This book takes the Cold War era as a whole, exploring the origins of the post-World War II settlement -- its achievements, failures, and crises -- and its eventual collapse in the late 1980s. The author, a professor of history at Boston College, has a focus that is unusual and refreshing. Although he does not ignore high politics, his emphasis is on the way the structure of international rivalry affected the political and economic choices made in, and sometimes imposed on, the states that were caught up in it. His exploration of the forces at work in these states -- the political and economic bargains that were made but then broke down, the ideological discourses that justified power but then stumbled on their own contradictions -- is first-rate. This focus, in turn, enables him to throw a powerful light on the character of the contemporary world, and in particular on the emergence of a new global economy utterly different from that which had arisen in the 1950s and 1960s. His larger conclusion is that democracy is triumphant but less meaningful, the collapse of communist and authoritarian regimes at once expanding popular participation while sharply constricting, via the imperatives of the global market, the range of effective choice. An altogether satisfying and judicious work that brilliantly illuminates both past and present.
Get the latest book reviews delivered to your inbox.