The Rise and Fall of Hyperpowers

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Interview on C-Span’s After Words of Amy Chua on her new book Day of Empire. (Chua wrote the brilliant text World on Fire which discussed market minorities and democratic majorities and the problems that arise from them).

Hyperpowers she defines as empires that completely out pace all near competitors (hyper-dominant) economically, militarily, etc. She lists seven hyperpowers in history: Persia, Rome, Tang China, the Mongols, the Dutch, the British, and the United States. [No sub-Saharan African or pre-European American states…might be a quibble there].

According to her publisher’s book website:

Chua’s unprecedented study reveals a fascinating historical pattern. For all their differences, she argues, every one of these world-dominant powers was, at least by the standards of its time, extraordinarily pluralistic and tolerant. Each one succeeded by harnessing the skills and energies of individuals from very different backgrounds, and by attracting and exploiting highly talented groups that were excluded in other societies. Thus Rome allowed Africans, Spaniards, and Gauls alike to rise to the highest echelons of power, while the “barbarian” Mongols conquered their vast domains only because they practiced an ethnic and religious tolerance unheard of in their time…But Chua also uncovers a great historical irony: in virtually every instance, multicultural tolerance eventually sowed the seeds of decline, and diversity became a liability, triggering conflict, hatred, and violence.

In other words, on the way up hyperpowers embrace such pluralism and eventually harden/constrict, leading to the demise. Worth thinking about in light of this left-libertarian vibe I’m on.

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Published in: on January 10, 2008 at 10:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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