In This Review

The Future of Power
The Future of Power
By Joseph S. Nye Jr.
320 pp, PublicAffairs, 2011

Nye is the preeminent theorist of power in world affairs today, and this book is a grand synthesis of his ideas and an essential guide to the debate over the decline of the United States and the rise of China. Nye shows that economic and military capabilities still matter but that their uses in the modern era place a greater premium on information, communication, and legitimate authority. Power, Nye argues, must be understood in relational terms, disaggregated into its various dimensions, and viewed within specific geographic and historical contexts. These premises make him skeptical of the widely anticipated decline of the United States. It is true that China is growing rapidly, but observers often ignore the United States' durable military and soft-power advantages. In Nye's view, the diffusion of power may be as consequential as power transitions between major states. So the United States' soft power and open society may actually give the country new power advantages in the twenty-first century.