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No Power Will Dominate the Coming Era, Argues Charles Kupchan in New Book

March 2, 2012
Council on Foreign Relations

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"Between 1500 and 1800, the West sprinted ahead of other centers of power in Asia and the Middle East. Europe and the United States have dominated the world since," writes Charles A. Kupchan in a new CFR book, No One's World: The West, The Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn. But this era is coming to a close, he argues, as power shifts from the West to the rising rest.

In the new era that is opening, no country, region, or political model will dominate. "The twenty-first century will not be America's, China's, Asia's, or anyone else's," according to Kupchan, "it will belong to no one."

"No one's world," he continues, "will exhibit striking diversity; alternative conceptions of domestic and international order will compete and coexist on the global stage." For the first time in history, Kupchan contends, an interdependent world will be without a center of gravity.

Not only is the West's material dominance coming to an end, Kupchan claims, but its ideological dominance is waning as well. "Autocrats in China, Russia, and the Persian Gulf; theocrats in the Middle East; strongmen in Africa; populists in Latin America—these regimes challenge the universality of the Western model and are not just way stations on the path to liberal democracy, industrial capitalism, and secular nationalism." Rising powers are charting their own courses, not replicating the West's brand of modernity.

Meanwhile, Kupchan asserts, the West's leading nations are stumbling both economically and politically. European integration is faltering due to the "renationalization of politics," while the United States' ability to provide steady leadership is hampered by partisan polarization. To revive its power, "the West will have to rise to the occasion on two fronts. It will have to recover its political and economic vitality and retain its cohesion even as its era of primacy gradually comes to an end."

"Perhaps the defining challenge for the West and the rising rest is managing this global turn and peacefully arriving at the next world by design," Kupchan concludes. "If the West can help deliver to the rest of the world what it brought to itself several centuries ago­—political and ideological tolerance coupled with economic dynamism, then the global turn will mark not a dark era of ideological contention and geopolitical rivalry, but one in which diversity and pluralism lay the foundation for an era of global comity."

To order, visit www.cfr.org/no_ones_world

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR No One's World:

"Kupchan's erudite but lucid and engaging comparative history sketches the big picture while highlighting the diversity and particularism of individual peoples; his is a warily hopeful forecast for an age without a dominant power."

—Publishers Weekly

"No One's World makes a bold claim that we are seeing not just a shift to a more multipolar world, but the emergence of 'multiple modernities' in which Western values are no longer dominant. This is a debatable point, but one that is cogently argued by one of the keenest observers of international politics."

Francis Fukuyama, author of The Origins of Political Order and The End of History and the Last Man

"Charles Kupchan provides a refreshingly sober, clear-eyed, and controversial take on what the emerging world might really look like. You don't have to agree with all his prescriptions, but his well-informed and crisply-written analysis of the historical forces that have shaped today's world and what they mean for tomorrow is a valuable contribution on the most important topic of our time."

Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution and author of Dangerous Nation

"One of America's leading international scholars offers an original look at the world's future. He envisions a new global circle consisting of a revived West and emerging powers-a world without a center of gravity that will require more consensus and more tolerance of difference. Provocative and challenging."

Leslie H. Gelb, CFR president emeritus; former New York Times columnist

"Charles Kupchan is an important and distinctive voice in an ongoing debate about the future shape of the international order. Contrary to those who argue that now is the time for the West to strengthen and extend existing rules, he cautions policymakers to prepare for a world of conflicting values and multiple paths to modernity and prosperity. The prospect of No One's World is not one that Western policymakers and pundits like to contemplate, which is all the more reason that they should read this book."

Anne-Marie Slaughter, Princeton University

Charles A. Kupchan is Whitney Shepardson senior fellow at CFR. He is also professor of international affairs in the Walsh School of Foreign Service and Government Department at Georgetown University. Kupchan was director for European affairs at the National Security Council (NSC) during the first Clinton administration. Before joining the NSC, he worked in the U.S. Department of State on the policy planning staff. Prior to government service, he was an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University. He is also the author of How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace; The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century; Power in Transition: The Peaceful Change of International Order; and Civic Engagement in the Atlantic Community, among other books. Kupchan received a BA from Harvard University and MPhil and DPhil degrees from Oxford University.

The Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries. CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy.

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