An Empire Wilderness (Magill Book Reviews)
AN EMPIRE WILDERNESS: TRAVELS INTO AMERICA’S FUTURE is a book in the spirit of Alexis de Tocqueville’s DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA (1835): Part travelogue and part social commentary, it concerns itself with what American culture is and what it is likely to become.
A contributing editor for ATLANTIC MONTHLY, Robert D. Kaplan takes a intimate, fresh look at the American West. During two trips in the mid-1990’s, he talked to people in thirteen states, Mexico, and British Columbia who represent major ethnic groups and a wide variety of backgrounds. The mosaic of interviews, often complemented by historical and sociological studies, reveals trends that Kaplan thinks will transform twenty-first century America as a whole.
First, a growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots encourages the former to move out of cities into “posturban pods” segregated by class, economics, or race, leaving behind the poor in a dysfunctional hub. Second, people, feeling a growing sense of “placelessness,” spend less time in community involvement than in the global culture fed to them via telecommunications and computer networks.
Most important, this technological connectedness encourages the wealthy and well educated to look beyond borders. The Southwest, for example, is growing closer to northern Mexico and Washington-Oregon to British Columbia. Global culture favors those who possess class or educational qualifications to own and use its...
(The entire section is 347 words.)
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An Empire Wilderness (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
A contributing editor for Atlantic Monthly, Robert D. Kaplan is an observer and analyst of modern conflicts. In such best-selling books as Balkan Ghosts (1993) and The Ends of the Earth (1996), he finds that societies are fragmenting along religious, class, or economic lines, that traditional national governments are becoming ineffectual or irrelevant, that police and military units are altering tactics to protect the wealthy from the growing armies of the poor, and that all such change is accelerating because of technology and the urbanization of the world’s population.
In An Empire Wilderness, like a modern Alexis de Tocqueville, Kaplan, reared on the Eastern Seaboard, wanders through territory foreign to him—the West, the region that has always represented America’s deepest hopes and sensibility because it was the frontier and therefore the land of opportunity. The physical frontier ceased to exist by the beginning of the twentieth century, but as Kaplan argues, the West still represents opportunity because, less burdened by traditions and richer in resources than the East, it is more open to change. Kaplan went hunting for trends and, not surprisingly, uncovered signs of not just change but also a transformation of the American political, economic, and racial landscape. Kaplan’s critics charge that he has made a career out of worrying about social trends that seem untethered to traditional order. An...
(The entire section is 1929 words.)