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The Breaking of Nations: Order and Chaos in the Twenty-First Century Hardcover – January 7, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Folks who like their global political analysis presented in snippy sound bite form can hurry along to the Carvilles and Coulters and find plenty of reading material. But for those who appreciate the complex tapestry of security issues and international affairs, Robert Cooper offers plenty to think about. The present-day world, posits Cooper, is divided into three types of nations: premodern (often third world and politically unstable), modern, and postmodern. While the present-day Europe Union exists as a postmodern model, with each country relying on others to facilitate prosperity, most other large nations, including, for the moment, the United States, are stuck in a merely modern capacity, still viewing foreign policy as essentially a way of keeping enemies at bay and maintaining the status quo. As terrorism grows more powerful and the "premodern" world more unstable, sophisticated weaponry becomes more readily available to terrorist organizations. It then falls t! o the enlightened "postmodern" countries to intervene militarily, taking a pre-emptive approach when necessary, to contain threats, root out bad guys, and defend the world. With this scenario in mind, Cooper urges EU members to increase their military capability to better measure up to the status and power of the American military forces. But as technology makes weapons of mass destruction more readily available around the planet, a more aggressive diplomatic strategy, Cooper says, is crucial to effectively dealing with the build up of weaponry and he presents five "maxims" to illustrate how such a diplomacy should be organized. While Cooper cogently presents his vision of where the world is and where the powerful nations need to take it, he also acknowledges the vagaries of a shifting world and as such presents The Breaking of Nations more as a rumination on complex issues than a ready-made solution. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

Cooper, a senior member of Tony Blair's cabinet, worries that the 21st century may wind up being the worst era in European history, as Western governments continue to lose control over the technology of mass destruction. Advocating "better politics rather than better technology" to combat the encroaching chaos created by unstable nation-states and rising terrorist organizations, he lays out a cogent argument for why the governments of Europe should present a united front and take an active role in promoting geopolitical stability, perhaps even through increased military presence. Only by pooling their resources, he suggests, can European nations offer a viable alternative to American policy mandates.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1st Printing edition (January 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871139138
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871139139
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,454,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a somewhat deceptive book. It is quite short, just a 180 pages including notes and is very well written. This might cause some folks to dismiss it out of hand as yet another self-serving tome form a retired bureaucrat (all be it an English one). In point of fact the book is an intelligent and original look at the way the post Cold War world looks and works.

The author describes this world as divided between `pre-modern', `modern' and `post-modern' nation states. He postulates that the post-modern state actually is more trans-national than national, with a strong affinity for multi-lateral foreign relations, a transparent security system and a high tolerance for outside interference in its domestic affairs. This sounds pejorative, but it is not. In the author's view the post modern condition is exemplified by the nation states of the European Union (EU) and Japan and is the model for a stable and prosperous world order. Yet in a remarkably realistic assessment of the condition of the world, the author notes that the EU and Japan can enjoy their status as post-modern states only because the United States posses the most powerful military force in the world. He refers to the U.S. as a `modern' state with attributes that include a penchant for unilateral action, a closed security system, and no tolerance for outside interference in its domestic affairs. He sees the U.S. as providing the security that allows the post-modern states to flourish and grow. This insight, to this reviewer, is a very generous and realistic view of the role of the U.S. in world affairs. The book contains a host of other insights, ideas and practical advice for making the post-cold war world a place worth living. They certainly make the book worth reading.
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Format: Hardcover
As a result of 9/11 foreign policy is hot. The popularity of intelligent academic like books dedicated to the subject has soared. The American public seems finally to have caught up an insatiable thirst of knowledge for this esoteric subject. This is undeniably a very good thing. And, this book from Robert Cooper is an excellent tonic to quench this thirst for knowledge. Cooper is an excellent writer. His lively style renders his book easy to read. Also, he is so erudite on his subject matter that the amount of information and knowledge he shares within this relatively short book is truly remarkable.
The core of the book is based on two essays Cooper wrote several years ago. The first one "The Condition of the World" originally written in 1996 is somewhat the better structured of the two. It develops a powerful foreign policy model by grouping nations into three categories.
The first category consists of "pre-modern states." These are completely dysfunctional. They are typically broke, can't deliver any social services effectively, and the government's authority is often challenged by gangs, warlords, and other outlaws. Many African countries come to mind.
The second category consists of "modern states." These are you regular sovereign nations working perfectly well on most counts. This is Australia, Japan, Canada, you name it.
The third category consists of "post-modern states." This essentially describes the European Union, whereby a group of countries have agreed to relinquish some of their respective sovereign rights to a supranational political entity (EU) for the greater good of the respective community of countries. In Cooper's views this category is obviously the higher political life form.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Breaking Of Nations - Order And Chaos In The Twenty-First Century", by Robert Cooper is another of the currently popular books that tries to explain the historical sociological basis behind our international dilemma; the breakdown of the authority of the state and perhaps of authority in general.

Starting with the generally accepted view of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Weber, that civilization and order rests on the legitimate control of violence by the state, Cooper examines the problems the world is facing with many non-state actors who use or threaten force and the states that are unable to exercise control over their own territory and are no longer responsible for the behavior of their citizens. These are the states he calls pre-modern. He further defines the pre-modern state as a post-imperial or colonial chaotic association where there is no real sovereign authority. In some cases these are the result of the decline of imperialism. Today, the general opinion being, that the rewards of imperialism are small and the burdens large, especially with a population hostile to being `colonials'. The result is all too often chaos, which may give rise to a `defensive' imperialism where nations may seek to control other states to maintain their own safety. Defensive imperialism is the latest interpretation of what used to be called a `buffer state' or `cordon sanitaire', a protective border zone to protect `us' from `them' or to keep potentially hostile neighbors apart. Nations have traditionally been secular and organized along ethnic or group identities. Their legitimacy has been derived from below rather than imposed from above. This is different than an empire, where the government is usually imposed from above and there is a non-homogenaeity of population.
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