Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Books Worth Reading: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GREAT POWERS by Paul KENNEDY

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THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GREAT POWERS

This book, by Paul Kennedy, first published in 1987, explores the politics and economics of the Great Powers from 1500 to 1980 and the reason for their decline. It then continues by forecasting the positions of China, Japan, the European Economic Community (EEC), the Soviet Union and the United States through the end of the 20th century.

Kennedy argues that the strength of a Great Power can be properly measured only relative to other powers, and he provides a straightforward and persuasively argued thesis: Great Power ascendancy (over the long term or in specific conflicts) correlates strongly to available resources and economic durability; military overstretch and a concomitant relative decline are the consistent threat facing powers whose ambitions and security requirements are greater than their resource base can provide for.

Throughout the book he reiterates his early statement: "Military and naval endeavors may not always have been the raison d'être of the new nations-states, but it certainly was their most expensive and pressing activity", and it remains such until the power's decline. He concludes that declining countries can experience greater difficulties in balancing their preferences for guns, butter and investments.




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