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Is the American Century Over? (Global Futures)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  346 ratings  ·  47 reviews
For more than a century, the United States has been the world's most powerful state. Now some analysts predict that China will soon take its place. Does this mean that we are living in a post-American world? Will China's rapid rise spark a new Cold War between the two titans?

In this compelling essay, world renowned foreign policy analyst, Joseph Nye, explains why the Ameri

Kindle Edition, 152 pages
Published March 5th 2015 by Polity
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Trice working on it - a 2nd author page must have been made by accident. usually links aren't included in book descriptions, though I don't know if there's …moreworking on it - a 2nd author page must have been made by accident. usually links aren't included in book descriptions, though I don't know if there's a policy about it.(less)
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Robert Jacoby
Feb 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
Thankfully this is a short book, at 152 pages. I was able to breeze through it, taking some notes here and there. I found Nye's assessments to be usually woefully inadequate. too shallow and incomplete for the topics he's addressing. The book read more like a monthly status report that the president might flip through, or an essay from Foreign Affairs. It felt like I was correcting the author in my head as I was reading, or adding my own footnotes. I'll stick to a handful, then you decide if you ...more
Ata Kalender
Oct 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Short and sweet, Joseph S. Nye Jr. provides a summary of past and present discussions on American power and hegemony, and looks into the future to predict whether the American world order will be replaced. His findings are that there was no definite, written-in-stone "American century" to start with but yes, the American century is ongoing and does not look as if it will soon be replaced. Nye lists potential challengers, Russia, China, EU, Japan, Brazil and India. He makes the point that America ...more
Jesse Morrow
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
To those steeped in Nye's work, none of this is revolutionary.

Is the American Century Over? Short Answer - No.

The declinist idea that the US is about to be eclipsed is a mistake. This is taken purely on the realist GDP at PPP determination. But Nye is quick to point out that the world is more complex than that. While first we have to wonder if China will continue to grow. Linear projections showed that the Soviets in the 70s and the Japanese in the 80s would be richer than the US in the near fut
Olivia Newton
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ryan Mcconville
Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
For those who believe America needs to be made great again, Nye argues that it is quite great already and is likely remain so for many years to come - so long as America doesn't do anything stupid, like retreat into isolationism/protectionism, withdraw from alliances/global trade pacts, shut down immigration, or a bunch of other ill-advised ideas that seem to be popular with our new leadership. At 150 pages, this is a quick, informative read that shows just how far every other country (including ...more
Martin Henson
In its treatment of external competition from the BRICS (China has its own chapter), and Europe, Nye’s “macro” analysis based on high-level stats is quite ok - and I learnt something. But the same approach to his internal analysis of the US (the reference to opinion polls is especially unconvincing) is woefully weak. At the political level, discussing “gridlock” felt dreadfully shallow given what is actually happening to people, communities, as well as to ideas. Reference to the low corruption r ...more
Damien Jahan
May 31, 2019 rated it liked it
I found Nye's analysis profoundly on point and accurate, however I would disagree with the argument he eventually reaches. Indeed, it is clear that Nye is committed to reach a realistic and objective descripition of the current state of affairs, and he does it with success. The book is imbued with figures, backed by concurring analyses, and provides an encompassing view of the situation, not an ill-considered, hasty and ominous depiction of a reality that so many far too often distort. Clashing ...more
Benjamin Shehu
An overall very good read.

I will only focus on what I notice is the parts that haven’t aged quite as well. The book is off the mark in that power will decentralize through non-state actors as seen by the current increase in power wielded by authoritarian state actors.

Additionally, the current geopolitical event, COVID-19 is proving that the open and interconnected world that this book sees as a strength of America, is also a massive weakness. Non-benign actors are disrupting more than just the
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The answer to the question is not the essence of book, but the debate developed by author.

The book establishes that, world in coming decades will lack clear distinction of unipolar or multipolar. Amitav Acharya has likened the world to a multiplex offering options to visitors and same is agreed by the author.

Nye Jr feels that while China may surpass US in economy, the military and soft power are still the strongholds of America.

Overall, an interesting short read.
May Baaklini
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There is nothing better than sharp wit, brevity, and acumen. A portable book that not only gives a reader some hope given the rampant anxiety in the world, but also demonstrates the power of numbers and the damaging effects of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Handed out by the author at a talk with the Harvard Senior Executive Fellowship. A quick and easy read that is full of information about where we have been and where we are going as a nation.
Paul Womack
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
A most helpful introduction to concepts and issues facing the nation in this time of a new administration. I have followed Dr. Nye and the theme of soft power for several years. I see that theme's importance in relationship to both foreign and domestic concerns, and appreciate his realistic assessment, at least in my opinion, of where things stand. I wish the book has an index. It like the bibliographical citations a great deal.
Apr 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, futures
This is a little primer (just 127 really quick pages) on the question of American decline. The author examines the distinction between absolute and relative decline; and considers the sources of American power, and how that may be changing. Of course, the relative rise of China and the rest of the BRICs is not a trend that will necessarily continue into the future indefinitely, and I am very sympathetic to the author's view that Americans will not have a lot to worry about just yet.

However, ther
Peter A
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
In this book the author focuses the book in responding to the title question: Is the American Century Over? Through a series of short essays, he addresses issues of the start of the American Century, the nature of decline, other contenders that could aspire to leading - with a particular focus on China, and the political and other processes in America.

The book is written at a high level (with a book only 127 pages long it is hard to get into too much detail). He introduces and illustrates terms
Matt Papes
A quick read but very enlightening as to the strengths and weaknesses of America and what makes us strong. Our hard power (ex strong military), soft power (like strong university system) makes it unlikely that our global leadership will go the way of Rome, but there are threats (like political gridlock). While certain countries (like China will gain influence) they are unlikely to take over the world as some authors contend they might. I think anyone that has a passion for politics will learn a ...more
Daniel Simmons
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
A tedious first half is rescued partly by the final two chapters on (a) America's decline in absolute (rather than relative) terms, which Nye convincingly rejects overall, and (b) the shift in power dynamics that has resulted from the rise of information technology and non-governmental actors among others. Nye's chapter on the rise of China is overshadowed by a host of fuller, better treatments elsewhere.
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Joseph S. Nye Jr. rightfully and simply examines if the American century is on the verge of disappearing... or so we think. I won't spit everything, you'll have to read the book. The analysis is abordable for everyone, even people who are not born English-speakers like me. I understood it all and liked the way he explains things and compares the other global powers in today's world. Anyway, it was a good school book for me! I highly recommend it. And I think I'll need to re-read it.
Mar 13, 2015 rated it liked it
A short book, but rather defensive in its analysis and written almost as a foregone conclusion. Nothing particularly original.

Perhaps the only chapter to provide some nuanced analysis is the final one, which saved the book. If you can get your hands on the final chapter then it would be perfectly alright to skip this read. But if you were to read it, it wouldn't take awfully long either.
Jun 30, 2015 rated it liked it
short read, and a repudiation of those who write about the decline of American power. Although the rest of the world has been rising over the past couple of decades, so has the U.S....following WWII, most of the world was economically destroyed, the U.S. lead during this period in economic terms is the historical anomaly, we are moving back today to historical norms
Jul 28, 2015 rated it liked it
It's an easy read, summarizing different regions and concepts of power. If you've read Smart Power, this will be a quick update. Nye reviews the different regions and spends the most time discussing China. The book is not very in depth and reads more like a USA Today article. Not sure I disagree with what he wrote, it just doesn't take some of his points to the next level.
Karel Baloun
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fundamentally sound, mostly optimistic introductory review of current global affairs and relationships. Short, simple and refreshingly balanced and accurate.

One interesting demographic fact from pg26: in 2050, the under-65 population of Europe will be <4% of the global population.

The Chinese labor force will peak in 2016.
Jul 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a very good book about the place of the United States in a fast changing and more complex world. The aim of this essay is to bring forward arguments explaining that the main asset of the preponderant power in the international system is not force (blunt instrument) but its capacity and political will to forge a new world order that will attract other major foreign powers.

Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I picked this book when looking for a "book with a question in a title" for this year's reading challenge. Quick & interesting read filled with well-researched arguments that allow for both complexity and deeper understanding of the past & future of US power. ...more
Raul Burgos
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea for those who fret about America's future. Alas, the best part might. Just be the reading list at the end.
May 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Want to understand the world you are living in? Then read this book. (And the answer to the question in the title? Well, it's complicated ...)
Jennifer Sciubba
Jul 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting, short take on power in the 21st C. I'm assigning to my fall course on Intl Politics since 1945.
Aug 16, 2015 added it
Prof. Nye, it's "Caucasus," not "Caucuses." (p.34).
Brandon Karlsgodt
Sep 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great essay on America in the world.
John Sargent
Sep 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great book. Recommended for those interested in getting an overview of general American foreign policy.
Danny Quah
Dec 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
World order will not remain unchanged from what it has been the last 50 years. Agree or disagree, Nye's treatment is that of a master at work.
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Joseph Samuel Nye, Jr. is an American political scientist and former Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He currently holds the position of University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University where he has been a member of the faculty since 1964. He is also the co-founder, along with Robert Keohane, of the international relations theory neoliberalism ...more

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“The short answer to our question is that we are not entering a post-American world. It is not possible for this (or any) book to see “the future,” because there are so many possible futures dependent on unpredictable events and they play a larger role the further out one tries to look. Thus it is important to specify a time horizon. For example, if the “American century” began in 1941, will the United States still have primacy in power resources and play the central role in the global balance of power among states in 2041? My guess is “yes.” In that sense, the American century is not over, but because of transnational and non-state forces, it is definitely changing in important ways that are described below. But first, we must look at the charge that the United States is in decline.” 1 likes
“In conclusion, the American century is not over, if by that we mean the extraordinary period of American pre-eminence in military, economic, and soft power resources that have made the United States central to the workings of the global balance of power, and to the provision of global public goods. Contrary to those who proclaim this the Chinese century, we have not entered a post-American world. But the continuation of the American century will not look like it did in the twentieth century. The American share of the world economy will be less than it was in the middle of the last century, and the complexity represented by the rise of other countries as well as the increased role of non-state actors will make it more difficult for anyone to wield influence and organize action. Analysts should stop using clichés about unipolarity and multipolarity. They will have to live with both in different issues at the same time. And they should stop talking and worrying about poorly specified concepts of decline that mix many different types of behavior and lead to mistaken policy conclusions. Leadership is not the same as domination. America will have to listen in order to get others to enlist in what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called a multipartner world. It is important to remember that there have always been degrees of leadership and degrees of influence during the American century. The United States never had complete control. As we saw in Chapter 1, even when the United States had preponderant resources, it often failed to get what it wanted. And those who argue that the complexity and turmoil of today’s entropic world is much worse than the past should remember a year like 1956 when the United States was unable to prevent Soviet repression of a revolt in Hungary, French loss of Vietnam, or the Suez invasion by our allies Britain, France, and Israel. One should be wary of viewing the past through rose-tinted glasses. To borrow a comedian’s line, “hegemony ain’t what it used to be, but then it never was.” Now, with slightly less preponderance and a much more complex world, the United States will need to make smart strategic choices both at home and abroad if it wishes to maintain its position. The American century is likely to continue for a number of decades at the very least, but it will look very different from how it did when Henry Luce first articulated it.” 1 likes
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