GFB Update 2:4, April 2012

A monthly newsletter on the vast and underappreciated world of current affairs books


Prepared by Michael Marien

In This Issue
Book of the Month: Multipolarity in "No One's World"
Feature of the Month: The U.S. in an Emerging, Multipolar World
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Book of the Month: Multipolarity in "No One's World"  

No-One-s-World. cover

No One's World: The West, The Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn. Charles A. Kupchan (Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; Prof of Int'l Affairs, Georgetown U). NY: Oxford U Press, March 2012, 258p, $27.95.


Europe and the US have dominated the world since 1800, but preeminence of the West is slipping away, as China, India, Brazil, and other emerging powers rise. The next world will belong to no one. It will be multipolar and politically diverse, with power diffusing and politics diversifying. This global turn toward a more level playing field is unstoppable. The Western way is not being universalized, nor is it being displaced by a new center of gravity or dominant political model.


Liberal democracy may slowly spread; but not necessarily, because the three main variants of autocracy are showing considerable staying power.  Kupchan discusses China's communal autocracy (a.k.a. authoritarian capitalism or state capitalism), Russia's paternal autocracy, and the tribal autocracy of the Gulf shiekdoms. Both Europe and the US need many reforms, if they are to help the transition to an effective multipolarity. "Foundational principles" for managing no one's world are proposed, including responsible governance, a more equally shared prosperity, managing geopolitical contests, and a more modest concept of America's role in the world. 


(NOTE: Click title for full review.)

Feature of the Month: The U.S. in an Emerging, Multipolar World

Global Concerns 
For the moment, Charles Kupchan may well have the best grasp of the relative decline of the West, the rise of "the rest," and the coming global turn. Many other observers say more or less the same, in a variety of ways.  Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World (W.W. Norton, 2008; updated edition May 2012) focuses on "the rise of the rest," while others focus on the relative decline of the US. Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power by former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (Basic Books, Jan 2012) explains why America's global appeal is waning, the changing distribution of global power from West to East, the new reality of a "politically awakened humanity," and whether China can assume a central role in world affairs. The Short American Century: A Postmortem edited by Andrew J. Bacevich of Boston U (Harvard U Press, March 2011) explores the "premature demise" of the US due to strategic miscalculation, military misadventures, and economic decline. Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order by Princeton political scientist G. John Ikenberry (Princeton U Press, April 2011) looks at the troubled US-led world order and the rise of non-Western states. Predicting the Unthinkable, Anticipating the Impossible: From the Fall of the Berlin Wall to America in the New Century, by Chicago Tribune foreign affairs columnist Georgie Anne Geyer (Transaction Publishers, May 2011) explains the gradual decline of the superpower that won the Cold War, and warns that Americans must anticipate changes in the world before they are upon us.


Many others have already accepted the new multipolarity, notably the World Bank and the OECD.   Global Development Horizons 2011. Multipolarity: The New Global Economy (World Bank Publications, June 2011) explains why the days of US global economic dominance are numbered, as a multi-polar world emerges with a more diffuse distribution of economic power and the shift to a multicurrency regime. Perspectives on Global Development 2012: Social Cohesion in a Shifting World (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Nov 2011) notes the process of "shifting wealth" that has led to a "completely new geography of growth," changing the center of economic gravity from West to East and from North to South. It introduces the concept of the "converging countries" and then goes on to address problems of promoting social cohesion as important to long-term sustainability.


Debating a Post-American World: What Lies Ahead? edited by Sean Clark and Sabrina Hoque of Dalhousie U (Routledge, Dec 2011) offers essays on such topics as the passing of American primacy, scenarios for China's role, perils and possibilities of a post-American world, the shape of the post-American Americas ("two hubs, many spokes, no frame"), global governance from "the responsible rest," the environment and climate change in the post-American world, and ordering anarchy. Multipolarity in the 21st Century: A New World Order edited by Donette Murray and David Brown of UK's Royal Military Academy (Routledge, Feb 2012) assesses the likelihood of US decline, the Chinese dragon, the Russian bear, and the Indian tiger.


Rising States, Rising Institutions: Challenges for Global Governance edited by Alan S. Alexandroff of CIGI/Waterloo and Andrew F. Cooper of the U of Toronto (Brookings Institution Press, May 2010) examines forces reshaping world politics at a time when the US can no longer impose its will on others. How to Run the World: Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance by Parag Khanna of the New America Foundation (Random House, Feb 2011) describes the world as entering a new Middle Ages-a new medievalism of contested power between regimes, companies, NGOs, religious groups, and superempowered individuals, resulted in a chaotic multipolar or nonpolar world.


A Chinese view of the emerging world is offered by China in 2020: A New Type of Superpower by Hu Angang of Tsinghua U (Brookings Institution Press, Nov 2010), who anticipates that China will become a "mature, responsible, and attractive superpower" that will contribute to the end of the US-dominated unipolar era. Playing Our Game: Why China's Rise Doesn't Threaten the West by Edward S. Steinfeld of the MIT-China Program (Oxford U Press, March 2012) argues that China is playing by US rules in seeking to integrate itself into the world economic order. Peerless and Periled: The Paradox of American Leadership in the World Economic Order by Kati Suominen of the German Marshall Fund (Stanford U Press, June 2012) asserts that visions of the end of Pax Americana are more smoke than fire, and that the international crisis has not fundamentally changed the way the world is run. 



It's all a matter of degree, but this important transition in world affairs is underway.



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