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After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism) Hardcover – December 3, 2003

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Product Details

  • Series: European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (December 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 023113102X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231131025
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,813,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A bestseller in Europe, this provocative but erratic manifesto stands Euro-anxiety about American hegemony on its head. French demographer Todd (The Final Fall: An Essay on the Decomposition of the Soviet Sphere) cites Paul Kennedy's theory of imperial overstretch and Michael Lind's notion of the American overclass to paint America as a "predatory" but weakening empire, its unilateralism and militarism a sign of frailty, not strength. Misguided free trade policies, he contends, have hollowed out America's industrial base and decimated its working and middle classes, polarizing the country into a society of plutocrats and plebeians. Dependent on imports, America has degenerated into a parasitic, Keynesian consumer-of-last-resort, injecting demand into the world economy while producing nothing of value. To mask its decline, America pursues a foreign policy of "theatrical micromilitarism," picking fights with helpless Third World countries like Iraq to convince the world's real power centers-Europe, Japan and Russia-of its military prowess and validate its spurious image as global policeman. Written in a witty polemical style, Todd's grand but cursory arguments range across economics, military history and geopolitics in ways that might make specialists cringe. Particularly reductionist is his demographic and anthropological view of political science, in which birth and literacy rates and peasant family structures are virtually the sole determinants of a society's politics (but, it should be noted, he used declining birth rates in the Soviet Union to predict its downfall). Todd's eccentric views-on the American trade deficit, the racial attitudes of "the Anglo-Saxon mind," the prevalence of marriages between cousins in Islamic countries, the "castrating" feminism of American women-pull in too many directions to be classified as right or left. His characterization of the United States may hold more than a grain of truth, but some readers might bristle before they see it.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Todd, a researcher at the French National Institute for Demographic Studies, has authored numerous books, one of which (The Final Fall, 1979) predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union well before it came to pass. Now he has written what may be the most important work since Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man (1992), positing that the U.S., despite its apparent position as the unipolar power of the planet, is overextended--our trade deficit is currently $500 billion per year, which means that the rest of the world is financing our consumerism. Todd is above all a demographer, and he bases much of his opinion on statistical elements--declining birth rates in the Soviet Union first cued him in to the country's approaching doom. So he notes some disturbing American phenomena, such as rising stratification based on educational credentials, and the "obsolescence of unreformable political institutions." In the end, he believes the U.S. should return to its nineteenth-century civilian, republican roots, and that Europe should follow that impulse. Already a best-seller in Europe, this book is destined to be much talked about and analyzed. Allen Weakland
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

Todd has some interesting ideas about the relationship between family structures and political systems.
Roger L. Rasmussen
Without establishing that data point, I do not know if anyone could make any sound argument concerning under what conditions America would loose its hegemony.
Agam Bellum
Lots of readers will get mad and will feel like attacking him and poke at trivial defects in the translation of his work.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 146 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Raymondjack on March 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
For Americans used to reading narcissitic volumes from either the right or the left, this book is fantastic. I don't pretend to know the economic trajectories of Russia, or the politcal contours of Japan, or other such wide-ranging topics; so I can't say whether his interpretation of the global picture is correct or not.
But what I can say is that many of his characterizations of America ring true. He calls the US the "arsonist-fireman" of the globe, stirring up trouble in little countries just so we (well, Bechtel and Halliburton really, but close enough) can then ride in on the white horse and fix everything that we broke. His description of our foreign policy since the end of the Cold War as "drunken-sailor diplomacy" (a kind of clumsy, non-unified staggering about the planet) is a refreshing antidote to the usual elite conspiracy theories of the American left.
But maybe most importantly, and probably what offends many of the reviewers here, is that Todd doesn't take America all that seriously. He certainly DOES acknowledge our military might (save the Army) and relative economic security at the moment, inegalitarian as it may be. But he feels that the general policy direction that American leaders have taken (both Democrats and Republicans) will render the United States increasingly superfluous. And I would have to agree. The end of the Cold War provided an opportunity to dismantle most of our military and turn our focus back inwards, towards self-sufficiency and ecological sustainability.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have feared the great dependence of the U.S. on purchases of our Treasury Bills by the very nations that support our overindulgences as a nation. It has been obvious that they must loan money to the U.S. in the form of treasury bills in order for us to purchase their goods. My fear has revolved around what happens when these nations stop buying the treasuries or even worse when they start selling them. While the author does not address the treasury problem directly, he develops a thesis that supports my fears. He spends a lot of time developing a thesis of the world becoming fed up with U.S. militarism being used to protect us from our economic weaknesses. As a result, he foresees an eventual Europe, Russia, and Japan axis of world power. Russia is part of the axis as an oil and gas producer, but most important of all because it will be the nuclear deterrent against the U.S. He acknowledges China's growing strength, but does not address how they will fit into the puzzle. While the author's conclusions may appear somewhat farfetched, one cannot come away with a feeling after reading this book that something of the order of what he proposes could come true.

The fact that this book was a bestseller in France and Germany is reason enough for Americans to read this book.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bill Blake on November 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
An advantage of a late review is that you can read the newspapers. As I read about the Ukraine election, UK and France questions about the Euro and the EU constitution I feel this book is more relevant than ever.

As a book it is readable, even for a non-intellectual like myself. However there is the feeling that one is listening in on a conversation. The book is, in a sense, a reply. It is by reading the reviews on here that I have begun to appreciate what M. Todd might be replying to. The leadership role that was occupied by the US has been frittered away. Americans who think their lifestlye is unassailable and who do not understand why it might be questioned will understand this book after the gas is dearer and after their pensions start to fall.

This book is worth reading to understand that history is on the move even though the nightly news might want you to think otherwise. This book is about raising questions, not about preaching a gospel. Perhaps this is why some reviewers are made uncomfortable by it. Many of the questions raised have been continued to be raised, even in the mass media. It is a relevent book, and because the questions and attitudes will continue to be voiced by influential people around the world it is a worthwhile and relevant read.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Infornific on January 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
According to the hype, Emmanuel Todd is a leftist anti-American writer predicting the doom of the United States, with readers responding yea or nay according to their politics. In point of fact, Todd has a reputation as an Americanist and explicitly prefers Francis Fukuyama to Noam Chomsky. He also expresses great admiration for America in the Cold War. As with Fukuyama, Todd argues that nations follow a common course in modernization. As a nation modernizes and it's population grows more literate, population first grows rapidly and then levels off as birth rates drop (he notes that this is happening already in Iran.) There is a period of political turmoil but the long term trend is toward democracy. The exact form depends on culture - Todd expects Islamic fundamentalism to give way to democracy but not along American lines. Contrary to other reviews, he does not attribute American decline to dropping birth rates and in fact notes that the United States (like France and Great Britain) has a relatively high birth rate for a developed nation. He attributes this to a more libertarian culture.
There are clear implications for the war on terror. If Islamic fundamentalism will burn out in a generation or two, the logical policy response is Cold War style deterrence and containment until the Mideast reforms itself. Naturally Todd does not approve of Bush's strategy.
Todd argues there is an American Empire in the sense that the United States draws a kind of tribute from the world shown in our current account deficit. Because the United States is the center of the current world system, it draws in investors looking for a safe haven and thus allows us to live beyond our means.
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