The Coming Anarchy Themes
by Robert D. Kaplan

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The Coming Anarchy Themes

One prominent theme of The Coming Anarchy is the constant effort of humankind to fashion a final "utopia." Kaplan critiques this pervasive historical impulse, arguing that the very definition of "utopia" changes through time and is always contingent on the prevailing ideals of the society in question. As societies acquire feedback from their failed systems of ideals, they learn to tweak, to improve, and to eliminate ideals that are not working. Kaplan advocates for an acknowledgement of this necessary process of failure, arguing that it is the only mechanism for social, political, and economic improvement; if societies instead lean on a static utopian vision, they willingly blind themselves to their own flaws.

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Another theme is the contemporary transformation of forms of conflict away from ideological dissent and toward conflict over scarcities of resources. Kaplan argues that environmental stressors produced by unbridled capitalism are the main source of this change. To demonstrate this point, he uses the example of Africa, where the borders delineating countries are becoming more and more arbitrary as smaller and more fluid national identities emerge out of defensive political skirmishes for resources: namely, healthcare and food.