Research Report

The Myth Of A New World Order

Joseph S. Nye

Joseph S. Nye

Fmr Dean, Kennedy School at Harvard Uty

There is now a new myth regarding how terrible things are going to be in the future. We’ve been told that the US is in decline, but I’ve written a little book this year called “Is the American Century over?” saying it’s not a very useful concept. 

You have to distinguish between absolute decline and relative decline. Absolute decline is what happened in ancient Rome which succumbed not to another empire but to hordes of Barbarians against which it could not protect itself because it had no productivity in its economy and was torn by warfare. Now whatever you say about the grid-lock in Washington today it is not a very good description of what is happening in the US. The US isn't going through an absolute decline. 

Now let us consider a relative decline. This describes a situation where a country could be doing well in absolute terms, but not as well as it does when compared to others. Here, the interesting question is - Who will replace the US?

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