MORTAL SPLENDOR: The American Empire in Transition by Walter Russell Mead

MORTAL SPLENDOR: The American Empire in Transition

Email this review


A powerful and provocative, if occasionally uneven, account of the rise and decline of the American empire from 1945 to the present, this explains the structural causes for American decline and sets forth an agenda for a new and fairer international order. The book falls into three parts. The first part describes the zenith of the American empire, which, unlike previous empires, was based on economic domination of the developed and undeveloped world. The second part focuses on the reasons for American decline: the resurgence of Japan and Germany, the rise of the Third World, and, above all, the continued exploitation of the natural resources and cheap labor of poor and undeveloped countries, which has caused a deep structural imbalance in the world economy and fostered chronic left-wing political resistance. In the short term, capitalists have gained, but in the long term, they have blocked Third World development, making it impossible for foreign peoples to consume what has been produced. The result has been increased poverty, growing unemployment and poverty at home, and the threat of global economic depression. Reaganism was supposed to have reversed this decline but it has only exacerbated it, says Mead, and, by resorting to repressive military strategies, deepened political resistance. Mead's third section calls for social compromise with the Third World, the redistribution of wealth, the dismantling of a bureaucratic class of experts and administrators who have been unresponsive to popular will, the shackling of corporate power, and the creation of a new American democratic-socialist agenda. The book is repetitive, too long, without footnotes, and sometimes historically inaccurate. But it makes a major and eloquent contribution to an important debate, and should be read by everyone interested in the future of American politics.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1987
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin