The Post-American World

Friday, June 15, 2012

Author: Fareed Zakaria

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (April 17, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 039306235X
ISBN-13: 978-0393062359

Product Description

The world is moving from anger to indifference, from anti-Americanism to post-Americanism. The fact that new powers are more strongly asserting their interests is the reality of the post-American world. It also raises the political conundrum of how to achieve international objectives in a world of many actors, state and nonstate.
Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World, pages 36–37.

Fareed Zakaria’s international bestseller The Post-American World pointed to the “rise of the rest”—the growth of countries like China, India, Brazil, and others—as the great story of our time, the story that will undoubtedly shape the future of global power. Since its publication, the trends he identified have proceeded faster than anyone could have anticipated. The 2008 financial crisis turned the world upside down, stalling the United States and other advanced economies. Meanwhile emerging markets have surged ahead, coupling their economic growth with pride, nationalism, and a determination to shape their own future.

In this new edition, Zakaria makes sense of this rapidly changing landscape. With his customary lucidity, insight, and imagination, he draws on lessons from the two great power shifts of the past 500 years—the rise of the Western world and the rise of the United States—to tell us what we can expect from the third shift, the “rise of the rest.” The great challenge for Britain was economic decline.

The challenge for America now is political decline, for as others have grown in importance, the central role of the United States, especially in the ascendant emerging markets, has already begun to shrink. As Zakaria eloquently argues, Washington needs to begin a serious transformation of its global strategy, moving from its traditional role of dominating hegemon to that of a more pragmatic, honest broker. It must seek to share power, create coalitions, build legitimacy, and define the global agenda—all formidable tasks.

None of this will be easy for the greatest power the world has ever known—the only power that for so long has really mattered. America stands at a crossroads: In a new global era where the United States no longer dominates the worldwide economy, orchestrates geopolitics, or overwhelms cultures, can the nation continue to thrive?

The content is divided into seven chapters. The first chapter introduces the thesis of the book: that a 'post-American' world order is emerging in which the United States of America will continue to be the most powerful nation but its relative power will be diminished. He believes that there have been three power shifts in the last 500 years: a shift of power to the West during the Renaissance, a shift of power to the US making it a superpower, and now a shift to several surging countries, especially China and India, and to non-governmental organizations. Zakaria believes that international organizations are not adapting well to emerging challenges and that there is too much focus on problems arising from potential market failures or general crises (e.g. terrorism) at the expense of focus on problems stemming from success (e.g. development causing environmental degradation, or rising demand creating high commodity prices).

The second and third chapters examine factors that led to the current power balance. Power shifted to the West because it fostered trade with foreign peoples and developed superior labour productivity per capita. Power shifted to the US because of its strong democracy and capitalist market. Zakaria argues that the success of the US in promoting free market capitalism and globalization has led to power being dispersed to several other countries. Economies have been surging for decades, in part due to large new players entering the global market place. He compares this era's economic growth to the economic surges of the 1890s and the 1950s which also saw new players become global powers. At the same time, Zakaria sees attitudes in the US becoming insular and distrustful of foreigners.

The fourth chapter focuses on China. Its strategy of small, gradual reforms have allowed it to quietly modernize. It has become the second most powerful nation, but still unlikely to match the US for decades to come. China's strengths include a philosophy that reflects Confucian ideals of practicality, ethics and rationalism. Its non-combative foreign policy is more appealing, most notably in Africa, over interventionist Western-style policy that demands reforms in other countries. China's weakness, though, is a fear of social unrest.

The fifth chapter focuses on India. Contrasted to China, India has a bottom-up democratic political system constantly subject to social unrest but which only results in few politicians losing an election. Its political system is characterized by strong regionalism — often placing high priority on regional interests rather than national. Zakaria lists India's advantages: independent courts that enforce contracts, private property rights, rule of law, an established private sector, and many business savvy English-speaking people.

The sixth chapter compares the American rise to superpower status and its use of power. He draws parallels between the British Empire in the 1890s and starting the Boer War with the US in the 2000s and starting the Iraq War. The difference between them is that the British had unsurpassed political power but lost its economic dominance, whereas the US, in the 2000s, had huge economic power but faltering political influence. Zakaria defends the US from indicators that suggest American decline but warns that internal partisan politics, domestic ideological attack groups, special interest power, and a sensationalistic media are weakening the federal government's ability to adapt to new global realities.

The final chapter outlines how the US has used its power and provides six guidelines for the US to follow in the 'post-American world' envisioned by Zakaria.

Zakaria's Guidelines for the US in the 'Post-American World'

1- Choose: Choose priorities rather than trying to have it all

2- Build broad rules, not narrow interests: Recommit to international institutions and mechanisms

3- Be Bismarck, not Britain: Maintain excellent relations with everyone, rather than offset and balance emerging powers

4- Order à la carte: Address problems through a variety of different structures (e.g. sometimes UN, sometimes NATO, sometimes OAS)

5- Think asymmetrically: Respond to problems (e.g. drug cartels, terrorists, etc.) proportionately and do not respond to bait (i.e. small attacks meant to draw attention)

6- Legitimacy is power: Legitimacy creates the means to set agendas, define crises, and mobilize support Review
Book Description

"This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else." So begins Fareed Zakaria's important new work on the era we are now entering. Following on the success of his best-selling The Future of Freedom, Zakaria describes with equal prescience a world in which the United States will no longer dominate the global economy, orchestrate geopolitics, or overwhelm cultures. He sees the "rise of the rest"—the growth of countries like China, India, Brazil, Russia, and many others—as the great story of our time, and one that will reshape the world. The tallest buildings, biggest dams, largest-selling movies, and most advanced cell phones are all being built outside the United States. This economic growth is producing political confidence, national pride, and potentially international problems. How should the United States understand and thrive in this rapidly changing international climate? What does it mean to live in a truly global era? Zakaria answers these questions with his customary lucidity, insight, and imagination.

Endorsements & Reviews

“Starred Review. Zakaria updates his best-selling earlier vision of world economics and politics, which foresaw the decline of American dominance but reassured us that with that decline came the rise of the rest of the world.” — Booklist

“This is a relentlessly intelligent book that eschews simple-minded projections from crisis to collapse.” — Joseph Joffe, The New York Times Book Review

“Zakaria . . . may have more intellectual range and insights than any other public thinker in the West.” — Boston Sunday Globe

“A provocative and often shrewd take that opens a big picture window on the closing of the first American century and the advent of a new world.” — Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Fareed Zakaria is one of the most thoughtful foreign policy analysts of our day and his new book . . . is a must read for anyone interested in globalization—or the Presidential election.” — Bruce Nussbaum, BusinessWeek

“A far-reaching analysis.” — Slate

“Compelling.” — Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat

About the Author

Fareed Zakaria is the editor of Newsweek International and writes a weekly column on international affairs and hosts "Fareed Zakaria GPS" for CNN. He the author of the New York Times bestsellers "The Future of Freedom" and "The Post-American World." Zakaria lives in New York City.

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