The basic premise of this book is that globalisation as an economic system doesn't actually work. What gives this book extra importance is that the author himself worked for many years within the IMF, which is one of the main organisations that Stiglitz argues powers globalisation and has done so in such a damaging way. To summarise the main themes of the book:
...decisions were often made because of ideology and politics. As a result many wrong-headed actions were taken, ones that did not solve the problem at hand but that fit with the interests or beliefs of the people in power.
This book therefore explores how decisions affecting millions--if not billions--of the worst off globally were directed by institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, which actually were made not to benefit those individuals but those organisations themselves and the US government. Stiglitz draws on a litany of cases to support his argument, particularly focusing on the so-called "Washington Consensus," which was the name given to the rigid formula for success that IMF adopted with countries that it sought to "improve." The book ends with the plea of the author that globalisation be made to work for all parts of the world, not just the privileged West. However, he recognises that for this to happen, the current financial global system would need a massive shake up and bodies created that would genuinely put the needs of the entire world first rather than the needs of a select few.