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The End of American World Order

The End of American World Order

Amitav Acharya

ISBN: 978-0-745-67248-9 May 2014 Polity 96 Pages


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The age of Western hegemony is over. Whether or not America itself is declining, the post-war liberal world order underpinned by US military, economic and ideological primacy and supported by global institutions serving its power and purpose, is coming to an end. But what will take its place? A Chinese world order? A re-constituted form of American hegemony? A regionalized system of global cooperation, including major and emerging powers?
In this timely and provocative book, Amitav Acharya offers an incisive answer to this fundamental question. While the US will remain a major force in world affairs, he argues that it has lost the ability to shape world order after its own interests and image. As a result, the US will be one of a number of anchors including emerging powers, regional forces, and a concert of the old and new powers shaping a new world order. Rejecting labels such as multipolar, apolar, or G-Zero, Acharya likens the emerging system to a multiplex theatre, offering a choice of plots (ideas), directors (power), and action (leadership) under one roof. Finally, he reflects on the policies that the US, emerging powers and regional actors must pursue to promote stability in this decentred but interdependent, multiplex world.

Written by a leading scholar of the international relations of the non-Western world, and rising above partisan punditry, this book represents a major contribution to debates over the post-American era.

Tables vi

Abbreviations vii

Acknowledgments ix

1 A Multiplex World 1

2 The Rise and Fall of the Unipolar Moment 12

3 The Myths of Liberal Hegemony 33

4 Emerging Powers: The Hype of the Rest? 59

5 Regional Worlds 79

6 Worlds in Collusion 106

Notes and References 119

Index 139

"In this challenging and stimulating book Amitav Acharya does not assume that the US is in terminal decline or will not continue to play a central role in world affairs. Rather he makes the much more interesting - and compelling - argument that the liberal order the United States created after World War II is on the wane with results that might be far less disturbing and dangerous than many Americans have hitherto assumed. A subtle and compelling study on one of the great issues of our day. A work that is bound to provoke widespread debate amongst policy-makers and academics alike."
—Michael Cox, London School of Economics

"An important contribution to the building debate over how to sustain international order in an era of profound change. Acharya foresees a more regionalized and pluralist order - a decentered world, but one linked together by networks and institutions. His vision is not just creative and provocative, but also a compelling prediction of where the world is likely headed."
—Charles Kupchan, Georgetown University

"The End of American World Order is thus extremely valuable contribution to the debate about the future of global order. Acharya's analysis is refreshing because its perspective is neither US-centric (such as the vast majority of leading thinkers in the discipline) nor anti-American."
—Post-Western World

"One does not have to go along with the alarmist view that the decline of the U.S. power is a harbinger of some global catastrophe or a bleak future. As succinctly and optimistically argued by Amitav Acharya, this decline, indeed, could very well be an unsurpassed saviour for both the U.S. and the rest of the world."

“Amitav Acharya, a well-respected professor at American University, and President of the International Studies Association, has produced a stimulating argument even when one disagrees parts of it…He offers the image of a multiplex theater where rather than one film playing, there will be more equal choices under a common architecture…Acharya makes a number of important critical points… the American world order did provide shared goods such as security and prosperity for parts of the world, but these were club goods rather than global public goods. For many non-members of the club, such as India, China, Indonesia…the measures taken to provide security and prosperity for members of the club did not look so benign.”
—Joseph S. Nye, Harvard University, in International Affairs.

“Acharya foresees the emergence of a “multiplex” world, in which countries and regions will all (metaphorically) go to the same movie theater but end up watching different films. The book presents an imaginative vision of a less centralized, more pluralistic world”
—John Ikenberry, Princeton University, in Foreign Affairs. 

“The End of American World Order is [an] extremely valuable contribution to the debate about the future of global order… Acharya’s…decision to question the consensus among U.S. policymakers and thinkers that the only alternative to U.S. hegemony is global instability and chaos is both unusual and courageous, particularly considering that Acharya is based in Washington, D.C.”
—Oliver Stuenkel, Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV), São Paulo, in The Diplomat.

“neither anti-American nor US-focused…a compelling vision of the post-American world”
—Lauren Young, London School of Economics, in The LSE Review of Books.

“a punchy, trenchant critique of liberal internationalist and American hopes for a “sticky,” post-American liberal world order”.
—Robert E. Kelly, Human and Social Sciences Net Online.

“a challenging vision of the future…We need to consider what questions a global research program built around this novel approach would address, what the appropriate methods should be in studying the relationship between regional and global institutions, and under what conditions scholars should focus on specific actors and processes rather than others.”
—Simon Reich, Rutgers University, Political Science Quarterly.

"The End of the American World Order is a punchy, provocative, innovative and incisive work. I recommend it as essential reading, not only for students of regionalism, but also for anyone interested in better grasping the power dynamics rapidly re-shaping the global order."
—Australian Outlook 2016

"Amitav Acharya’s The End of American World Order belongs to a new wave of scholarship on American Decline that arose after the financial crisis in 2008. In this debate, few works are as lucid as Acharya’s book. Amitav Acharya has proved once more to be a prolific writer and presented a new idea, which should be taken into consideration by policy makers and scholars alike."
—Political Studies Review