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New Left Review 51, May-June 2008

Gopal Balakrishnan on Parag Khanna, The Second World. Globe-trotting account from beyond the OECD, surveying the stakes in a coming battle between ascendant China and a West caught in imperial doldrums.



Since the end of the Cold War, controversies surrounding the future direction of American statecraft have often been prompted by the publication of surveys offering an easy-to-follow reconnaissance of the geo-political terrain for Beltway planners and pundits. The 90s were perhaps especially propitious for thinking about current events through the historical and civilizational categories of an earlier Age of Empire. But despite a number of efforts to formulate a grand strategy for a new era of police operations against terrorists and their backers, the post 9/11 fixation on ‘asymmetrical’ forces did not readily lend itself to the terms of this older genre, according to which world history is an eternal struggle of Great Powers for Lebensraum and prestige. Even the more evenly matched Cold War was rarely framed in this way, as the universalistic ideological agendas of the two blocs effectively relegated the language of traditional Machtpolitik to the margins.

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Related articles:

  1. Peter Gowan: A Calculus of Power John Mearsheimer’s Tragedy of Great Power Politics disdains liberal-imperial rhetoric for a tough-minded theory of ‘offensive realism’. Peter Gowan argues that, whatever its merits, the behaviour of states in the international system cannot be dissociated from the internal dynamics of the political orders they protect.
  2. Perry Anderson: Jottings on the Conjuncture A reckoning of global shifts in political and economic relations, with China emerging as new workshop of the world and US power, rationally applied elsewhere, skewed by Israeli interests in the Middle East. Oppositions to it gauged, along with theoretical visions that offer exits from the perpetual free-market present.
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