The book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers raises the issues that surrounded the decline of major economic powers of the world between the years 1500 to 1980. The author, Paul Kennedy, makes a comparison of the economic and political position of great world powers which were; the United States, Japan, China, Europe and the Soviet Union. The book also provides an analysis of the economic and political performance of these countries in the 20th century.
About the author
Paul Kennedy was born in 1945 in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear in Britain. He is a historian and economist at the Yale University. He specializes in international relations, strategy and economic might of nations. He holds a doctorate degree from St. Anthony College in oxford. His renowned works concentrate on economic policies and power struggles between nations. The author is very categorical that a weak economy makes a country more vulnerable to economic external aggressions due to low military strength. Among his other books are the Parliament of Man and the Atlantic journal for the New York Times.
About the book
The book basically argues about the economic and military might of nations as the main factor for survival of nations. Kennedy asserts that military an economic might has been the main drivers for the rise of great nations in from the 15th century. This is because an economically stable nation requires a huge military force so that it can propagate its development without external aggression. Nations of the world would attack each other for economic reasons by acquiring new markets and raw materials. As such, countries developed huge militaries that could hardly be funded by their budgets. This led to a crisis where nations were not able to stimulate development because a lot of funds were diverted to paying the military servicemen and equipment rather than investment. This led to huge deficits and slow growth in the economies.
The first chapter of the book draws a line between renaissance and early modern history. This chapter discusses the difference between the Ming and the Muslim worlds in comparison with the development of the western powers during the 16th century. He uses various metric measure to analyze the reason as to why the great powers and the developed so fast with the other countries lagging behind. Chapter 2 of the book narrates how the great powers underwent manpower revolution to change and improve the way they fought their wars. The political boundaries were vital in maintaining a political and economic balance.
The industrial revolution changed the economies of European nations. Kennedy (149) asserts Britain experience the most profound growth during this period with per capita income growing from 10 in 1750 to 100 in 1900. The author borrows from Bairochs calculations on industrialization by measuring the nations by an index. In the 20th century, economic strength and political strengths used urbanization, population, per capita income, and energy use and iron production as major determinants of growth. Increase in productivity was the main driver for economic development in Europe and America in the 20th century. The author focuses on the falling of the Soviet Union and the rise of Asian power such as china and japan. He comes into a logical conclusion that excess military buildup and conflicts is the main reason for the decline of world powers.
While winding up the book, the author focuses on the way the United States power reduced from the civil war. He outlines that the American economy was the beast since the civil war, through the world wars until the 1960. There were plenty of agricultural products for export, financial services and technological improvements. More so, the US enjoyed stable political environment than most nations. However, united States economic might started to reduce in 1960. The reasons behind this were that the US engaged in armed conflicts that increase spending on military. The conflicts led to threats that had to be contained militarily. Kennedy compares the situation of the United states as similar to that if Britain in the 19th century.
Kennedy, Paul M. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000. New York, NY: Random House, 1987. Print.