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The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War Paperback – February 13, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037570759X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375707599
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Robert Kaplan warns of a "bifurcated world divided between societies like ours, producing goods and services that the rest of the world wants, and those mired in various forms of chaos." This is a familiar theme for previous Kaplan readers (Balkan Ghosts, The Ends of the Earth). For those unacquainted with Kaplan, however, The Coming Anarchy is a fine introduction to one of the most important voices on the future of society and international relations. Kaplan mixes the intense reportage of a travel writer with the sharp wisdom of a foreign-policy expert to deliver what he calls "an unrelenting record of uncomfortable truths, of the kind that many of us implicitly acknowledge but will not publicly accept." The Coming Anarchy is also a disturbing book: Kaplan's vision of the future is a bleak one, full of ethnic conflict as the world falls away from a cold war that at least provided a kind of stability in even the shakiest of countries. That's gone now, of course, and Kaplan's descriptions of life and politics in Sierra Leone, Russia, India, and elsewhere are keenly troubling. Much of the book--but not all of it--has already seen print, mainly on the pages of The Atlantic Monthly and The Wall Street Journal. It is brief in length but not in importance. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Lest anyone still maintain the illusion that the end of the Cold War ushered in an era of "good times," these nine provocative, thoughtful, and very speculative essays (most of which previously appeared in periodicals) should set the record straight. Here Kaplan (The End of the Earth; Balkan Ghosts), a contributing editor of the Atlantic Monthly, describes his Clockwork Orange-like vision of the world's future--in which societies are permeated with violence, crime remains unabated, and official corruption and anarchy run rampant. Using West Africa and Turkey as his primary examples, he argues that "environmental scarcity," ethnic strife, overcrowded living areas, and the changing nature of war will irreparably tear the social fabrics of societies all over the world--in places as far apart as India, Canada, South America, Yugoslavia, Africa, the Far East, the Middle East, and even the United States. Kaplan further suggests that democracy will not protect us from this apocalypse; indeed, he notes, it could even help cause it. His experiences as a journalist in the world's hot spots corroborate his pessimistic conclusions, and the clarity of his vision serves as a wake-up call. For most public and academic libraries.
-Jack Forman, Mesa Coll. Lib., San Diego
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Few books will set the hair on fire and make us stand to attention as will this book.
Herbert L Calhoun
Kaplan warns, "A long period of peace in an advanced technological society like ours could lead to great evils."
Sung Lee
This is a very good book, but it is composed of previously published articles with one addition at the end.
Prauge Traveler

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Bill Perkins on May 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Anarchy" aptly describes the world envisioned by Kaplan in this collection of essays. He builds on his vast experience working with the U.S. military and third world countries to construct the ultimate pragmatical, yet in his mind bone-chillingly true, prediction for the future. His vision consists of a bifurcated world divided between the first-world economic superpowers and everyone else; a world in which the gap between the two will be ever more exacerbated as time goes on. In such a world, he envisions the devolution of the nation-state(which he believes to be largely a fantastical Western construct when applied to most of the world) into what can be described as nothing else but barely controlled chaos or anarchy. He predicts dramatic changes in the world power system in the next century, brought on by dramatic negative political and socioeconomic changes in the least developed but fastest-growing areas of the earth. Another perspective I found interesting came from the final essay in the book, in which he criticized the idealist foreign-policy views of many American intellectuals, an argument I have found in my experience to be dead-on.
From a critical perspective, I believe that Kaplan takes too negative a take on the world's prospects for the next century for two reasons. First, he draws from his experiences with underdeveloped nations and extrapolates to make generalizations about the world's economic superpowers, an oversimplification that I found astounding given his depth of knowledge on the subject.
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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Tony Kay Schutz on October 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
"Kaplan is no more than an alarmist." That is what I thought somewhere in the middle of the first essay from which the book gains its title, The Coming Anarchy. Then I began the second of the nine essays which make up the book, "Was Democracy just a Moment?" "O.K., he's an alarmist who believes democracy will destroy the world," my thinking continued. But by about page 69 I began to find insightful principles like, "States have never been formed by elections. Geography, settlement patterns, the rise of literate bourgeoisie, and, tragically, ethnic cleansing have formed states." And, "Social stability results from the establishment of a middle class" (70). These were the kinds of foundational thinking I could agree with. "Maybe I shouldn't dismiss this guy altogether," I speculated. At that point I never imagined that I would find what I did, at the end of the book.
The fact that Robert Kaplan recognizes the import of powers of observation is one of the things that impressed me as I continued to read Kaplan's essays. The first several essays of the book paint graphic pictures of a not-so-idealistic post Cold War world. Kaplan undauntingly portrays the chaos in most Third World countries. He draws parallels that cannot be dismissed. Whether you agree or not, you are forced to consider. While many people look away, and journalists won't consider writing, Kaplan keeps watching and composing.
Linked with his deductions resulting from observation, Kaplan combines a commanding respect for understanding the significance of human nature. In the fifth essay in the book, "And Now for the News..." he establishes the value of history as related in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbons.
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75 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Wyote VINE VOICE on June 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book collects 9 essays by Kaplan, known for political realism and bold travel writing. The first and last essays are the worst; the middle seven are not so bad.
In the first essay Kaplan argues that the present peace will not last long, that its "degeneration" in places like sub-Saharan Africa will lead to anarchy, with disturbing results even in the first world. His main evidence is environmental change and resource depletion (especially soil and water--his argument would be stronger if he included oil). I don't know what golden age Kaplan is looking back to in sub-Saharan Africa (in Eastern Europe I guess it must be the Ottomans); so anarchy there will be no surprise. But with grand assumptions and meager evidence--surely he has more than he cites, but he has to deal with apparently contrary evidence to be truly convincing--he declares breathtaking conclusions, such as the dissolution of the USA into ethnic warfare. Perhaps he's right, but his analysis is so thin that he's not persuasive.
Yet there are moments of light, as when he describes the historical perspective of the occupants of Ankara's slums, quoting Naipaul. Or when he analyzes the "lies of the mapmaker," more precisely the lies of the post-WWII statesmen who carelessly created the states defined by the lines on the map.
So many people naively believe that the 3rd world will inevitably become like the 1st; but Kaplan believes it will go the other way just as inevitably. His first essay is a polemic for his belief. I'm sorry; it has little useful analysis or insight.
Reading the second essay, "Was Democracy Just a Moment?" is like stepping from darkness into light (of course there are still shadows). If you believe that democracy is always the best government, this essay will be challenging for you.
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