Rothkopf’s sprawling book narrates the centuries-long tug of war between private commercial interests and public purpose, from the age of Adam Smith through the rise of the modern-era multinational corporation. Rothkopf’s chief concern is that the balance between the state and the market has been lost in the United States and the wider liberal democratic world. Beginning in the 1980s, the Washington consensus and the neoliberal emphasis on open markets and deregulation have led to crises and instability, undermining the legitimacy of American power and putting many societies at risk. As the world economy has rapidly globalized and the state has retreated from the market, Western governments have lost the ability to fulfill their obligations to citizens. These changes have transformed the global system into a realm of weakened states and super-empowered elites, in which the world’s richest 1,000 people collectively control assets that are equivalent to those held by the two billion poorest. This is a world out of balance. If Rothkopf’s history is a guide, increasingly complex power struggles will play out in the decades ahead within and between states, regions, and corporations.
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