Robert Kaplan has reported from locales as diverse and chaotic as shantytowns in the Ivory Coast, death camps in Cambodia, and the frontlines of the war-ravaged Balkans, but his most challenging assignment may have been covering his own country. In this ambitious and evocative study, Kaplan vividly chronicles his "travels into America's future," a journey that begins in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas--"the starting point for what would one day be called Manifest Destiny"--and continues across the West, where the population is growing faster than anywhere else in the country and multiple American identities reveal a nation in flux. He explores cities such as St. Louis and Omaha, Nebraska, that typify the increased urban fragmentation of the heartland; onward to Tucson, Arizona, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, where great wealth and poverty exist cheek by jowl; through the sprawl of multiethnic Southern California, where the landscape is perched somewhere between urban and suburban; and up through the Pacific Northwest into Canada. He also visits towns along the U.S.-Mexico border, dipping as far south as Mexico City, to investigate the conditions driving so many Mexicans north, despite feverish efforts by the U.S. to keep them out, and the new cultural hybrid being formed by this migration.
Kaplan uncovers a nation polarized along ethnic, economic, and political lines, where the uneven distribution of rapid technological advances allows some groups to surge forward, cultivating a radically different world-view than their poorer, less educated neighbors. Much of his report is bleak, but despite his insistence on documenting the worst, plenty of examples of prosperity and hope appear in these pages. What comes across most clearly is that there is still plenty of room for speculation on exactly how and where the new boundaries will be drawn. In this respect, America's future still carries the promise of the Wild West: equal parts opportunity, possibility, and uncertainty. --Shawn Carkonen
From Publishers Weekly
Having spent more than two decades reporting on ethnic strife and political upheaval in far-flung regions of the world, Kaplan (Balkan Ghosts), turns to his own backyard, trekking across the American West, Mexico and western Canada to map out America's shifting socio-political landscape at the turn of the millennium. The nation, he argues, is losing its identity as one union and splintering, like the Balkanized areas of the globe that have long captivated Kaplan, into a mosaic of different regions with sometimes conflicting cultural identities. In crossing the American Plains and Rocky Mountains, Kaplan sees the growth of city-states and the growing income gap as leading to class-stratified, post-urban pods, in which government does little to improve the living conditions of the poor. The rising Hispanic population in the Southwest has fostered "binational" cities, he says, while the shared interests of America's Pacific Northwest and British Columbia is creating Cascadia, a self-contained region predicated on the eventual breakup of Canada. Kaplan's fluid, razor-sharp travelogue is peppered with references?to Gibbon, the Founding Fathers, ancient Greek and Civil War history?and powerful descriptions of the landscape (a Greyhound bus in New Mexico is "a prison van transporting people from one urban poverty zone to another"; the Arizona desert resembles "the glazed surface of a red earthen jar"; the Pacific Northwest "a magical frontier" of "brooding cathedral-dark forests" and place-names suggesting "an icy clean, mathematical perfection"). As dystopian as it is soberly prescient, Kaplan's vision of 21st-century America will command the attention of readers from all corners of our increasingly decentralized continent. Editor, Jason Epstein; agent, Brandt & Brandt.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.