In This Review

The World: A Brief Introduction
The World: A Brief Introduction
By Richard Haass
400 pp, Penguin Press, 2020

Writing for a popular audience, Haass provides a clear and concise account of the history, diplomacy, economics, and societal forces that have molded the modern global system. The book begins by telling the story of the rise of the Western state system, the subsequent centuries of war and peacemaking, and the Cold War and its aftermath. In other chapters, Haass examines the political, economic, and demographic forces that have shaped Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas, and he explains globalization through sections on trade, finance, migration, climate change, terrorism, and cyberspace. The book avoids theoretical debates, focusing instead on the interplay between broad world-historical forces—science and technology, capitalism, nationalism, power politics—and diplomacy and leadership. The rise of liberal democracy and economic interdependence has encouraged rules-based relations and global governance, but anarchy and the threat of war always loom in the background. Haass gives credit to the United States for underwriting the postwar liberal order, but he also sees American leadership on the wane, nationalism reasserting itself, and an increasingly ambitious China seeking to tilt the world away from liberal democracy. If the liberal order cannot be rebuilt, Haass expects a more fragmented world order to emerge, one organized around spheres of influence.