In This Review

The Reluctant Superpower: A History of America's Economic Global Reach
The Reluctant Superpower: A History of America's Economic Global Reach
By Richard Holt
Kodansha International, 1995, 286 pp

Despite its title, this book is really a concise history of the world economy during the twentieth century, with a focus on the United States but interesting excursions on Europe and, especially, Japan. Drawn largely from secondary sources and written by an English author, the book offers an outsider's view of America and its role in the world economy. It is fair-minded and portrays the big picture accurately. Unfortunately, the book is marred by numerous errors of fact and some of interpretation and analysis. It concludes with the thesis providing its title: in view of the particularistic pressures for protection and the tendency toward deficient demand, caused by the short-term orientation of many banks and firms, a global leader is necessary to sustain global prosperity. Americans played that role ambivalently during the post-1945 period but are reluctant to play it now. The author holds out the possibility that Japan, after internal reforms, may succeed to that part in the decades to come.