This study is a major effort to show that the failures and weaknesses of the international economic and political order are not primarily the result of the decline of American power. Nau draws on his governmental experience to show how important ideas and purpose are in shaping events. He surveys the creation and breakdown of the Bretton Woods economic world, and the spread around the world of moderate domestic economic policy and democracy. In the end, he makes a good case for the view that, in the present state of affairs, the United States "has an unparalleled opportunity . . . and indeed a special responsibility to continue to set the political tone for the world community."
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