Is This The End of the American Century?

This site features updates, analysis, discussion and comments related to the theme of my book published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2008 (hardbound) and 2009 (paperbound).

The Book

The End of the American Century documents the interrelated dimensions of American social, economic, political and international decline, marking the end of a period of economic affluence and world dominance that began with World War II. The war on terror and the Iraq War exacerbated American domestic weakness and malaise, and its image and stature in the world community. Dynamic economic and political powers like China and the European Union are steadily challenging and eroding US global influence. This global shift will require substantial adjustments for U.S. citizens and leaders alike.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Entering A Systemic Revolution

The collapse of the United States as the global hegemon constitutes a “systemic revolution” that will transform both the U.S. and the rest of the globe. Such a revolution is different from “normal” political revolutions, which entail an overthrow of the government. A systemic revolution ushers in even broader and more enduring changes in economy, society and culture, and it also transcends national boundaries, affecting other countries and the global system itself. It is a global paradigm shift, and we are right smack in the middle of it.

This is the opening paragraph of my article "Entering a Systemic Revolution" which appears in the online journal Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture (volume 8, issue 2). The article can be accessed here through my Selected Works page.

The article is a revised version of a lecture I gave in March at a conference on "The Past and Future of Revolutions" at Northeastern Illinois University.

In the article, I compare the current global situation to previous "systemic revolutions", among them the French Revolution of 1789, the Industrial Revolution, the Darwinian Revolution, and the anti-communist revolutions of 1989. Like those epochal changes, the domestic and international decline of the U.S. will affect both the United States and the rest of the world, and will bring fundamental and global changes in politics, economics, culture, and ideology.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Ovation, Inc.: Speakers on Issues That Matter

I am now involved in a speaker's agency, Ovation, Inc., that is "a small but highly selective agency representing an array of affordable speakers addressing pressing issues of our time." Many of the issues raised in The End of the American Century, and on this blog, are topics available for lectures, classes, workshops, etc. by me and other experts on the Ovation roster. Take a look at the site at

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Can America Fail?

In its spring 2009 issue, The Wilson Quarterly featured a series of articles entitled "Decline or Renewal?" addressing the "scenarios for postcrisis America." The lead article, "Can America Fail?" was written by Kishore Mahbubani of the National University of Singapore, and the author of The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East (2009). The subtitle of that article is "A sympathetic critic issues a wake-up call for an America mired in groupthink and blind to its own shortcomings" which, in my mind, is also a pretty accurate description of yours truly!

Mahbubani believes that the U.S. has been "engulfed by a culture of individual irresponsibility" and sees many of the country's policies as deeply injurious to the rest of the world. Our policies on the Middle East, the invasion of Iraq, our double standard on nuclear proliferation, and our policies (or lack of them) on global warming "have injured the 6.5 billion other people who inhabit the world." Mahbubani thinks Americans need to be able to see our country the way others see us, to recognize and address our own shortcomings, and to be prepared to work harder, consumer less, and--especially--to sacrifice.

The two other essays in the Wilson Quarterly are a counterpoint to Mahbubani's article, but also illustrate exactly the problem Mahbubani addresses: Americans "mired in groupthink" and blind to their own shortcomings. The article by Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, asserts (without any evidence provided) that "today, the rest of the world is looking to the United States to pull it out of a recession." He also asserts, astoundingly, that the current financial crisis "has underscored the continuing strength of American global influence." Equally questionable, and more fodder for Mahbubani's observations, is Arthur Herman's assertion that "America is still the most innovative and creative economy in the world."

The editors of The Wilson Quarterly invited me to submit a response to these three articles, and a version of the following appeared in their "Letters" section in the Summer 2009 issue (page 6).

On the question of U.S. decline, Kishore Mahbubani hits the nail on the head by pointing to the inability of American thinkers and policy-makers “to listen to other voices on the planet.” Indeed, his point is illustrated by the contributions by others in the same issue who seem to assume that other countries want the U.S. to lead and who believe that the American economy is still the most dynamic in the world.

If one simply asks other people in the world what they think, these casual assumptions wither away. Global opinion surveys conducted by Pew, BBC and others show little enthusiasm in other countries for “American-style democracy,” for American ways of doing business, or for the spread of U.S. ideas and customs. Though global opinion about the U.S. has improved somewhat with the election of President Obama, far more people worldwide continue to see U.S. influence on the world as “mostly negative” rather than “mostly positive.” On this scale, among 15 countries, the U.S. ranks 10th, below Germany, Britain, Japan and China, according to a recent BBC poll.

It is difficult to see how the U.S. economy could be seen as so vital, innovative and creative at a time when the core parts of it are collapsing under the weight of innovative stagnation and stupefying levels of incompetence, greed, corruption. Manufacturing has steadily declined as a component of GDP, replaced increasingly by financial services. The U.S. does not actually produce much any more. Now the financial sector has proven a hollow shell, after fostering and encouraging record levels of both consumer spending and debt. This can no longer be sustained, so the U.S. economy is bound to decline, and probably by a lot. As Professor Mahbubani astutely points out, “the time has come for Americans to spend less and work harder.”

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