Listen: Headspace #4—is The American Century over?
The fourth edition of Prospect's monthly podcast
The only world order any of us can remember has been led by one super-power above all others, the United States. But the election of the intermittently isolationist Donald Trump—combined with the ongoing eclipse of American economic power by the Chinese continuing in the background—could mark the moment where the liberal rules of the game finally unravel.
Certainly, that is the view of Francis Fukuyama, the political scientist who a generation ago proclaimed the victory of America’s liberal democracy after the Cold War as “the end of history.” Today, however, he tells us that the democratic half of liberal democracy is now wreaking revenge on on the liberal part: Trump is merely an emblem of that. And Fukuyama fears that the consequences could in time prove to be just as big as the end of Communism.
The historian Adam Tooze, agrees. He pinpoints the birth of the American Century to 1917—with the US entry into the First World War—and he argues that this year’s centenary will thus prove to be funereal marker. Globe-trotting writer Wendell Steavenson—who has lived in Iraq, Lebanon and Paris—keeps a keen eye out for American influence everywhere she goes, and explains why McDonald’s has been the perfect outpost of an American empire, whose days may be finally running down.
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