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Preparing for the 21st Century Paperback – 13 Jun 1994

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Fontana Press (13 Jun. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006862985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006862987
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,029,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"Penetrating...the book's impact is crushing."--The New York Times
"Required reading for anyone who wants to take measure of the 21st-century realities." --The New York Times Book Review. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Kennedy's book is not so much about preparing for the next century, as about the extent to which we are quite unprepared for it… His style is clear, cautious – and chilling.'
BEN PIMLOTT, 'Guardian'

'For anyone who actually believes that history has ended, Paul Kennedy's book is a splendid antidote. To those who never imagined it had, it offers insight laced with warning. It argues that two fundamental forces will drive the world into the 21st century, namely, sex and science – more strictly, demography and technology … And unlike most writers of polemic, Kennedy's quest for enlightenment on the future is rooted in understanding of the past… We owe him a bigger debt than most of us, who would never even have contemplated performing his Herculean task, can comprehend. This is a formidable work of syntheses to be read by all who seek a better sense of the challenges the 21st century will pose.'

''Preparing for the Twenty-First Century' argues that the conflicts which troubled Malthus… confront us today with immeasurably greater force. The numbers are much bigger, the ecological risks much greater… and the technological uncertainties even more imponderable… What marks out Professor Kennedy's book is its astonishing range, cautious tone and the remarkable way it shepherds masses of information into a coherent argument… It is both exhilarating and depressing. The sweep and command of Kennedy's writing provides a refreshing break from the introverted, Gradgrindian obsessions of contemporary British politics.'

'Kennedy deserves to be read, he deserves to be challenged, he deserves to be taken with the utmost seriousness. But above all he deserves to be thanked for his courage in stepping in to a field hitherto largely occupied by single-issue maniacs and pedlars of universal nostra.'

'Professor Kennedy is a high-minded and humane optimist… Though he has much with which to frighten us, he regularly spares us a verdict on the evidence he presents, ending his chapters on an admonitory note instead of with the apocalyptic conclusion the reader had been led to expect.'
JOHN KEEGAN, 'Daily Telegraph'

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Format: Paperback
There are a number of similar books which attempt to provide a geopolitical overview. None are as scholarly and authoritative as Paul Kennedy's, published to anticipate the millenium, and still an interesting read.

The opening part of the book is divided into his major themes.
Firstly, population growth. As the human race's survival skillsets advance, so does its population. The world is never far from a global food shortage, though biotechnology has so far kept up. What hasn't kept up, as we know, is the ability to reduce environmental damage. Pollution, water depletion, ozone layer thinning, overcrowding, global warming, etc, etc. (2 degrees celsius doesn't sound much until you hear that a nine degrees shift could trigger another ice age).
Secondly, the relative decline of the West, as the developing world's catches up.
Thirdly, globalisation, migration, and the relative decline in importance of the nation-state.
Fourthly, automation, IT and robotics; and finally, the vital role of increased education at all levels.

After chapters on these topics, he considers specific national issues in more detail. These summaries , written twenty-years ago, now serve as useful historical contexts.
The key issues he cites for the USA are i) an excess of low-skill immigration, and ii)even then, excessive debt.
For Europe, he sees the priority as a political balancing act: on the one hand, opportunities for a harmonised, free trading, economically stable bloc; on the other, the reality of cultural differences, national interests, and protectionism.
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Format: Paperback
Its undoutedly the best book to read explaining the role of economy in the shaping of world events. It also predicts the rise of new powers in the world and the reason behind their rise and power.
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Format: Hardcover
As much as this is Paul Kennedy trying to redeem himself for the end of "the Rise and Fall of the Great Powers" I would rather he concentrated more on history and less on prediction.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.2 out of 5 stars 16 reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding -- a "must" read 10 Feb. 2005
By SF Robo - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kennedy's careful and insightful analysis of various regions of the world and their outlooks for the 21st century is a "must" read for anyone who cares for the future of this country or, indeed, the world -- and, I hope, this includes our lawmakers and President. He identifies population growth as the common driver of the issues facing virtually every region. His forecast for the future of the US is not encouraging. It is regrettable, however, that the author did not include a two-dimensional spreadsheet comparing the regions on all the parameters he identifies. While written in 1993, the forecasts are so accurate that one might think it was written last year.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The World and the American Empire 16 July 2006
By ADT - Published on
Format: Paperback
Paul Kennedy's "Preparing for the Twenty-First Century" is an intellectual look at global trends ranging from global warming to the scientific breakthroughs in biotechnology and robotics. He begins his analysis by discussing one of the world's greatest challenges today - population growth. The world today is similar to that of what Thomas Malthus saw in 1798, a population that could and would outgrow the resources available.

One of the more entertaining subjects for students of political thought is his analysis of economic globalization. Mr. Kennedy points to some specific reasons on why the economic progress of globalization has been so slow forthcoming: corrupt regimes, excess military funding, and religious fundamentalism, to name a few. Mr. Kennedy believes that a global shift towards biotechnology would allow us to move away from traditional farming practices; therefore making it easier to fight global threats such as starvation and economic deprivation. There are, of course, many other issues discussed in "Preparing for the Twenty-First Century."

In conclusion, Mr. Kennedy's thoughts on the future of the American Empire are of a pessimistic view. As he states, with a great support of factual information, the continuous decline in economic growth, loss in per capita productivity, and a rising trade deficit are issues of serious concern. Besides the economic threats, the country also faces social challenges in areas of crime, health, and education. A must read for under-graduate and graduate students of political science and thought.
5.0 out of 5 stars Helps understand the complexities of the World 26 July 2005
By Umesh Vyas - Published on
Format: Paperback
Paul Kennedy is truly brilliant in providing a synthesis of the major trends of the current World. I read this book 10 years back, re-read it, and found it to be an excellent companion to discern the mega-trends.

Kennedy talks about 3 key trends - Demographic shifts, Economic Aspirations and Ecology.

Developed countries are aging and developing countries are becoming younger. This demographic shift should lead to a need for shifting productive people to the developed economies. With the spread of communication, the poor in developing countries have higher economic aspirations. So they want to shift to richer countries, more than before. As Kennedy points out, the only hitch is resistance to immigration.

And it is interesting to see how the World solved this problem through fiber optic cables. So the developed World now has remote workers. And even Kennedy could not have foreseen that.

The other issue he talks about is not so easy to solve. He forecasts that economic growth aspirations will lead an ecological challenge. The emerging 'energy wars', and the consequence of industrial development in China and India are bringing us face to face with the challenges that Kennedy anticipated. So, the choice is to deny the developing countries the prosperity that the rich countries enjoy, or risk the World blowing up - ecologically. And who can decide. Such is the dilemma posed by Paul Kennedy's brilliant analysis.

A true historian and a forecaster.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Winners and Losers in the 21st Century 4 Sept. 1998
By - Published on
Format: Paperback
Like a lot of readers, I gulped down Paul Kennedy's THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GREAT POWERS when it came out in 1987, eager to read his predictions for the US, Japan, China, Russia, and the European Community. His reasoning, solidly based on his detailed knowledge of European history, made his book appear sedately respectable--even to those who did not agree with his conclusions. His second volume, PREPARING FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, was inevitably a different sort of project: extrapolation of then-current trends into the new millenium. The book was published in 1993, but I didn't finish reading it until this summer; one of its pleasures was seeing how close his predictions came to the reality of events in places such as Japan and Russia. (His view toward Japan was one of "guarded optimisn": he felt it was in some ways best-suited for the challenges of the 21st century, but he pinpointed its vulnerabilities and deficiencies--especially the weakness of its political leadership, which is now proving so costly. With regard to Russia and to Eastern Europe, he was clearly pessimistic but attempted to consider more moderate possibilities; in the end he tended to underestimate the catastrophes ahead.) In many ways the second book shares the strengths of the first: sound reasoning, a good base of facts, and a point of view neither alarmist nor Pollyannish. Kennedy identifies trends, issues, and problems; he attempts to clarify choices and parameters. He suggests potential winners and losers of various scenarios. He does what he sets out to do; but most people don't really like this second volume, I think, because he is honest about the magnitude of the issues and the limits of possible responses. Kennedy focuses on trends in demographics, economics, technology, ecology, and politics: things like globalization and robotics and biotechnology--but he puts these glittering changes into specific contexts. Who wins, and who loses, he asks, when these trends interact with the specifics of cultures as diverse as China and Sweden, Japan and Mexico, Russia and Ethiopia? And how do the interactions among various trends intensify the impact of each? How much can political and economic leaders do to magnify advantages or minimize deficits? And how likely are the elites to do the right thing? Without advocating fatalism, Kennedy ends his book by saying, " the unlikely event that governments and societies do decide to transform themselves, we ought to recognize that our endeavors might have only a marginal efect on the profound driving forces of today's world." This is NOT what the elites want to hear, but in a month of Japanese recession sliding into depression and Russian debility crumbling into chaos, Paul Kennedy's cool rationality seems more relevant than ever.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Perpsective 15 Mar. 2010
By David Wineberg - Published on
Format: Paperback
One of the great gifts of Paul Kennedy is perspective. He takes you up and lets you look at things from a distance, putting them in perspective. So it was with great anticipation that I read this book in 2010, predicting 2025 from the vantage point of 1990.

He gets a lot right, and is only way off on a few things. There is an (in retrospect) annoying focus on robotics, which was very big in the eighties. Kennedy takes that and projects it to 2025 as if robots would be the measure of any industrial society. I don't think he goes five pages without using the word. Well, it hasn't turned out that way. For one thing, assembly lines and packaging machines have simply become far more sophisticated, so instead of programmable robot arms, we get entire systems in a room.

On the other hand, the anticipation of methane being released from Siberian permafrost, the rising of the oceans, the killing off of various species and inconvenient climate change is well underway as predicted. No one has the right to be taken by surprise.

I learned a great deal from this book, as I do from everything Kennedy writes. Worth the trip.
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