World Out of Balance: International Relations and the Challenge of American Primacy

Princeton University Press
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World Out of Balance is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the constraints on the United States' use of power in pursuit of its security interests. Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth overturn conventional wisdom by showing that in a unipolar system, where the United States is dominant in the scales of world power, the constraints featured in international relations theory are generally inapplicable. In fact, the authors argue that the U.S. will not soon lose its leadership position; rather, it stands before a twenty-year window of opportunity for reshaping the international system.

Although American primacy in the world is unprecedented, analysts routinely stress the limited utility of such preeminence. The authors examine arguments from each of the main international relations theories--realism, institutionalism, constructivism, and liberalism. They also cover the four established external constraints on U.S. security policy--international institutions, economic interdependence, legitimacy, and balancing. The prevailing view is that these external constraints conspire to undermine the value of U.S. primacy, greatly restricting the range of security policies the country can pursue. Brooks and Wohlforth show that, in actuality, the international environment does not tightly constrain U.S. security policy. World Out of Balance underscores the need for an entirely new research agenda to better understand the contours of international politics and the United States' place in the world order.

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About the author

Stephen G. Brooks is associate professor of government at Dartmouth College and the author of Producing Security (Princeton). William C. Wohlforth is professor of government at Dartmouth and the author of The Elusive Balance.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jul 1, 2008
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Pages
248
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ISBN
9781400837601
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Comparative Politics
Political Science / International Relations / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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A decade and a half of exhausting wars, punishing economic setbacks, and fast-rising rivals has called into question America's fundamental position and purpose in world politics. Will the US continue to be the only superpower in the international system? Should it continue advancing the world-shaping grand strategy it has followed since the dawn of the Cold War? Or should it "come home" and focus on its internal problems? The recent resurgence of isolationist impulses has made the politics surrounding these questions increasingly bitter. In America Abroad, Stephen G. Brooks and William C. Wohlforth take stock of these debates and provide a powerful defense of American globalism. They stress that world politics since end of World War Two has been shaped by two constants: America's position as the most powerful state, and its strategic choice to be deeply engaged in the world. Ever since, the US has advanced its interests by pursuing three core objectives: reducing threats by managing the security environment in key regions; promoting a liberal economic order to expand global and domestic prosperity; and sustaining the network of global institutions on terms favorable to US interests. While there have been some periodic policy failures, America's overall record is astounding. But how would America's interests fare if the United States chose to disengage from the world and reduce its footprint overseas? Their answer is clear: retrenchment would put core US security and economic interests at risk. And because America's sole superpower status will long endure, the US will not be forced to turn inward. While America should remain globally engaged, it also has to focus primarily on its core interests: reducing great power rivalry and security competition in Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East; fostering economic globalization; and supporting a multilateral institutional system that advances US interests. Pursuing objectives beyond this core runs the risk of overextension. A bracing rejoinder to the critics of American globalism, America Abroad is a powerful reminder that a robust American presence is crucial for maintaining world order.
Scholars and statesmen have debated the influence of international commerce on war and peace for thousands of years. Over the centuries, analysts have generally treated the questions "Does international commerce influence security?" and "Do trade flows influence security?" as synonymous.

In Producing Security, Stephen Brooks maintains that such an overarching focus on the security implications of trade once made sense but no longer does. Trade is no longer the primary means of organizing international economic transactions; rather, where and how multinational corporations (MNCs) organize their international production activities is now the key integrating force of global commerce.

MNC strategies have changed in a variety of fundamental ways over the past three decades, Brooks argues, resulting in an increased geographic dispersion of production across borders. The author shows that the globalization of production has led to a series of shifts in the global security environment. It has a differential effect on security relations, in part because it does not encompass all countries and industries to the same extent. The book's findings indicate that the geographic dispersion of MNC production acts as a significant force for peace among the great powers. The author concludes that there is no basis for optimism that the globalization of production will promote peace elsewhere in the world. Indeed, he finds that it has a net negative influence on security relations among developing countries.

This Oxford Handbook is the definitive volume on the state of international security and the academic field of security studies. It provides a tour of the most innovative and exciting news areas of research as well as major developments in established lines of inquiry. It presents a comprehensive portrait of an exciting field, with a distinctively forward-looking theme, focusing on the question: what does it mean to think about the future of international security? The key assumption underpinning this volume is that all scholarly claims about international security, both normative and positive, have implications for the future. By examining international security to extract implications for the future, the volume provides clarity about the real meaning and practical implications for those involved in this field. Yet, contributions to this volume are not exclusively forecasts or prognostications, and the volume reflects the fact that, within the field of security studies, there are diverse views on how to think about the future. Readers will find in this volume some of the most influential mainstream (positivist) voices in the field of international security as well as some of the best known scholars representing various branches of critical thinking about security. The topics covered in the Handbook range from conventional international security themes such as arms control, alliances and Great Power politics, to " issues such as global health, the roles of non-state actors, cyber-security, and the power of visual representations in international security. The Oxford Handbooks of International Relations is a twelve-volume set of reference books offering authoritative and innovative engagements with the principal sub-fields of International Relations. The series as a whole is under the General Editorship of Christian Reus-Smith of the University of Queensland and Duncan Snidal of the University of Oxford, with each volume edited by a distinguished pair of specialists in their respective fields. The series both surveys the broad terrain of International Relations scholarship and reshapes it, pushing each sub-field in challenging new directions. Following the example of the original Reus-Smit and Snidal The Oxford Handbook of International Relations, each volume is organized around a strong central thematic by a pair of scholars drawn from alternative perspectives, reading its sub-field in an entirely new way, and pushing scholarship in challenging new directions.
This Oxford Handbook is the definitive volume on the state of international security and the academic field of security studies. It provides a tour of the most innovative and exciting news areas of research as well as major developments in established lines of inquiry. It presents a comprehensive portrait of an exciting field, with a distinctively forward-looking theme, focusing on the question: what does it mean to think about the future of international security? The key assumption underpinning this volume is that all scholarly claims about international security, both normative and positive, have implications for the future. By examining international security to extract implications for the future, the volume provides clarity about the real meaning and practical implications for those involved in this field. Yet, contributions to this volume are not exclusively forecasts or prognostications, and the volume reflects the fact that, within the field of security studies, there are diverse views on how to think about the future. Readers will find in this volume some of the most influential mainstream (positivist) voices in the field of international security as well as some of the best known scholars representing various branches of critical thinking about security. The topics covered in the Handbook range from conventional international security themes such as arms control, alliances and Great Power politics, to " issues such as global health, the roles of non-state actors, cyber-security, and the power of visual representations in international security. The Oxford Handbooks of International Relations is a twelve-volume set of reference books offering authoritative and innovative engagements with the principal sub-fields of International Relations. The series as a whole is under the General Editorship of Christian Reus-Smith of the University of Queensland and Duncan Snidal of the University of Oxford, with each volume edited by a distinguished pair of specialists in their respective fields. The series both surveys the broad terrain of International Relations scholarship and reshapes it, pushing each sub-field in challenging new directions. Following the example of the original Reus-Smit and Snidal The Oxford Handbook of International Relations, each volume is organized around a strong central thematic by a pair of scholars drawn from alternative perspectives, reading its sub-field in an entirely new way, and pushing scholarship in challenging new directions.
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