Skip to main content

American Power in the 21st Century



American Power in the 21st Century

David Held (Editor), Mathias Koenig-Archibugi (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-745-63347-3 November 2004 Polity 264 Pages


America wields a combination of military, economic and cultural power that many consider unprecedented. The way America uses this power has repercussions on every major issue of world affairs, including the prospects of regional security, the spread of democratic governance, and the provision of global public goods in economic and environmental domains.

This volume explores the questions raised by American power from a variety of perspectives. Is the emphasis laid on military power likely to be self-defeating for the United States in the long run? Is “soft power” or persuasion a more effective way to promote American interests and goals? How is American predominance perceived in Europe, China and the Arab world? Will it last or will other powers coalesce to resist US hegemony? The authors address these and other fundamental questions in rigorous and historically sensitive analyses of this critical juncture in global politics.

The book will be of great interest to students and scholars in political science and international relations, as well as all those concerned with and by one of the key topics of our time.

Contributors include: Robert Cooper, Michael Cox, Zhiyuan Cui, Abdelwahab El-Affendi, G. John Ikenberry, Robert Kagan, Mary Kaldor, Joseph S. Nye, Thomas Risse.

About the Contributors.

Editors' Preface.

Introduction: Whither American Power? David Held and Mathias Koenig-Archibugi.

1. Empire? The Bush Doctrine and the Lessons of History Michael Cox.

2. The First Failed Empire of the Twenty-First Century Michael Mann.

3. Liberal Hegemony or Empire? American Power in the Age of Unipolarity G. John Ikenberry.

4. Hard Power, Soft Power, and “The War on Terrorism” Joseph S. Nye, Jr.

5. Power and Weakness Robert Kagan.

6. The Goals of Diplomacy, Hard Power, and Soft Power Robert Cooper.

7. American Power: From “Compellance” to Cosmopolitanism? Mary Kaldor.

8. Beyond Iraq: The Crisis of the Transatlantic Security Community Thomas Risse.

9. The Bush Doctrine: A Chinese Perspective Zhiyuan Cui.

10. Waiting for Armageddon: The “Mother of All Empires” and its Middle East Quagmire Abdelwahab El-Affendi.


"This is a fine collection of essays that exemplifies the many different intellectual pathways to the conventional scholarly wisdom about constraints on American power."

Perspectives on Politics

"This is a book brimming with ideas, which is calculated to start rather than end a debate."

Keith Kyle, International Affairs

"A collection of essays assembled largely from the 2003 Miliband Lectures at the London School of Economics, presents a smorgasbord of competing vision of the future. Sketching four potential future states – empire, global democracy, collective security, balance of power – they provide outer limits of possible future states within which contributors comfortably fall. Reading the book from cover to cover produces a gaggle of voices and plenty of material for classroom debate."

Alex Goodall, Times Higher Education Supplement

"Gathering together many of the world's best geopolitical thinkers, this book is essential reading for anyone worried by the impact of American power on global governance. The inclusion of Arab and Chinese perspectives is particularly welcome."

Charles Grant, Centre for European Reform

  • Leading scholars and political commentators from around the world present a thorough and groundbreaking evaluation of America's global power and politics.

  • Provides both a rigorous and historically sensitive analysis of America's military and political power.

  • Supplies answers to the fundamental questions of America’s current hegemony and place in a Global social democracy.

  • Contributors include: Robert Cooper, Michael Cox, Zhiyuan Cui, Abdelwahab El-Affendi, G. John Ikenberry, Robert Kagan, Mary Kaldor, Joseph S. Nye, Thomas Risse.