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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J Payne said...


Systemic change may be on the order, but what are your thoughts regarding the new system that emerges. You state your hopefulness that a diminished US may be a force for greater institutionalization inside the international system, but I am not sure that this will result. What are the prospects in your view (based on your research) for a new bipolar world between the US and China? What of the prospects for a collapse of previously constituted international organizations once the US conforms to a new role?

On the domestic front - I wholeheartedly agree that institutions are failing. The realization of such is increasing levels of domestic radicalization - along ideological and social lines. What path does this radicalization take? Is the increasing diminished value of democratic values likely or possibly a new life on such values?

David S. Mason said...

Thanks Jeff. Of course its even harder to predict what will happen than to explain what is going on right now! In the last chapter of my book, I raise the possibility of a diminished role for the nation-state generally (and not just the U.S.) in the global system. The capabilities and capacities of nation-states are being reduced both from the inside and the outside. From inside, around the globe, there is diminished popular trust in national governments. And externally, the capabilities of national governments are being undermined by globalization and by the rise of international and transnational forces and organizations. Furthermore, the major threats to humanity now (e.g. global warming, famine, disease) and global and transnational, so can not easily be solved by single countries.

So what is likely to come out of this? Possibly a greater role for international governmental and non-governmental organizations to cope with the global nature of these threats.

On the domestic side, you raise the question about increasing levels of radicalization. I also point to this possibility (and even the possibility of a real, "normal" revolution) in my "worst case" scenario in Chapter 10. As the U.S. economy contracts--and I expect it to continue to shrink--almost everybody will feel fearful and threatened, and this will fuel radical voices. We are already seeing this with the fear-mongering and demagoguery on Fox tv and talk radio. If we are to preserve a civil and democratic society, we need wise leadership that will point to the need for belt-tightening, sacrifice, and community-building from all of us. I think Obama has the potential to exhibit such leadership. But I also think he has not yet realized the scale of the changes confronting us.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Im from Australia. I came across your work via Logos.

Please check out these two related references from the same book re the state of the world altogether, and how we got to here.