The American Century: The Rise and Decline of the United States as a World Power

Donald W. White, Author
Donald W. White, Author Yale University Press $60 (564p) ISBN 978-0-300-05721-8
Paperback - 576 pages - 978-0-300-07878-7
Hardcover - 551 pages - 978-0-585-34335-8
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With few exceptions, major nation-states have gone through cycles of rise and decline. And White, who teaches history at New York University, makes a good argument that America is not excepted from this cycle. Although he stops short of being a doomsayer of the Gibbon or Spengler school, his arguments are convincing. Mostly, he focuses on economics, tracing the country's trajectory from 1945, when it was a creditor nation, to a generation later, when it became a debtor nation with a sadly devalued currency. Heavy demand for natural resources--natural gas, silver, aluminum--far exceeded what could be produced internally; and most important, demand for oil outstripped domestic supply by half. White also devotes considerable space to the decline of educational standards, labor productivity and moral and environmental concerns as well. Although he doesn't go as far as attributing this to plain laziness or disaffection, he does quote such New Left social advocates as C. Wright Mills, Paul Goodman and Herbert Marcuse--""as to whether people wanted to compete to achieve the dubious end of increased production."" It's a pity that White does not come up with more positive solutions to revive the power and influence of this vast and plenteous country. (Jan.)
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