicative of me “learning.” Not a bad thing!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • BN
  • 05-18-21

I loved it!

Superb and captivating.
Superb in depth, scope, balance & style.
Weakness: probability calc correct, but thin. The underlying "physical" mechanisms of probability distributions can be often known. Hence he could be missing points.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A must read

Few books have ever provided so much new historical information or so many new perspectives on existing knowledge. We all need perspective on the events that have shattered and altered our lives. The organizational structure was questionable, but the content and observations were excellently.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Skip Chapters 9-10

Overall an excellent book, in line with the authors previous works. He truly has a unique ability to take events from history and weave them into an uniquely interlocking and fresh perspective which will often leave you looking at things a little bit differently.

Unfortunately, when he wrote the book in August 2020 most of the information on Covid that was available to the public was either misinformation, politically skewed information, premature information, or flat out lies. I say this as a Stanford trained physician with a college degree in Biochemistry in Molecular biology and research experience in virology. So I know a little bit about the subject. Ferguson was clearly drinking the Kool-Aid in 2020.

So I would strongly suggest you simply skip chapters 9 and 10. They are a waste of your time, since the “facts” cited and Ferguson’s own bias are bewilderingly wrong over and over again.

Other than that, it is an excellent work.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent, Far-reaching But Needlessly Partisan

This is a truly remarkable book, exploring different ways humanity has almost destroyed - or self-immolated - itself, especially its take on COVID (as seen in late 2020).

However, in the last few chapters, the author became needlessly and unrelentingly partisan in his one-sided perception of Trump and COVID in 2020. For a book otherwise firmly rooted in science and history, this last was a major disappointment. Trump did many things that, in retrospect, not optimal or effective, but these only come to light with the benefit of hindsight.

With hindsight, it is possible to see that many claims of fake news were themselves fake news - Hunter Biden's laptop leaps to mind as it was legit ... and damning ... but it was decried at the time as fake news.

More telling, the world-changing announcement of the first vaccines for COVID were held in abeyance for less than a week - election week, 2020 - just long enough to ensure that Trump and his Project Warp Speed could not be credited for that remarkable accomplishment before voting. That might have actually changed the elections outcome, but this book makes no mention of it.

No matter, this is an excellent book, superbly narrated by the author himself. I am glad I bought it, and I do plan to re-read it, as it holds too much worth pondering to be "one-and-done."