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From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America's World Role Paperback – July 26, 1999

4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Fareed Zakaria, the managing editor of Foreign Affairs, tries to understand why the United States decided in 1898 that it was time to start acting like a world power. His answer lies in the transference of the government's main power from Congress, which was concerned primarily with the needs of its individual constituencies, to a presidency occupied by dynamic leaders such as Benjamin Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt, who once declared that "when the interests of the American people demanded that a certain act should be done, and I had the power to do it, I did it unless it was specifically prohibited by law."

The lessons Zakaria learns from the example of America have useful applications to contemporary political science; one might consider, for example, the ways in which a politically unified Germany or a economically powerful Japan differs from the 19th-century America that was politically and economically strong; the presence of both qualities would appear to be required for a nation to flex its muscles on the international scene. Although it never quite completely answers the "why," From Wealth to Power does extremely well on the "how" and the even more important "so?" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"[From Wealth to Power's] tightly argued thesis addresses a question sure to be revisited.... Its conclusions are both provocative and full of implications for the world today."--Walter A. McDougall, The New York Times Book Review

"Mr. Zakaria persuasively illustrates [his] argument by examining America's emergence as a great power.... [His] account of turn-of-the-century American diplomacy is concise and insightful."--Aaron L. Friedberg, The Wall Street Journal

"A significant contribution to the study of international relations."--Choice
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (July 26, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691010358
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691010359
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #828,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
the author has two separate agendas. One is to contribute to theoretical debates among academic political scientists; the other is to tell the story of America's rise to global power between the Civil War and World War I. The theoretical stuff seems right but is pretty arcane; the history, on the other hand, is very well told and intelligently structured. It'll definitely make you think. Plus, the whole thing is written beautifully.
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Format: Paperback
"What turns rich nations into great powers," asks Fareed Zakaria in his opening line; he attempts to answer that question by examining American foreign policy from 1865 to 1908 observing that the period from 1865 to 1889 featured few expansive ventures, though that from 1890 to 1908 saw plenty expansions.

Mr. Zakaria, now the editor of Newsweek, wrote "From Wealth to Power" for his doctoral dissertation. Hence the tone of the work is largely academic, with plenty of references to academic debates and literature reviews. All the same, the text is accessible and hardly ever esoteric; the academic density is likely to add to rather than subtract from the enjoyment of reading the book.

What of the thesis itself? Mr. Zakaria approaches his period of examination from two alternative angles, both of which are used in the international relations literature to explain why nations expand: realism and defensive realism. The former places emphasis on why and when states choose to expand by focusing on an innate drive to power, tempered by practicability and opportunity; the latter maintains that states expand when they are faced with threats.

Mr. Zakaria, it turns out, is content with neither of the two propositions. What best explains this period of American foreign policy, he contends, is a variation of realism: state-centered realism (SCR). The important qualification of SCR is that it accounts for power conversion-the ability of the state apparatus to convert national resources into stated government objectives. This approach, Mr.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In From Wealth to Power Fareed Zakaria presents two competing theories of foreign policy, applies his own modifications to one theory, and compares them with the actual evolution of American foreign policy from 1865 to 1908. The following three paragraphs summarize his thesis.

1. A theory of foreign policy is a method of understanding past and predicting future motives, intentions or goals of a nation's interactions with others, regardless of the outcomes. This is in contrast with a theory of international politics which seeks to explain and predict outcomes. A primary goal of a theory of foreign policy is to understand and predict when a nation is likely to adopt an expansive foreign policy by increasing its military forces, asserting itself diplomatically, or attempting to annex or conquer territory.

2. The two traditional theories of foreign policy are classical realism and defensive realism. Classical realism holds that a nation will adopt an expansive foreign policy when it has the resources to do so. Defensive realism takes the position that nations develop expansive foreign policies in reaction to perceived threats. Zakaria presents his own modification of classical realism, which he calls state-centric realism. In this variation, he posits that not only must a nation have the resources to implement an expansive foreign policy, but an adequate portion of the nation's resources must be available to the state, the national government, the makers and implementers of foreign policy.

3.
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Format: Hardcover
Zakaria explains why America became a world power in the "unusual," halting, delayed manner that it did. This book puts the events of 1898 and the diplomacy of Teddy Roosevelt in a fascinating light. He restores the fame and reputation of one of the great American statesmen -- William Henry Seward. And I agree with the other reviews -- it's *very* well written with interesting, well chosen anecdotes.
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Format: Hardcover
Being a casual observer and student of affairs international - be it political,economic or foreign policy matters of nations- I must say that I enjoyed the book immensely. In my opinion it is well written, to the point and precise even though I didn't care too much for the 'theories' elicited in the book on the subject, everything else was fascinating and noteworthy.
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Format: Paperback
This book provides a very good study on the years just before the US burst upon the world stage as a major player in global affairs. It outlines the tentative steps America made toward assuming great power status in the three decades following the Civil War.

Although author Zakaria does not actually pose the question in these words, what he is looking at is not so much the question "When did America become a Great Power?" or even "How did America become a Great Power?" although he certainly loks at these two issues. The real question he seems to be asking is, "Why did it take so long for America to become a Great Power?" Of course the US went from being a few colonial settlements on the seaboard of the North American continent to being one of the five or six most powerful nations in the world in a space of only 125 years, and that was an incredibly rapid advancement. But what the author points out is, American actually possessed the ability to be a Great Power some 20-30 before it actually assumed that role.

For example, in mid-1865 the United States of America possessed the largest army and the largest navy in the world - and had built both of these gigantic war machines in the space of only four years. And, this huge military machine in 1865 did not count the manpower of the 11 Confederate states. The size of the navy is somewhat misleading because although it possessed more vessels than even the British navy at that time, most of the ships of the US Navy were either riverine gunboats and coastal monitors, or were obsolescent wooden sailing ships which were on the way to being replaced by screw-propelled iron and later, steel hulled ships.
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