In an extended essay that is impressive in its scope and ambition, the author questions the value of economic and political progress. He notes that progressive views of history (or recently, declinist theories from the likes of Ezra F. Vogel and Paul Kennedy) have always had a particular fascination for Americans, with their belief in American exceptionalism. He points out, however, that the American model has serious flaws and that it is not possible to sustain faith in progress in light of the experiences of the twentieth century. He proposes in its place an international order based less on American models and more on what he calls mutuality, a perspective emphasizing regionalism, cultural tolerance, and social inclusivity.
On closer examination, De Santis' new concept is not terribly radical: he supports modernization and free trade, but shorn of any Western triumphalism and leavened with social policies to equalize the rich and poor of the world. The problem is that the wealth creation necessary to make this happen is closely tied to those Western institutions and policies whose promulgation he finds distasteful. Western culture, with its promise of progress, is as much sought by non-Western peoples as it is promoted by the United States. Some of his specific proposals are confusing; he wants security arrangements to be organized regionally, but does not like NATO expansion, the one proposal for European security actually on the table.