Mead, the author of Special Providence, has turned his attention to contemporary affairs in an effort to illuminate the U.S. predicament in the aftermath of September 11. Writing a book in the midst of political upheaval is always a challenging task, but Mead has done an admirable job, discussing with clarity and insight long-term trends in U.S. society and their implications for international relations. Although the terrorist attacks forced security concerns to the forefront of U.S. foreign policy, Mead suggests that events are in fact being driven by an economic transformation. Fordist industrial capitalism, with its cooperative arrangement among the state, business, and labor, is giving way to "millennial capitalism," a less-regulated and less-forgiving system that is generating wide disparities between winners and losers. This shift, Mead argues, causes groups and nations that have seen their status and influence diminish to resent the United States-and, when possible, to take their frustrations out on it. Mead does not go so far as to argue that September 11 was a direct result of global socioeconomic discontent, although he does note that hatred of "Made in America" globalization is strongest in the Middle East.
These trends have also catalyzed the formation of a new foreign policy coalition that includes U.S. corporate interests, neoconservatives, "born again" Wilsonians, and Jacksonians seeking to assert U.S. power and defend U.S. honor. Mead finds many reasons to fault the Bush administration's foreign policy, which shares the preferences of this coalition, but he also believes that the essentials of the "Bush revolution" in foreign policy-deep U.S. involvement in the Middle East, skepticism toward international organizations, a growing rift between Washington and its traditional allies-are likely to endure precisely because they reflect an underlying transformation. Some readers will dispute Mead's conclusions, but most will agree that he has produced a thoughtful, well-written book that will be valuable to anyone struggling to make sense of an international landscape changing quickly and often incomprehensibly.
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