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Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton Studies in International History and Politics) Hardcover – April 10, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2011: Top 25 Books

"[A]mbitious and thought-provoking."--Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

"International orders guide how major powers interact with one another and with less powerful states: how they cooperate and compete in trade and security and when and why they respect one another's sovereignty. Ikenberry's important book tackles this complex subject, giving readers a deep understanding of the factors that determine the type of international order. . . . Liberal Leviathan is a valuable guide to understanding the factors that will determine its eventual shape."--Foreign Affairs

"Liberal Leviathan is a brilliant inquisition into the nature of international order, politics of unipolarity, and substance of United States foreign policy. . . . Drawing equally on international relations theory, history, and political theory, Liberal Leviathan offers a probing analysis into the challenges to the current U.S.-led international order and its likely future."--David A. Lake, Global Governance

"This is a valuable work of international relations theory."--Choice

"Liberal Leviathan is a great review of the state of the art of broad and narrow Realist and liberal theories being discussed in American academia."--César de Prado, International Affairs

"His book lucidly explains how the end of the Cold War allowed the U.S.-dominated Western system to expand to the rest of the world. Ikenberry's account has an intuitive appeal. There's always more than enough chaos to argue that the world is in crisis . . . he writes thoughtfully about the challenge of integrating rising powers into global governance. . . . As a clear and informed synthesis of the existing scholarship on global governance, this book is a success."--David Bosco, American Prospect

"Ikenberry's book is a cogently developed argument that builds upon his previous writings and will be a point of reference for the 'international liberal' literature."--Jakub J. Grygiel, Claremont Review of Books

"[T]he sheer breadth of the work, the clarity of the presentation . . . and the synthesis of an extraordinary amount of theoretical and historical literature will make the volume an important resource for students and scholars for a very long time."--James M. McCormick, Perspectives on Politics

"Ikenberry impresses with his range of concerns, by his drive to formulate clear and parsimonious propositions about interstate relations, and by the pains he takes to express himself with clarity and precision. He announces his lines of argument, develops them, repeats them, and for good measure cross references them."--Michael H. Hunt, Political Science Quarterly

"The book elaborates on how America crafted and created 'cooperative security'--arguably the most important innovation in national security in the 20th century."--Wang Yong, Shanghai Daily

From the Back Cover

"John Ikenberry, America's leading scholar of international affairs, brilliantly relates theory to historical change in his timely advocacy of a new U.S. foreign policy."--Zbigniew Brzezinski, Center for Strategic and International Studies

"Nobody has thought longer or deeper about the nature of the American liberal world order than John Ikenberry. Tough-minded yet visionary and optimistic, this inspirational volume should become required reading for all those tasked with the great responsibility of steering us to safety through the very choppy international waters into which we are now heading."--Michael Cox, London School of Economics and Political Science

"Liberal Leviathan traces the intimate connections between the emergence of a largely liberal international system and the concentration of global power in the United States in the twentieth century. The marriage of power and principle in the United States has been central to the emergence of the liberal order, but Ikenberry shows that it is also corrosive of that order. As a consequence both of U.S. foreign policy activism and gradual shifts in the distribution of world power, the liberal order faces significant new challenges. This book traces alternative paths through which these challenges might be met."--Barry Posen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Liberal Leviathan offers a masterful deliberation on American power, international change, and the global order. It will no doubt take its place as a seminal volume in international relations, one that helps define the debate about emerging changes in the global distribution of power. I can think of few volumes comparable in their conceptual clarity and ambition. A must-read."--Charles A. Kupchan, author of How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace

"Liberal Leviathan is an ambitious, comprehensive, and deeply learned study of the American-led international political order. I am confident that it will stand as a major and lasting contribution to scholarship and to the public conversation about United States foreign policy. This is a big and important book."--William C. Wohlforth, coauthor of World Out of Balance: International Relations and the Challenge of American Primacy


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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Studies in International History and Politics
  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (April 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691125589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691125589
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #613,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Thomas Hobbes wrote in the 16th century that the end of philosophy itself was power. Correctly, I think, John Ikenberry argues it still is. His new book is about the American power. In this rigorously-argued book, he creates a new grand narrative, a new strategic myth. It is useful: the myths like these are indispensable to a smooth functioning of a "linchpin" state like the US. Moreover, he appears trying to supplant the myth developed by the neo-conservative American thinkers. The outcome is unclear to me. There is today a school of `hard' or `muscular' liberals, often allied with neo-conservatives, who seek to promote democratic revolution in countries around the world by means that include military force. There is no indication that Ikenberry supports these 'hard' liberals, but his thesis might be open to interpretation.

John Ikenberry argues that the American power has been fused with the international order. It now transcends America, it has become global "liberal order". America has become "Liberal Leviathan", which is bigger than America itslef. To put his thesis simply, the American liberal hegemony has been a success story. It should continue. Why? He argues that, going forward, the liberal international order led by the US will have a practical appeal for all members of the international community. This is because today we live in a state of security-interdependence and only can be secure through co-operation in a rule-based and open order, which is underwritten by the hegemon of the system- the US. The world needs the US, because it is a kind of "linchpin" which holds this interdependent world together. Ikenberry acknowledges a crisis in this order, but he doesn't think it is lethal to it. He prefers a regenerated American-led liberal order to alternatives.
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This book reads like a textbook for a class. It is carefully organized, and very general at first, about principles of organization, power, etc. More than halfway through, it begins to deal with the subject in specific terms. I found it interesting, but with much too long an "introduction" to the subject.
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I've just completed Mr. Ikenberry's excellent book on the development, characteristics, and future if the liberal international order, and the United States role in its' creation, evolution, and future. I have two criticisms.
First, I found the book to be a very difficult read; not because of the content (which was superb) but because of the amount of repetition. It felt like every element was repeated again, and again, and again, with slightly different words, to drill the point home. I think that the exact same wisdom could have been imparted in half the space.
Second, in discussing the factors which will influence whether the liberal order will continue and how the United States role may change, there was absolutely no mention of the impact of the internet or growing role of social media, other than a few vague references to globalization. I realize that these topics are worthy of entire books all by themselves, but they truly are game changers that were not present when the post-war order was created.
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Format: Paperback
Ikenberry has much faith in the continuation and longevity of the current world order dubbed by him the American 'liberal hegemonic order' despite beliefs (grounded or not) in the decline of American power to hold on it. The crisis of the system as he sees it is more an authority and leadership crisis than the crisis of the system per se. He also outlines the possible transformations of the system and American response in the light of power transition from the West.

I think the challenges to the system posed by the rise of authoritarian states such as China and Russia should not be dismissed lightly. China's attitudes to global governance and American-led system are well described by Shambaugh in his book 'China goes global'. China has the potential to become a revisionist power and makes itself a contending 'pole', making the world unable to resist the needs to accommodate its wishes and interests.

In order to have another perspective on the development of world order, I would like to recommend Charles Kupchan's 'No One's World'. In it he offers a very realistic assessment on the future relations between the West and the rising rest.
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Being the seminal book on the topic, it has to be rated high as a must read in International Relations

-Given that it is the seminal book on the topic of contemporary liberalism, it's not going to replace your daytime soaps or game shows for wow factor
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