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The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Economic change and military conflict from 1500 to 2000

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DSC01281Paul Kennedy. Random House, New York 1987. Tapa Dura, 677 Págs. Estado: Muy Bueno.

»The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers» is, as Mr. Kennedy states, a book that can be read on at least two levels. On the one hand it presents a clearly defined and closely reasoned thesis explaining the subject matter of the title – why nations rise and fall, and why the process is still continuing. On the other, in order to provide the data for his thesis, Mr. Kennedy gives a clearly written and fairly uncontentious history of the rise and fall of Europe and its empires and the confrontation between the superpowers which had followed. He unashamedly endorses the view of the German historian Leopold von Ranke that history is fundamentally about high politics, and that politicians will be better at their jobs if they understand the historical processes of which they form part.

He expands his thesis in the introduction and epilogue. It can be easily summarized: The more states increase their power, the larger the proportion of their resources they devote to maintaining it. If too large a proportion of national resources is diverted to military purposes, this in the long run leads to a weakening of power. The capacity to sustain a conflict with a comparable state or coalition of states ultimately depends on economic strength; but states apparently at the zenith of their political power are usually already in a condition of comparative economic decline, and the United States is no exception to this rule. Power can be maintained only by a prudent balance between the creation of wealth and military expenditure, and great powers in decline almost always hasten their demise by shifting expenditure from the former to the latter. Spain, the Netherlands, France and Britain did exactly that. Now it is the turn of the Soviet Union and the United States. (New York Times)

 

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