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After America: Narratives for the Next Global Age Hardcover – May 28, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starobin, staff correspondent for the National Journal, delivers a meticulously researched and up-to-the-minute analysis of the United States' role in global politics, culture and society. Arguing that the U.S. has reached the end of its tenure as a unipolar superpower, Starobin analyzes the weaknesses in America's political and economic institutions that have led to a widening gap in prosperity (both within its own borders and vis-à-vis other developed nations) and hindered its ability to set the pace of progress. He demonstrates how theories of widespread chaos in a post-American era are constructed, using as an example the fall of Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf, America's key ally against the Taliban in Afghanistan—but he shies away from this model, suggesting how the new world order might be one in which power is assumed by another nation (possibly China) or shared among several (India, Brazil and the E.U.). He also questions the validity of classically defined nation-states in favor of the possibility that economic and social interactions between cross-national regions, powerful city-states or global movements might supersede the relevance of individual nations. The result is a narrative of extraordinary range and contemporary relevance. (June)
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From Booklist

America-in-decline is the premise for National Journal reporter Starobin’s predictions of the future of the international order. He structures his prognostications around several possibilities, such as the notion that China will supplant the U.S. as preeminent world power, and packages opinions about long-term trends with interviews of actors in the emerging conditions—in the Chinese example, with China’s ambassador to Chile, for whose copper China has a great appetite. Starobin’s position throughout is that Americans and American political and economic institutions must prepare to adjust to such scenarios. In case China’s ascendance doesn’t pan out, Starobin proffers multipolarity, global governance, globally oriented city-states, and a “happy” chaos of Internet-empowered individualism as other successor situations to the American Century (an idea that, for readers unfamiliar with it, Starobin recaps, including its outgrowth from American exceptionalism). Crystallizing his vision of America’s future by means of a précis of California’s cosmopolitan present, Starobin argues with clarity and conviction that will resonate with the current-affairs readership. --Gilbert Taylor

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (May 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067002094X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670020942
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,181,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. W. Lewis on June 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found the first chapter or two a bit slow and not particularly good. The remainder of the book was worth the read. The premise of the book is that we are experiencing the decline of the US as the supreme global power. There are a number of specific examples on how we got to this condition (basically we have no one to blame but ourselves). This decline was inevitable as other nations progress and prosper; however, disastarous US foreign policy (read the invasion of Iraq) and our short-term, greed is good culture have only accelerated this trend.

Probably the best discussion centers on a world in which the US is not "number 1." Who will claim the title? Russia? China? The European Union? India? What is clear is that regional powers will grow in strength. What is not clear will be the structure and dominance of the multipolar world order. Will chaos reign or will a true world government emerge? All is speculation but very good food for thought.

One very clear message from this and other books well worth reading (e.g., Chalmers Johnson's triology on US foreign policy - Blowback, Sorrows of Empire & Nemesis): Cultural decline is rarely forced upon a dominant culture; rather it rots from within. We chose as a Nation to outsource manufacturing excellence and we wasted our soft power. We elected the officials with short-term vision (grab for all the rich bits as quickly as possible) and spurned the more long-term thinkers (e.g., Jimmy Carter & Al Gore).

The corollary to this is simple: for the US to slow its decline and to remain relevant in the world we must control our appetites and stop the short-term greed oriented decision making. The best protector of democracy is wealth and opportunity which are wisely distributed. The opposite which has held sway for around 30 years has made us less wealthy, less secure, more indebted and with fewer options.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Had never heard of Paul Starobin before, but I'm glad I know of him now. This book is a well researched, well reasoned, well presented investigation of how the USA arrived at our current world standing thus far, why we are preceived by the world as we are, how and why other nations are perceived too and why it's highly likely our country will not be the world's leading nation going forward. The author clearly spent years in research, traveling world wide to interview the policy makers and philosophers of our time and he's had access that most of us never will. I'm grateful that he shared his access with us and highly recommend this book as necessary reading. I plan to refer to it for years to come, to see how our country fares against the odds we currently face.
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Format: Hardcover
Like another reviewer said, "there is a lot of conjecture masked as information here." But as someone interested in this issue, I found it useful as a "table of contents" for topics to look up, and as a bibliography; the author cites many books better than his own that I noted down for further reading.

I recommend skipping the first section, probably the second section too. It's essentially the same version of American history you learn in American high school. I regret wasting time on it. Maybe useful if you're brand new to American history, or want a quick refresher.

The book is worth reading for the global-cities chapter alone. There's an unusual (for this book) amount of structural information, and experts and books to follow up on. Or maybe that's simply the topic I knew least about, which speaks to this book's value as a survey, a table of contents on the topic.

That said, the other "possible scenario" chapters DID seem lighter than the global-cities chapter, and are only interesting if you've never read anything about possible post-American-hegemony scenarios before. I came away with NO cohesive picture of China or India; I was at LEAST expecting a clear summary of their economic models, which I never even remotely got. Again, it's mostly lightweight "conjectures masked as information". I've Googled it a lot, and there's nothing in the chapters on India or China or a multipolar world-system you can't find on the first few pages of Google (which is mostly articles and interviews from news sites).

I go to books for something DEEPER than Google, which mostly gives you journalist writing...
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Format: Hardcover
This author does an excellent job at discussing how America became an empire, and what the world may look like after our empire has passed. Many books on this general topic tend to be very dark and depressing, but this author does a fantastic job of looking at many of the possible outcomes, not all of which are dark and gloomy.
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