PRIMACY OR WORLD ORDER: American Foreign Policy Since the Cold War by Stanley Hoffmann

PRIMACY OR WORLD ORDER: American Foreign Policy Since the Cold War

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In retrospect, Cold War foreign policy was relatively simple and consistent-the issues of global competition were clear, and the McCarthy period eliminated any potential domestic opposition. Vietnam changed all that, and while commentators disagree on exactly what characterizes international relations today, they all agree on its multifariousness. Hoffmann (Government, Harvard) here gives an interpretation of the past and the present, together with a guide to the future, that is all contained in the title: the Cold War was characterized by a bipolar world in which the issue was primacy, whereas the present is notable for the fragmentation of power that makes ""world order"" both possible and necessary. Essentially, world order is a concept of foreign policy activism which is oriented toward the strengthening of multiple global interdependencies based on the political, economic, and cultural-ideological needs of separate nation-states. It is activist because it requires effort to stabilize those interdependencies which already exist--such as for natural resources--and to create new ones, and it resists the notion of primacy because the interdependencies it envisions are on different levels and entail shifting alliances. Hoffmann sees the Kissinger era as a relatively confused transition between the two epochs, and descries Carter's propensity for ""Trilateralism"" as a movement in the wrong direction, i.e., toward East-West competition and the old policy of primacy. But ""world order"" as policy is rather subtle theory which requires great technical expertise for its execution; due to the multiple levels of interdependencies, it lends itself to the kind of policy deliberation identified with the Council on Foreign Relations, to which Hoffmann belongs. Still, this elitism is part of the package, and Hoffmann's is a cogent and accessible statement of an increasingly influential school.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1978
Publisher: McGraw-Hill