The Coming Anarchy by Robert D. Kaplan

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"The Coming Anarchy: How scarcity, crime, overpopulation, tribalism, and disease are rapidly destroying the social fabric of our planet" was an article by American journalist Robert D. Kaplan (born June 23, 1952). It was first published in the February 1994 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. It was expanded and published with related essays in a nonfiction book on Feb 13, 2001.

The book's overarching argument is that the period of the Cold War was an unprecedented and atypically positive one in world history and that the "Pax Americana" and general peace and prosperity of the post-war years would prove impossible to sustain.

Rather than see the conflicts and famines in sub-Saharan Africa as anomalies, Kaplan sees them as bellwethers, pointing to how environmental degradation, overpopulation, migrations due to resource scarcity, and cultural and political conflicts will eventually spread across the world. He foresees a growth in various forms of conflict, especially civil wars and terrorism, and the spread of religious and political conflicts as inevitable.


The Coming Anarchy by Robert Kaplan comprises of nine essays. Each of the articles focuses on themes, such as crime, poverty, and pollution, which the author believes will have an adverse impact on the world in the future. Through his essays, Kaplan gives the readers a glimpse into what he predicts will happen to the world and offers various policy recommendations.

The author discusses the post-cold war era and the problems with democracy in developing countries. According to the writer, authoritarian rule is more applicable to developing countries than democracy, as the middle class in these nations have little economic influence. The author makes predictions about the forms of government there will be in the future. For example, he claims that traditional political order will change as people begin to embrace other systems such as anarchy, which will result in the complete devolution of power.


(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 24)

The end of the Cold War in the late 1980’s produced a wave of optimism throughout most of the Western world. Despite the fierce regional conflicts that scarred the 1990’s, that optimism seemed to endure in the American public consciousness. The way forward, it appeared, was clear: The worldwide growth of democracy and free trade would ensure peace and prosperity for all; democratic capitalism had proved itself to be the best way for human societies, on the cusp of the twenty-first century, to organize themselves.

Put like this, the naïveté and complacency of such notions are easily apparent. They demonstrate the human tendency to see one’s own way as the only way and to underestimate the lessons of history. Robert D. Kaplan, however, is determined to blow a hole in the current optimism about the direction of global affairs in the twenty-first century. He is like the biblical Jeremiah pointing grimly to realities that most people are either unaware of or simply choose not to think about.

All but one of the nine essays in this volume were published in magazines between 1994 and 1998. The first and longest essay, which supplies the provocative title of the volume, was published in The Atlantic Monthly, where it attracted considerable comment.

Kaplan takes as his focus the disintegrating social and political conditions in West Africa, including such nations as Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, and suggests they are the way of the future for most of the planet:

Disease, overpopulation, unprovoked crime, scarcity of resources, refugee migrations, the increasing erosion of nation-states and international borders, and the empowerment of private armies, security firms, and international drug cartels are now most tellingly demonstrated through a West African prism.

Kaplan points out that Sierra Leone is a nation-state in which the government no longer controls much of its own territory (which has fallen back into the hands of tribal chieftains). Diseases such as malaria are rampant because deforestation...

(The entire section is 2,484 words.)