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The Return of History and the End of Dreams Hardcover – 1 May 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843548119
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843548119
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 20.7 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 590,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'Important, timely, and superbly-written... This book is a wake-up call and should be read by policymakers, politicians, pundits and all who want a guide to the dangerous waters of 21st-century geopolitics.' -- Senator John McCain

'Subtle and deep.' -- Economist

About the Author

Robert Kagan served in the State Department from 1984 to 1998. He is the author of the international bestseller Paradise & Power and is the senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He lives in Brussels with his wife and two children.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By M. McManus VINE VOICE on 14 Jun. 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kagan argues that the world is not divided by religion or race as Samuel Huntingdon's 'clash of civilizations' theory suggests and the modern trouble with Islam/West seems to vindicate. Rather he argues the real division in modern geopolitics is between democracies and autocracies, with places like the USA, Europe and Japan on one side, and countries like China, Russia and Iran on the other. As he explicitly states in the book, "But in today's world, a nation's form of government, not its `civilization' or its geographic location, maybe the best predictor of its geopolitical alignment". For example, China and Japan may have a shared Asian culture, but one is a democracy and the other is an autocracy, therefore, Japan will have more in common with another democracy, even if it is not culturally similar, that it will with China.

He argues that the autocracies are dangerous, not just because of their oppressive internal policies, but because they typically are experiencing rapid economic growth. This allows them to fund a more powerful and threatening military with which to threaten democracies: Russia's booming oil wealth has seen it pick fights with the EU and send nuclear bombers on training runs on Western cities, and China makes increasingly murderous demands on Taiwain. Also their economic success in the absence of democracy could lead other countries to emulate their autocratic rule as a means of imitating their success, and there are the beginnings of this in places like Venezuela.

Kagan acknowledges that one autocracy can have friction with another autocracy: for example, Russia and China may distrust each other over their mutual ambitions in Siberia.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By therealus TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 3 Aug. 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union led to many optimistic pronouncements on global politics: we had the peace dividend, the new world order and, in the title of Francis Fukuyama's book alluded to here, the end of history.

Maybe the big wake-up call from this reverie came on 11 September 2001, when the world realised that history red in tooth and claw still prowled the earth, but the asymmetric struggles those events represented are not the only ingredients of the dangerous geopolitical brew now cooking, and in this work Robert Kagan sounds a wake up call to the "democracies", summarising the potential perils of, amongst other things, the new-found power of Russia under Putin, of the growing economic clout of China, and the potential for mischief from the direction of India, also growing in influence within the international community.

Much of Kagan's presentation is irrefutable: Russia is able to intimidate other nations through its control of huge amounts of oil and gas, and its oligarchs are gobbling up energy companies in the West; China's voice in numerous international bodies does perpetuate any number of unsavoury regimes, from nearby Myanmar to Zimbabwe, and its holdings of US dollars have destabilising potential; India does indeed vacillate between blocs, apparently so as to play them off against each other.

But ultimately I couldn't help feeling that maybe in Kagan's conclusions regarding alliances of democracies against the "anti-democracies" had a little too much of the neocon Manifest Destiny message about it, and comes across as a little too cut and dried and unnuanced. It brought to mind the warnings of Japanese world domination by Paul Kennedy a couple of decades or so ago.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr X on 30 April 2009
Format: Paperback
The book is a whistlestop tour of modern international politics. I feel it is a good basic introduction to the subject but lacks any real depth. Due to it brevity it cannot do justice to all the (many) areas it touches on and so for anyone wanting anything other than a brief overview of the subject this is probably not the book for them. That said, it does introduce some interesting possible scenarios for the world that could come to pass in the current century. Worth reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Thierry de Preux on 7 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
Robert Kagan blows up Francis Fukuyama's reasoning in "The End of History and the Last Man". He forcefully argues for a sort of new "Cold War", based on the spiritedness and ferocity in defense of clan, tribe, city, or state imbedded in human nature, that the ancient Greeks called thumos. The future geopolitics of autocratic powers, such as Russia and China, are convincingly described.
But, in my opinion, Kagan doesn't sufficiently take into account the powerful changes of globalization. Will any country be able to be as autocratic in the future as it has been in the past? The present crisis has demonstrated that the world's national economies are incredibly closely related. The freedom of communication through the Internet can hardly be controlled. People travel more than ever, etc.
Nevertheless, Kagan's book is an eye-opener, waking us from our comfortable post "new world order" slumber. I thoroughly enjoyed its stimulating thesis.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 18 July 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a perceptive and far-sighted examination on the state of global politics as the decade approaches its end, in the form of an extended essay. A new axis of evil is rising in opposition to the West, one not guided by a shared ideology except in so far as hostility to the rule of law and democracy might be considered ideological. Kagan predicts that the future will see the return of nationalism, growing tensions and confrontation between the forces of democracy and autocracy. What matters is a nation's nature of government, he observes, not its culture, religion or geographic location; and this will determine its international alignment. While not dismissing the terrorist threat, he does not consider it a primary menace as history proves that modernity has never lost against the traditionalism represented by the Islamists. True, but terrorism might have unintended consequences in the formation of alliances and the development of state structures.

It is interesting to compare Kagan's analysis with Margaret Thatcher's Statecraft, published in 2002, in which she assessed the state of the world and possible future trajectories. In chapters 3 and 4 of her book Thatcher looks at Russia and the Asian Giants China (including Taiwan and Hong Kong) and India. Rogue states, religion and terrorism are discussed in chapter 6, with particular reference to North Korea, Islam, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Iran. Another must-read: The New Cold War by Edward Lucas, already confirms Kagan's view.
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