In This Review

The Rise and Fall of World Orders
The Rise and Fall of World Orders
By Torbjorn L. Knutsen
Manchester University Press, 1999, 304 pp

A Norwegian scholar explores the grand themes of war and global change, reviewing the major historical phases of great-power war and the creation of international orders. Echoing other scholars such as Robert Gilpin and George Modelski, the author traces the broad historical patterns of rise and decline: great wars destroy the old order and open the way for newly powerful states to organize postwar order -- only to be challenged later by the next rising state. Although the analysis focuses on shifting balances of power, the author also stresses ideology and moral appeal in accounting for the success in building durable hegemonic orders. This allows Knutsen to save his most interesting comments for the discussion of the United States and the future of its world order. Nuclear weapons may have ended the great-power wars that would otherwise usher in new orders -- but it is really America's "soft power" that has slowed down the historical cycle. The argument is not original, but its wide historical sweep is useful in putting the American century in perspective.