- Series: Book
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Center for Strategic & International Studies (May 23, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 089206532X
- ISBN-13: 978-0892065325
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,377,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Graying of the Great Powers: Demography and Geopolitics in the 21st Century (Book)
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"Perhaps no feature of social life has greater influence on international politics, and certainly none is less well understood, than demography. The Graying of the Great Powers presents a clear picture of the population trends of the twenty-first century and a provocative analysis of their consequences for the politics and economics of the next four decades." --Michael Mandelbaum, Johns Hopkins University, author of Democracy s Good Name: The Rise and Risks of the World s Most Popular Form of Government
"We are on the cusp of the most profound shift in global power and influence in more than a century. The Graying of the Great Powers helps us understand why this is so, how demographic and other trends will interact, and, most importantly, what we should do to manage this historic transformation." --Robert L. Hutchings, Princeton University, former Chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council
"The Graying of the Great Powers is a thoughtful and valuable first step toward an urgently needed assessment of what today s momentous global demographic changes may portend for the friendly--and unfriendly--competition between states in the world arena in the decades ahead." --Nicholas Eberstadt, American Enterprise Institute, author of Europe s Coming Demographic Challenge: Unlocking the Value of Health
About the Author
Richard Jackson is a senior fellow and director of the Global Aging Initiative at CSIS. Neil Howe is a senior associate of the Global Aging Initiative at CSIS.
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We consider Howe's prior work with Strauss to be required reading for anyone wanting to understand the role that demographics have played in recent history, particular the interplay between the major generations (Baby Boomers, Echo Boomers, etc.). We would say the same Howe and Jackson's new book, though readers who are already familiar with Philip Longman's work, particularly THE EMPTY CRADLE, might find it to be somewhat redundant.
Graying covers many of the same themes covered by Longman and others -- the usual doomsday (though completely accurate) scare statistics about Europe's demographic decline, the coming pension and health funding crises and probable wave of national bankruptcies -- and combines them with a rigorous analysis of geopolitical themes.
Are the West's Days of Global Dominance Numbered?
It has become popular to speak of the decline of the West and of the United States in particular. Titles like Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World have become commonplace. (While Zakaria's book was less about America's decline and more about "the rise of the rest," its gloomy title certainly fits the growing consensus mood.) What do Jackson and Howe have to say on the matter?
"The population and GDP of the United States, due to its relatively high fertility and immigration rates, will expand steadily as a share of the developed-world totals In tandem, the influence of the United States within the developed world will likely rise. Many of today's multilateral theorists look forward to a global order in which the U.S. influence diminishes. In face, any reasonable demographic projection points to a growing U.S. Dominance among the developed nations that preside over this global order."
We would agree with Zakaria to an extent that the US will need to find room at the table for up-and-comers like China, India, and Brazil. But as Zakaria, Jackson, and Howe would all seem to agree, the United States will remain the preeminent economic, diplomatic, and military force in the world for the foreseeable future.
What Effects Will Aging Demographics Have on the Culture and Economy?
The short answer is "bad." Younger societies are full of dynamism, which is manifested by risk taking and an optimistic outlook. An older society, in contrast, will become more conservative and risk averse; productivity, progress, and mobility will slow. Jackson and Howe share this view:
"When economists and historians try to describe the special economic vitality that often characterizes eras of high versus low population growth--the nineteenth century versus the fifteenth century in Europe, for example, for example, or 1960s versus the 1930s--they often allude to a contrast in a mood that cannot be reduced to a strictly classical analysis of the production function. The classical analysis, indeed, usually argues that a stationary or declining population should translate into economic performance (by lifting the ration of labor to land and to other fixed natural resources). Yet eras of high population growth have their own special attributes that are harder to define within standard theory--a restlessness mobility, urgency and optimism."
Note: We attacked this classical view in our book, Boom Or Bust. Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Almsand David Hackett Fischer's The Great Waveare also excellent rebuttals of this view. Continuing with Jackson and Howe,
"John Maynard Keynes and his U.S. counterpart Alvin H. Hansen always emphasized the role of population growth in triggering what Keynes called the 'animal spirits' of investors. John Hicks, in his famous review of Keynes' General Theory, remarked: 'Expectation of a continually expanding market, made possible by increasing population, is a fine thing for keeping up the spirits of entrepreneurs. With increasing population investment can go roaring ahead, even if invention is rather stupid; increasing population is therefore actually favorable to employment....one cannot repress though perhaps the whole Industrial Revolution of the last two hundred years has been nothing else but a vast secular boom, largely induced by the unparalleled rise in population.'"
The modern economy depends on population growth. To give a simplistic example, how can Ford sell more cars when there are fewer people of driving age to sell to? The only modern economy that has ever dealt with an aging and shrinking population is Japan. And as Japan's recent experience has shown, there is no real solution to this problem. There is no substitute for people.
Richard Jackson and Neil Howe are not revolutionary in their writing of The Graying of the Great Powers; they are certainly not reinventing the wheel of demographic analysis. That said, Graying is an excellent collection of statistics and solid analysis of the major demographic issues that will shape the decades to come. For readers looking for a "big picture" book that will help them in their understanding of the world -- and possibly their investments as well -- Jackson and Howe's latest deserves a place on the bookshelf.
Ideas expressed in The Graying of the Great Powers are based on research. Most of the research is easy to understand because the findings agree with common sense. We've seen the pronouncements in newspapers for a long time: When work forces age and stagnate or contract, economic growth declines. Economic development leads to a shift from high mortality and high fertility to low mortality and low fertility. Social costs of economic development include environmental resource depletion, increased income inequality and rapid-urbanization-related problems. Countries with an extremely young population are more likely to experience state failure.
Some of the findings expressed this book are not immediately simple to understand. For example, will population growth decline likely lead to a safer world or a period of wars? Both sides of the argument of presented, with findings that such transitions are dangerous. Historical examples are provided but my guess is that historians will be divided on the issue.
Interestingly, demographic trends of the U.S. aren't that alarming, at least relative to other developed countries. I hardly find good news these days, but there are some good findings for the U.S. in this book. There was little though to mollify concerns about many looming problems such as the provision of elder care, energy policy or what to do to improve education. Surely as our population ages, public policy will be increasingly informed by demographics.