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The Breaking of Nations: Order and Chaos in the Twenty-first Century Paperback – 2 Sep 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (2 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843542315
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843542315
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 650,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

Folks who like their global political analysis presented in snippy sound-bite form can hurry along to the Carvilles and Coulters and find plenty of reading material. Robert Cooper's The Breaking of Nations is designed for those who appreciate the complex tapestry of security issues and international affairs.

The present-day world, posits Cooper, is divided into three types of nations: premodern (often third world and politically unstable), modern and postmodern. While the present-day Europe Union exists as a postmodern model, with each country relying on others to facilitate prosperity, most other large nations, including, for the moment, the United States, are stuck in a merely modern capacity, still viewing foreign policy as essentially a way of keeping enemies at bay and maintaining the status quo. As terrorism grows more powerful and the "premodern" world more unstable, sophisticated weaponry becomes more readily available to terrorist organisations. It then falls to the enlightened "postmodern" countries to intervene militarily, taking a pre-emptive approach when necessary, to contain threats, root out bad guys and defend the world. With this scenario in mind, Cooper urges EU members to increase their military capability to better measure up to the status and power of the American military forces. But as technology makes weapons of mass destruction more readily available around the planet, a more aggressive diplomatic strategy, Cooper says, is crucial to effectively dealing with the build up of weaponry and he presents five "maxims" to illustrate how such a diplomacy should be organised.

While Cooper cogently presents his vision of where the world is and where the powerful nations need to take it, he also acknowledges the vagaries of a shifting world and as such presents The Breaking of Nations more as a rumination on complex issues than a ready-made solution. --John Moe, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"'A fluent, stimulating and often original book' Brendan Simms, Sunday Times; 'An excellent new analysis of the cracks in today's geopolitical landscape.' Philip Stephens, Financial Times; 'Intelligent and stylish' Robert Skidelsky, New Statesman; 'A seminal work: a brilliant and successful attempt to bring intellectual order to the chaos of the twenty-first century.' Francois Heisbourg, International Institute for Strategic Studies"

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
This book is a solid introduction to what the author sees as being the primary definition of types of countries in the 21st century. The author argues there are 3 different kinds: pre-modern, modern and post-modern.

The pre-modern states (e.g. Somalia) have no modern infrastructure and/or no modern systems of governance, and therefore, are not in a position to to conduct any kind of foreign policy. Modern states (.e.g USA) do have these things, but maintain a "realist" outlook on world affairs, particularly in terms of using force as a tool in diplomacy. Post-modern states (e.g the EU, Japan) are similar to modern, but generally avoid war because their strategic position is such that they don't need to worry about war anymore.

The book is a useful framework for viewing the world in the 21st century. It is useful to read alongside "Return of History" by Robert Kagan, and "Clash of Civizations" by Huntingdom, who also provide useful and different views of how to classify countries.
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This short book explores the new world of the early 21st century. Cooper sees the defining moment in the end of the Cold War in 1989, which changed the state system that had defined world politics since the treaty of Westphalia, and that a new world is emerging with new challenges. This premise is quite generally accepted, but it is more interesting when he qualifies the new world order as a mixture between the old and the new, where new security threats/challenges are emerging in a world divided between "pre-modern", "modern" and "post-modern" states.
The challenges and solutions in the new world order lie in the interrelations between these types of states.
The most interesting part of the book is when Mr. Cooper enumerates his five maxims for conditions for world peace: (1) the need to understand "foreigners" better (being a foreigner myself in relation to Mr. Cooper, I would rather change the argument to understanding one another...); (2) the primacy of domestic politics; (3) the difficulty in influencing foreign governments; (4) the definition of interests in international relations; (5) redefinition the concept of identity in international relations.
The more detailed discussions of each of these maxims are extremely insightful and interesting, but I found his argumentation in line with social-constructivist models of international relations, that states identity is the most important thing in defining interests, extremely useful and relevant for the understanding of international politics: "Much more important than the question of how countries pursue their interests is the question of how they define them" (page 137).
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Format: Hardcover
As a career diplomat, Cooper's working life is to a large extent dominated by the issues he explores in this book; unusually, he has taken the time to consider those issues objectively and, even more unusually, chosen to share his conclusions with the wider world. The result is a book that would make even the most interested, well-informed internationalist reconsider some of his frames of reference.

I won't rehearse what the other reviewer here has written, which sums up the book's contents pretty well, except to disagree with his assessment of the final section.

Unlike him, I believe that the discussion of Europe's (and, by extension, the post-modern world's) defence policy, and its willingness to engage in force if necessary, was a logical conclusion to the discussions of "grand strategy" in the first two sections. Cooper's point is that although post-modern solutions are an ideal goal, they are perhaps ultimately unattainable, at least on a global level, and it is no longer reasonable for the 450m citizens living in post-modern Europe to rely for their defence on the 250m taxpayers of the (modern nation state) United States. In a sense, Cooper seems to me to be recognising the limits of the post-modern approach he espoused in the first two sections - i.e. force is often still needed when dealing with pre-modern and modern states - and that post-modern entities like Europe and Japan should invest accordingly. Inevitably, such conclusions lack the majestic sweep of historical analysis, but as a thought piece over "What next?", I think it is both persuasive and appropriate.

Kagan is right - this book takes the geopolitical discussion a step further. Highly recommended.
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Most interesting part of the book is Cooper's concept of post-modern states, especially as represented by the European Union of today.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.1 out of 5 stars 13 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for understanding western support for terrorism and hostility toward independent nation 11 Mar. 2015
By Amazon Customer - Published on
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Not to say that I agree with author, I believe this book is a real eyeopener. It explains the rationale behind the chain of western aggressions against seemingly harmless and even friendly independent nations. Libya and Syria were turned into ruins and their population left at mercy of gangsters and terrorists not by accident. It was the plan from the outset. Modern nation organizes population allowing people to enjoy benefits of civilization. The West sets off to take these benefits away. The argument is that technologies are too accessible and might lead to manufacture of efficient weapons that threaten the US and their satellites. So modern nations must be destroyed to prevent it. Population must be subjected to the rule of gangsters and terrorists, who will export drugs and sex slaves to the West, but could not support sufficient level of organization to produce weapons. I think the real reason behind western war against the rest of mankind is greed, not paranoia. When gangsters kill people left and right in broad daylight, people can not have modern industry, don't have use for raw materials and can not protect them from poaching by transnational corporations.

In order to justify terrorism against non-western nations Cooper introduces three manipulative terms listed below with plain English translation"
"premodern" - gangland
"modern" - independent
"postmodern" - satellite

European nations are "postmodern" - dependent on each other. They resign much of their sovereignty to international bodies, which makes them "safe" and "predictable". Even though France has nukes which give it immense military superiority - Germany doesn't feel threatened because of mutual dependence of postmodern states. Of course the real reason is that both France and Germany are satellites of the US ever since the US occupied these countries during WWII. As a dominating power the US would not allow its satellites fight each other.

Cooper clearly struggles with the fact that the US is "robustly modern". Modern nations are dangerous to "postmodern" ones and must be destroyed, but somehow the US is an exception. Despite being modern it is not threatening "postmodern" nations. It would be much easier to understand if we stick to old term - independent. The US is independent country. It is not threatening its satellites, it have defeated and occupied them decades ago and now has total control. Satellites are just too weak to challenge the dominant power. plotting against their master

With sole exception of the US no independent nations are allowed on the planet. Accounting for about 90% of world's military spending, "peaceful" and "predictable" West regularly wages wars against independent nations. It remains somewhat predictable though. Direct military aggression supplemented by terrorist attacks are used against weaker independent nations, such as Libya. Proxy wars and terrorist wars are preferred against strong modern nations like Russia, India, China. The only weakness of the book is that an author doesn't investigate countermeasures the mankind might take to counter the threat from the US and its "postmodern" satellites such as creation of military blocks and collective security system to counteract western onslaught.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diplomatic Realism 10 Nov. 2005
By Retired Reader - Published on
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This is a somewhat deceptive book. It is quite short, just a 180 pages including notes and is very well written. This might cause some folks to dismiss it out of hand as yet another self-serving tome form a retired bureaucrat (all be it an English one). In point of fact the book is an intelligent and original look at the way the post Cold War world looks and works.

The author describes this world as divided between `pre-modern', `modern' and `post-modern' nation states. He postulates that the post-modern state actually is more trans-national than national, with a strong affinity for multi-lateral foreign relations, a transparent security system and a high tolerance for outside interference in its domestic affairs. This sounds pejorative, but it is not. In the author's view the post modern condition is exemplified by the nation states of the European Union (EU) and Japan and is the model for a stable and prosperous world order. Yet in a remarkably realistic assessment of the condition of the world, the author notes that the EU and Japan can enjoy their status as post-modern states only because the United States posses the most powerful military force in the world. He refers to the U.S. as a `modern' state with attributes that include a penchant for unilateral action, a closed security system, and no tolerance for outside interference in its domestic affairs. He sees the U.S. as providing the security that allows the post-modern states to flourish and grow. This insight, to this reviewer, is a very generous and realistic view of the role of the U.S. in world affairs. The book contains a host of other insights, ideas and practical advice for making the post-cold war world a place worth living. They certainly make the book worth reading.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chaos, the State, Europe and the US 27 Sept. 2004
By Kindle Customer - Published on
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"The Breaking Of Nations - Order And Chaos In The Twenty-First Century", by Robert Cooper is another of the currently popular books that tries to explain the historical sociological basis behind our international dilemma; the breakdown of the authority of the state and perhaps of authority in general.

Starting with the generally accepted view of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Weber, that civilization and order rests on the legitimate control of violence by the state, Cooper examines the problems the world is facing with many non-state actors who use or threaten force and the states that are unable to exercise control over their own territory and are no longer responsible for the behavior of their citizens. These are the states he calls pre-modern. He further defines the pre-modern state as a post-imperial or colonial chaotic association where there is no real sovereign authority. In some cases these are the result of the decline of imperialism. Today, the general opinion being, that the rewards of imperialism are small and the burdens large, especially with a population hostile to being `colonials'. The result is all too often chaos, which may give rise to a `defensive' imperialism where nations may seek to control other states to maintain their own safety. Defensive imperialism is the latest interpretation of what used to be called a `buffer state' or `cordon sanitaire', a protective border zone to protect `us' from `them' or to keep potentially hostile neighbors apart. Nations have traditionally been secular and organized along ethnic or group identities. Their legitimacy has been derived from below rather than imposed from above. This is different than an empire, where the government is usually imposed from above and there is a non-homogenaeity of population. Frequently empires have strong religious elements (Ottoman, Mogul, Russian Orthodox, Soviet-Scientific Socialism) but no common relevant identity. When empires break up, however, identity becomes relevant for the first time as the chaos of tribal or ethnic division emerges. All of these situations lead to the Wilsonian idea of a nation-state that is sovereign, more or less homogeneous, and defined by fixed and defended or at least defendable borders. This is the type of state organization that Cooper calls modern. In this modern world order, force is still the ultimate guarantor of peace. Cooper calls these states modern because they are linked to the idea of the nation-state created by the Treaty of Westphalia, which he considers the engine that created the modern world. Both the `realist' theories based on the calculation of national interests and the so-called balance of power, and the `idealist' theories based on collective security and world government are considered `modern' because of their reliance on force to maintain order. By this measure, both the U.N. and the U.S. would be considered `modern' since the former has the use of force as a means of enforcement written into its charter and the latter has used force as part of policy since its inception. `Modern' states, according to Cooper, can, if successful, become expansionist and create a new imperialism. Its success would depend on its demonstrated superiority to the existing liberal capitalist democracies of the West. If, on the other hand, `modern' states fail, devolution into a `pre-modern' failed-state chaos is likely. The solution, at least in European eyes, to all of the world's problems is the "post-modern" state. The post-modern state system doesn't rely on balance, sovereignty, or the separation of foreign and domestic affairs for its stability. The post-modern ideal emerged from the 1957 Treaty of Rome and the Treaty On Conventional Forces In Europe (CFE) and was the inspiration for the Organization For Security And Cooperation In Europe (OSCE). Its rules stress openness and transparency that are contrary to normal state behavior. For example, it is normal behavior to conceal ones strengths and weaknesses from potential adversaries; under the CFE Treaty force details are declared and challenge inspections are mandated. In the `post-modern' state rules are self-enforced and there is no need for a mechanism to compel the payment of fines. All of this sounds like Utopia, and in many ways it is. Although under `post-modernism' the object of foreign policy is peace and prosperity, rather than power and prestige, unfortunately most democratic institutions remain stubbornly national. The EU is trans-national rather than supra-national. Although some still dream of a European State, outside of the elites this is a very small minority. If the state is the problem, a super-state cannot be the solution. Cooper obviously favors the concept of postmodernism as he has defined it, but is skeptical to the point of contempt to those who think that the post-modern state has arrived as embodied in the EU. He says that the presence of US forces in Europe rather than those of NATO or the EU is responsible for the half-century of peace Europe has enjoyed. Those forces enabled Germany to maintain much lower force levels at lower cost than would have been possible otherwise. The German `Wirtschaftswunder' was subsidized by the American taxpayer. He says that the US is the only nation in the world with an independent strategy. According to Cooper the rest of the world reacts to, fears, lives under the protection of, envies, resents, plots against, and depends on America. As the most powerful country, the US has less reason to accept the idea of security based on mutual vulnerability that is the basis of the post-modern state (see Robert Kagan "Of Paradise And Power"). In his view, every country would choose to be invulnerable if it were possible, but only the US is. He says the US is not imperial (Niall Ferguson "Colossus" disagrees and says the US should accept its imperial role), but is hegemonic. The US wants to rule, but only in order to promote democracy in a neo-conservative Wilsonian convergence that drives a foreign policy to make the world safe for America (see Walter Russell Mead "Terror, Power, War, and Peace). All of this said, he, like Mead and Ferguson, seems to favor a benevolent American hegemony, rather than the `association of the weak' offered by the EU at the present. He says that a balance of power produces instability rather than stability and hegemony produces resentment, but it would be irresponsible to allow even one more nation to acquire WMDs. This, he thinks, is an issue of such importance for the whole civilized world that the imperative of security must defeat rational argument and negotiated solutions. Longer-term he hopes voluntary reform (as in Turkey) and the extension of the system of cooperative empire (the EU) will result. He posits that real change in foreign policy only comes from change in domestic policy and that is related to national identity and national purpose which is in conflict with post-modernism. Cooper identifies this modern/post-modern EU versus US conflict as derivative from the differing attitudes towards nationalism in Europe and America. While European nationalism is tied to ethnicity and has been weakening (he doesn't mention the anti-nationalist sentiment resulting from the nationalist excesses of WWI and II), American nationalism is tied to the concept of national identity engendered by the US Constitution. There is no corresponding European identity, at least not yet, in his opinion. He calls for the creation of a European military force that trains together and has interoperable equipment, a force that would give some responsibility to Europe. He agrees with Kagan, that the inability to respond with force, leaves only one choice, the choice of weakness, which is inaction. He ends the book, with a quote from George W. Bush at the American Enterprise Institute: " We meet here during a crucial period in the history...of the civilized world. Part of that history was written by others, the rest will be written by us." Cooper comments that if that `us' is to include Europe, they will need more power, both military power and multilateral legitimacy. This book adds another serious voice to those of Ferguson ("Colossus"), Fukuyama ("State-Building"), Huntington ("The Clash Of Civilizations And The New World Order" and "Who Are We?), Kagan ("Of Paradise And Power"), Walter Russell Mead ("Terror, Power, War, and Peace"), and Nye ("Soft Power") in the discussion of the emerging world order. I recommend it.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Overview of World Order in the 21st Centruy 21 Feb. 2005
By David Southworth - Published on
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Robert Cooper has written a brilliant book that takes a big-picture look at the vast scenery of the international community at the beginning of the 21st century. His short treatise is made up of three parts. The first is a discussion of the differences in makeup of pre-modern (the third world), modern (the U.S., Japan), and post-modern states (Western Europe).

The second section is a discussion of diplomacy today. It is broken up into a discussion of five maxims for international relations: 10 foreigners are different; 2) in the end, what matters is domestic politics; 3) Influencing foreigners is difficult; 4) Foreign policy is not only about interests; and 5) Enlarge the context.

The last section is a discussion of Europe and the U.S. today. This part has a special resonance as Cooper is currently the Director-General of the Council of the European Union. Cooper says that such simplistic postulations as Robert Kagan's in "Of Paradise and Power" that Europe and America are drifting apart because of different values are wrong. Europe and America may have different capabilities, but they want the same objectives. They both want to create conditions for prosperity and freedom. They both are threatened by rogue states and terrorists. However, Cooper sees the biggest problem in the relationship Europe's reluctance to create force capabilities that can work with the U.S. military by increasing defense spending. Cooper believes this is wrong and should be rectified before the problem becomes untenable.

This is a short and concise work that should be widely read. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in international relations in the 21st century.
4.0 out of 5 stars International Affairs and Security and Security Issues in the 21st Century 7 July 2013
By Lisbeth - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Coopers books is well written given a good analysis of the new world order in the 21st century, dividing countries into three categories,
pre-modern (e.g. Somalia), modern (e.g. USA), and post modern (e.g. EU and Japan). Countries in the latter group are similar to those in the "modern" group, but they feel generally that they wish to avoid war and would prefer to come to agreement by negotiation, if possible. The book is well written and coherent, without being too academic.
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