Capsule Review

The Great Powers and Global Struggle, 1490-1990

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The Great Powers and Global Struggle, 1490-1990
By Karen A. Rasler and William R. Thompson
University Press of Kentucky, 1994 275 pp. $35.00 Purchase

This book seeks to explain the periodic rise and fall of hegemonic powers, including Portugal, the Netherlands, Britain, and the United States. The book surveys the existing literature on the subject of long cycles in international relations, from Arab historian Ibn Khaldun to Russian economist Nikolai D. Kondratev to Paul M. Kennedy, and compares their hypotheses with a substantial amount of empirical data. The authors' conclusions for the historical cases are broadly structural: states rise because of some innovation on their part and decline because that innovation diffuses to new challengers. Many long-wave theories, however, are built around factors like naval power or accidents of European geography that seem hardly relevant in an age of information-dependent global economic integration.

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