After America – Narratives

For The Next Global Age

Book Review: After America – Narratives For The Next Global Age, by Paul Starobin, Viking (Penguin), New York, 2009, Narratives For The Next Global Age, (and on amazon) – Published on, by Jim Miles, 15 July, 2009.

After a half decade of books on the ‘American empire’ and many more on the politics, military, religion, and economics that are pieces of the whole, a new trend is now appearing on the book market. After the election of Obama as president, the new material is all forward looking, promoting ideas or creating possible scenarios of where the U.S. can, may, could, or should direct its energies. The general trend is the recognition that the “empire” is in significant decline, generally considered due to a combination of economic and military misadventures under the Bush regime, with recognition that it all started well before. While some see the imperial role as one that requires regaining U.S. dominance and power others see it as finding a balance in a new ordering of the world in which the U.S. will still be important but will no longer be dominant …  

… The future:

After passing through a brief history and then a brief – and again successful – recounting of current events since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Starobin heads into the future. He provides several scenarios, some more plausible than others, a matter he recognizes himself. His general arguments carry one underlying reminder – this fall from dominance is not necessarily a bad thing for the U.S. but if approached properly could provide the route to ongoing economic and social demographic success within the U.S., unhindered by the dogma and over-reaching of myth become empire.

Five main scenarios are hypothesized, some overlapping each other. In order of presentation he works through chaos, a multipolar world, the Chinese century, futuristic city-states, and a “universal civilization.” All are argued well and are multi faceted. There is recognition and application of the current global economic downturn that may or may not recover as anyone in particular predicts. Global warming is recognized as a serious problem. These scenarios play out for Starobin in a mixture of anecdotal reports supported with good factual information, and a decent sense of where reality might arrive. He recognizes so many possible scenarios without advocating any particular one (especially a resurgent U.S. empire as some have) and also sees positive attributes for the U.S. in all scenarios, with a bit of hedging in the “negative” chaos (as opposed to positive chaos – you’ll have to read it to find out more on this interesting opposition of ideas) …

… Back to the future:

There are many other smaller points of conjecture that arise in Starobin’s arguments, some surprising, some ordinary, but all are well supported. For anyone who considers themself a futurist or interested in what is coming next, it is a wonderful book to start with. It is neither apocalypse nor rapture but a well-paced, concise practical look at where we all might be headed into the middle of the current century. “After America” is a strong work for its concise summaries, strong support of futuristic arguments, informative, challenging, accessible, and entertaining.

(Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications … full text).

More reviews on Middle East Online; on PBS; on WSJ online; on Daily KOS; on Democrat Herald.

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