The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Double-entrendre Balancing

September 10, 2005

The new issue of International Security has a long-awaited forum on the state of the “balance of power” after fifteen-some years of US hegemony and four+ years of the “Bush doctrine.” The main focus seems to be soft balancing: what is it, is it happening, does it matter?

I haven’t read it yet, but it should spark some debate.

As if there wasn’t enough fodder for blogorama smackdowns about Jared Diamond, my colleague John R. McNeill has a review of Collapse in the new issue as well. The summary:

In Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond claims that several societies in times past collapsed in part for environmental reasons and that these cases bear lessons for today. By and large, Diamond has got his history right. But the application of lessons derived from these historical cases to today’s environmental problems will leave many readers unconvinced. Scaling up from diminutive, isolated, and low-technology examples such as precontact Easter Islandor the Greenland Norse to the contemporary world is fraught with conceptual difficulties, not all of which Diamond can dispel. Diamond’s arguments, whether one finds them convincing or not, raise some timely questions. Are we indeed at serious risk of environmental collapse? And how do some current trends—the rise of China, the coming transition to a new energy regime, and the slowing of population growth—affect the chances of environmental collapse?

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.