cover image Zero-Sum Future: American Power in an Age of Anxiety

Zero-Sum Future: American Power in an Age of Anxiety

Gideon Rachman, Simon & Schuster, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4391-7661-0

Rachman, chief foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times, charts how the putative "win-win" promise of globalization has fizzled: the world is ever more fragmented and locked into a zero-sum ideology, in which the U.S. is pitted starkly against a rising China. Rachman's brisk analysis traces the waves of change as an "Age of Transformation" (1978–1991) with its spread of democratization and economic liberalization reached an apotheosis in an "Age of Optimism" (1991–2008) only to be supplanted woefully by our present "Age of Anxiety": the world in the throes of an economic crisis that's shaken established powers, an infighting E.U., assertive emerging economies, and world leaders deadlocked in dealing with present challenges. For the U.S. to retreat from the jockeying and jostling between democracies and prosperous authoritarian powers such as China and Russia, will not be easy, but even if the present is poised on "dangerous instability," Rachman ends with a salutary note. The arc of democracy (and the prosperity he believes attends it) is long, he suggests, but temporarily blocked, yet "progress will eventually resume." (Feb.)