In This Review

The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931
The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931
By Adam Tooze
Viking Adult, 2014, 672 pp

In this landmark study, Tooze offers an elegant account of the reordering of great-power relations that took place after World War I, at the dawn of “the American century.” He shows how in the period between the war and the onset of the Great Depression, the United States exercised its power in “peculiar” ways, operating indirectly and focusing less on military force. It was not U.S. weakness but rather the “looming potential” of American capitalist democracy and the world order it would create that spurred radicalism in Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union. What made the American-led new order so threatening to those illiberal powers was its combination of moral authority with military strength and economic dominance. The United States was not just another rising great power: it represented a global political project and a way of life. Tooze draws a parallel between the post–World War I period and the “unipolar moment” that followed the Soviet collapse near the end of the twentieth century. In both cases, U.S. leaders embraced an exceptionalist view of their country’s role in the world and sought to overturn a pluralistic world order based on the balance of power.