Zero-Sum Future: American Power in an Age of Anxiety

In This Review

Zero-Sum Future: American Power in an Age of Anxiety
By Gideon Rachman
Simon & Schuster, 2011
352 pp. $27.00
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In this lively chronicle of the last three decades, Rachman, a columnist for the Financial Times, argues that the 2008 financial crisis "changed the logic of international relations," ushering in a new era marked by a dysfunctional world economy and intensifying "zero-sum" geopolitical rivalries. The optimistic post-Cold War era, when globalization, democracy, and U.S. leadership seemed to be lifting all boats and bringing the world together, is over. Rachman unfurls his narrative in a sequence of brief portraits of political leaders and public intellectuals -- such as Deng Xiaoping, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Gates -- who are emblematic of various features of the rapidly transforming global landscape. The book points to the obvious problems that are unsettling the global system, including climate change, nuclear proliferation, failed states, and the failure of institutions such as the G-20 to foster cooperation and manage geoeconomic instability. As Rachman writes, these problems might be more tractable if the United States were still sufficiently dominant to impose solutions, but the shift of power and wealth toward Asia and the rise of a rival Chinese authoritarian capitalist system are undermining the coherence and stability of the current world order. Taking the long view, however, it is far from clear that world politics are, as he believes, more zero-sum now than in the past.

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