It is a widely held view that the American-centered international order that dominated the last half century is giving way to something new. But while few dispute that countries such as China, India, and Brazil will wield more power in the coming decades, it is less clear what they will do with their power. In this little book, two leading scholars offer a manifesto for U.S. leadership in a post-Western international system. Their major claim is that the era of U.S. ideological dominance is over. The world no longer gravitates to American-style ideas about the virtues of free markets, democracy, and hegemony. Power is diffusing not just to other states but to young people and social groups increasingly connected within an electronic global village. In this new setting, Weber and Jentleson argue, the “competition for ideas” is rapidly growing. To exercise leadership, the United States will need to fashion more appealing ideas about order and justice. The principle of “mutuality,” the authors suggest, might best guide the reform of global institutions in a way that draws all states into a more balanced and shared system of global governance. Acknowledging that no country has a monopoly on good ideas, the book makes a good case that the United States needs to recast the way it talks about its role in the world. But it gives little attention to what non-Americans and non-Westerners actually think about the organization of the global system. The “basic questions of world politics are now open for debate,” Weber and Jentleson contend, but the grand alternative still remains unclear.
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