Skip to content
Paperback From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America's World Role Book

ISBN: 0691010358

ISBN13: 9780691010359

From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America's World Role

(Part of the Princeton Studies in International History and Politics Series)

Select Format

Select Condition ThriftBooks Help Icon


Format: Paperback

Condition: Good

Save $29.31!
List Price $37.00
Almost Gone, Only 1 Left!

Book Overview

What turns rich nations into great powers? How do wealthy countries begin extending their influence abroad? These questions are vital to understanding one of the most important sources of instability in international politics: the emergence of a new power. In From Wealth to Power, Fareed Zakaria seeks to answer these questions by examining the most puzzling case of a rising power in modern history--that of the United States.

If rich...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

When Do Nations Become Assertive?

In From Wealth to Power Fareed Zakaria presents two competing theories of foreign policy, applies his own modifications to one theory, and compares them with the actual evolution of American foreign policy from 1865 to 1908. The following three paragraphs summarize his thesis. 1. A theory of foreign policy is a method of understanding past and predicting future motives, intentions or goals of a nation's interactions with others, regardless of the outcomes. This is in contrast with a theory of international politics which seeks to explain and predict outcomes. A primary goal of a theory of foreign policy is to understand and predict when a nation is likely to adopt an expansive foreign policy by increasing its military forces, asserting itself diplomatically, or attempting to annex or conquer territory. 2. The two traditional theories of foreign policy are classical realism and defensive realism. Classical realism holds that a nation will adopt an expansive foreign policy when it has the resources to do so. Defensive realism takes the position that nations develop expansive foreign policies in reaction to perceived threats. Zakaria presents his own modification of classical realism, which he calls state-centric realism. In this variation, he posits that not only must a nation have the resources to implement an expansive foreign policy, but an adequate portion of the nation's resources must be available to the state, the national government, the makers and implementers of foreign policy. 3. Zakaria justifies replacing classical realism with state-centric realism based on (1) logical argument: national resources the state cannot utilize cannot support a larger army and (2) the example of the United States immediately after the Civil War when the US became wealthy as a nation but maintained a minimal national government. He then examines events in US diplomatic history to determine whether they are more consistent with state centric realism or defensive realism. His conclusion is that state centric realism is far more consistent with observed behavior than defensive realism. In the process of reaching this conclusion, Zakaria touches on several interesting themes in American history in from 1865 to 1908: 1. The federal government's reconstruction of the South following the Civil War was largely a failure. When it was ended as a result of the 1876 election, the old power elite and structures, minus slavery, returned. The real changes in the South came about over the next century as a result of the rise of the national economy and national market starting in the 1880s. As a closed regional market, the market inefficiencies of regionalism and racial discrimination in the South were hidden by the lack of competition. As interregional trade grew, the South had to make better use of all its resources to compete effectively. In the process, it became part of a more united nation. 2. The rise of the national economy and market also transformed th

The growth of the American state, and of American power

"What turns rich nations into great powers," asks Fareed Zakaria in his opening line; he attempts to answer that question by examining American foreign policy from 1865 to 1908 observing that the period from 1865 to 1889 featured few expansive ventures, though that from 1890 to 1908 saw plenty expansions. Mr. Zakaria, now the editor of Newsweek, wrote "From Wealth to Power" for his doctoral dissertation. Hence the tone of the work is largely academic, with plenty of references to academic debates and literature reviews. All the same, the text is accessible and hardly ever esoteric; the academic density is likely to add to rather than subtract from the enjoyment of reading the book. What of the thesis itself? Mr. Zakaria approaches his period of examination from two alternative angles, both of which are used in the international relations literature to explain why nations expand: realism and defensive realism. The former places emphasis on why and when states choose to expand by focusing on an innate drive to power, tempered by practicability and opportunity; the latter maintains that states expand when they are faced with threats. Mr. Zakaria, it turns out, is content with neither of the two propositions. What best explains this period of American foreign policy, he contends, is a variation of realism: state-centered realism (SCR). The important qualification of SCR is that it accounts for power conversion-the ability of the state apparatus to convert national resources into stated government objectives. This approach, Mr. Zakaria continues, applies to the American case because although the American nation was strong from 1865 to 1908, only when the state and its bureaucracy were streamlined was America able to pursue an ambitious foreign policy (from 1890 onward). The thesis is elegant, the argument tightly argued, and the prose clear and concise. Occasionally, Mr. Zakaria attacks defensive realism by refuting arguments that some defensive realists would rarely make; but this is rare and cannot distract from the convincingness of the his overall thesis: that it was the rise of the American state that helped America convert its vast national wealth into international influence. Anyone seeking to understand that period of American foreign policy, or the overall theoretical question, can hardly do better than read "From Wealth to Power."

Nicely done

Being a casual observer and student of affairs international - be it political,economic or foreign policy matters of nations- I must say that I enjoyed the book immensely. In my opinion it is well written, to the point and precise even though I didn't care too much for the 'theories' elicited in the book on the subject, everything else was fascinating and noteworthy.

A provocative retelling of American history

Zakaria explains why America became a world power in the "unusual," halting, delayed manner that it did. This book puts the events of 1898 and the diplomacy of Teddy Roosevelt in a fascinating light. He restores the fame and reputation of one of the great American statesmen -- William Henry Seward. And I agree with the other reviews -- it's *very* well written with interesting, well chosen anecdotes.

a great overview of early U.S. foreign policy

the author has two separate agendas. One is to contribute to theoretical debates among academic political scientists; the other is to tell the story of America's rise to global power between the Civil War and World War I. The theoretical stuff seems right but is pretty arcane; the history, on the other hand, is very well told and intelligently structured. It'll definitely make you think. Plus, the whole thing is written beautifully.
Copyright © 2023 Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Do Not Sell/Share My Personal Information | Cookie Policy | Cookie Preferences | Accessibility Statement
ThriftBooks® and the ThriftBooks® logo are registered trademarks of Thrift Books Global, LLC
GoDaddy Verified and Secured