Book Review of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
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Paul Kennedy presents his claims concerning the potency of a Great Power being suitably gauged only in relation to other supremacies, and he offers a forthright and convincing view. He states that great power, domination, over the long term or in particular engagements, associates strongly with available resources and economic resilience. Additionally, he mentions the correlation between military overstrain and an associated relative deterioration as being the consistent with the powers facing perpetual strikes. Their determination and security necessities are more than their supply base can offer them (Kennedy, 2010).
All the way through the book, the author echoes his early declaration that military and marine accomplishments may not recurrently have been the motivation for being the new nation-states. However, he implies that it unquestionably was their most exclusive and demanding task. As a consequence, it remains such in anticipation of the authority's fall. He finishes with the idea that declining countries can undergo greater challenges in balancing their predilections for guns, butter and hoards.
Kennedy asserts his philosophy in the second paragraph of the introduction, implying that the military conflict is designated in the book's caption for usual inspection in the framework of economic change. The achievement of any Great Power in this age or the downfall of another has commonly been the result of an extended battle with its military. However, it has also been the outcome of the comparatively efficient consumption of the state's prolific economic resources in times of war and of the manner, in which state's economy rises and declines. It appears relative to the other prominent states in the periods prior to the real battle (Kennedy, 2010). In view of that, the significance of a Great Power's position steadily shifts in peacetime and bespeaks its modality in battles.
On the other hand, Kennedy (2010) adds that the comparative strengths of the prominent nations in a global scale never remain constant. He further explains that it happens principally as a result of the irregular rate of growth among diverse civilizations and because of the high-tech and administrative developments that bring a greater advantage to one civilization compared to another.
The book begins with apportioning past events between the Renaissance and early modern history. It also appends a brief discussion of the Ming domain and Muslim territory of the time and the upsurge of the western authorities compared to them (Kennedy, 2010). It then continues sequentially examining every power change and the consequence on other great authorities and the middle supremacies.
Kennedy exploits several approaches to show real, relative and prospective power of nations all over the text. He varies the metric of power grounded on the argument concerning the specific time period. In the second chapter of the book, he explores the Habsburg bid for mastery between 1519 and 1659 (Kennedy, 2010). His exploration highlights the role of the manpower revolution in transforming the manner in which Europeans fought wars. In addition, it also accentuates the significance of Europe's political limitations in modeling a political balance of power. The theme of this chapter is that the Habsburgs did not realize what other powers accomplished so dazzlingly.
There exists no spectacular contrast in substantiation because success and failure are to be gauged by very small dissimilarities. The triumph of the anti-Habsburg movements was negligible since they had managed to uphold the balance between their quantifiable base and their armed forces better than their Habsburg adversaries.
The Habsburg letdown moves smoothly into the chapter 3, which tells about economic power that ruled between 1660 and 1815. It involved nations like Britain, Russia and France, and can be compared between powers that could fund their battles, as in the case of Britain and France. Additionally, it considers the powers that necessitated financial support to organize and uphold a major armed force on the ground. Kennedy gives a table of British Wartime Expenditures and Revenue between 1688 and 1815 that is particularly descriptive. However, he indicates that Britain was capable of upholding loans at nearly one-third of British wartime expenses all through that era (Kennedy, 2010).
Different measures of power in the twentieth century like population magnitude, degree of urbanization, and Bairoch's per capita intensities of economic development are exploited. In addition, it also uses iron and steel manufacture, energy use, and overall industrial productivity of the powers to test the potency of the particular Great Powers.
Paul also considers the highlighting the output increase centered on systematic involvements that result from economic development and prosperity of the Great Powers in the twentieth century. He associates the Great Powers at the end of the twentieth century and forecasts the fall of the Soviet Union, the upswing of China and Japan, their keenness and potential.
Beginning from the Civil War and up to the first half of the twentieth century, the United States' economy profited from the high agronomic production, abundant raw materials, technological innovations and monetary influxes. At that time, the United States did not have to wrestle with foreign endangerments. By the 1980s, the United States faced declining exports of agricultural and industrial goods (Kennedy, 2010). At the same moment, the federal debt was growing at high speed, which was typical of declining hegemon’s disillusionment.
The United States has the characteristic qualities of a Great Power, which comprise harmonizing guns and butter and business ventures for economic development. Its growing armed forces’ obligation to the entire globe and the growing cost of military hardware strictly limits obtainable alternatives. Kennedy compares the Unites States' circumstances to those of Great Britain's before the First World War. However, he also remarks that the map of the United States’s bases is similar to Great Britain's before the First World War (Kennedy, 2010).
Like the military, it lessens the ventures in financial development. The economic development ultimately results in the downward spiral of relaxed development, and substantial imposition of taxes, developing domestic differences over expenditure urgencies, and weakening capacity to tolerate the burdens of defense. Kennedy's counsel that the task facing American statesmen over the next decades is to appreciate that comprehensive trend are in progress and that there is a need to achieve affairs.
Kennedy believes that the rise and collapse of the Great Powers cannot be linked to unsystematic and dissimilar situations. Somewhat, he believes that the Great Powers all had a collective set of circumstances that resulted in their eventual fall. Kennedy places much stress on the association between military expenses and financial or technological revolution. He explores the tendency of leading nations to enlarge their influence and power beyond their extent in establishing the constituents for survival as a Great Power. In order for nations to uphold their rank, they must set a sense of balance to their expenditures corresponding to defense with a venture in technology. Additionally, the states must take the necessary steps to bear economic growth and manage assets, and escape what Kennedy refers to as imperialist overreach (Kennedy, 2010).
Extreme apportionments for defense with no thought for research and growth or misguided efforts to reassert power will finally result to attenuation of national power. Also, it may even cause an everlasting fall to the nations in the future. Kennedy indicates with his detailed deliberations of the fall of Spanish supremacy in the 18th century and the setback of British regal authority after the Second World War. He adds that there must be a suitable equilibrium between defense, depletion and venture and an evasion of over-stretch if a Great Power is to preserve its greatness.
Kennedy offers the most convincing analysis with reference to his thesis when he inspects the future course of the present day great world powers (Kennedy, 2010). The goes ahead to list China, Europe, Japan, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America as these great world powers. Regarding the American citizens caught in this calamity of self-assurance, Kennedy is not cynical about the future prospects or persuaded that a collapse is at bay. Kennedy, nevertheless, is serious about national leaders who have failed to appreciate the significance of investing assets in those regions. He claims that such a venture will boost our power and for misuse precious resources on lavish and dangerous defense ventures (Kennedy, 2010). As stated by Kennedy, this nation still has the capability to administer the forces of revolution and recover the advantage in the global domain. However, major modifications and expenses will be obligatory to have a worthy sacrifice.
In conclusion, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers is a rather uncommon book that describes the concerns that a nation must undergo so as to survive. Paul Kennedy's thorough inspection of the reasons for the nation’s inability to uphold their great power status is worth reading for those apprehensive about the future of the United States. In this era of uncertainty, several people believe that the United States will become the next Great Britain. Thus, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers may hold the secret about how to evade that fortune or show exactly how it might occur.