Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Book Review: Day of Empire

Day of Empire.

Chua's thesis is that a hyperpower becomes so by absorbing the talents of the world, and it does so by what she terms "strategic tolerance." A hyperpower recognizes and utilizes talent in whatever form it takes, which requires overlooking differences in race, ethnicity, religion, etc. A hyperpower then declines when a society becomes closed and xenophobic. She uses comparative case studies to chart the rise, and the fall, of hyperpowers, as well as using a few counter examples of highly successful, insular powers.

She's on the right track, but her terminology seems off to me. I think that societies rise on a meritocratic basis, and the fall on an aristocratic basis. When anyone can rise based on merit, a society will prosper, whether it draws from its own or from everywhere. The larger the pool of talent to draw from, the greater the resulting society will be.

I guess my real dislike of her terminology is that "tolerance" has become a loaded word in American politics. The societies she describes were tolerant, but probably only on an elite level. The transfer of population was too limited for there to have been any great mixture--in that regard the United States is probably without parallel.



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