Bound To Lead: The Changing Nature Of American Power

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Bound To Lead: The Changing Nature Of American Power

By Joseph S. Nye, Jr.
Basic Books, 1990
307 pp. $19.95

There are two principal strands to this controversial dissent from the "declinist" point of view associated with Paul Kennedy and others: first, that American output as a share of world product has changed little since the early 1970s; second, that a purely materialist approach to measuring power undervalues the "soft" power of language, culture and leadership. The upbeat conclusion: "The United States remains the largest and richest power with the greatest capacity to shape the future." The debate over the nature and trends of power must always come down to the question, "Compared to what?" Compared to other large nations these days, the United States stands well. Compared to the ideal of a healthy, well-educated, socially responsible polity, the picture is less positive than Professor Nye suggests.

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