The Post-American World

by Fareed Zakaria

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What is meant by the "rise of the rest" in The Post-American World?

Quick answer:

1) the rise of other countries to global power 2) economic growth and the decline of poverty 3) a participatory international system 4) diffusion of power 5) globalization (of jobs, capital, technology, and people) 6) America's place in the world.

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Fareed Zakaria associates “the rise of the rest” (which is the name of the introductory chapter of his book) with six basic trends that he describes:

1) “The third great power shift of the modern era” (p. 2). As Zakaria explains, the first power shift was the rise of the Western world of European powers; this rise became especially dramatic from the late eighteenth century onward. The second was the rise of the United States as a dominant world power from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century. By “the third power shift,” Zakaria means the ability of other countries from various world regions to equal or overtake the US as global leaders.

2) The rapid economic growth of many countries, especially in Asia, but also in Africa and Latin America, and the relative decline of poverty.

3) The emergence of a genuinely interdependent and participatory international system that allows many countries to play an active role in world affairs.

4) The global spread of symbols of wealth, prosperity, and economic power such as skyscrapers and gigantic factories.

5) “The diffusion of power from states to other actors” (p. 4), such as international organizations, NGOs, transnational corporations, drug cartels, and terrorist networks.

6) Dramatic growth in the global mobility of jobs, capital, and people.

Note: References are to Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World, New York – London: W. W. Norton and Company, 2009.

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Zakaria says that a major development in the rest of the world is what he calls "post-Americanism." By this, he means that other countries have now grown and developed to the point that the United States doesn't have economic hegemony over them anymore. A period of "unchallenged superpower status" for the United States is coming to an end. On this point, Zakaria agrees with many American politicians and other observers who argue that the United States is slipping relative to the rest of the world. Where he disagrees is in his characterization of this development. He does not argue that the United States is declining, but rather that the economies of the rest of the world are growing. He does not view this as a cause for anxiety, because it is far from certain that these developments will impact the United States in a negative way. He claims that, if Americans are willing to adapt to these changes politically and culturally (American businesses have long been adapting to these realities) then these developments can be mutually beneficial. The United States remains, according to Zakaria, one of the freest, most economically flexible nations in the world, and this can be to its advantage. If the country turns inward, embracing parochialism, then the United States and the world will be the worse for it.

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When Zakaria talks about the “rise of the rest” he is not talking about American decline in absolute terms.  Instead, he is talking about how other countries that were once poor and weak are becoming richer and stronger both in absolute and in relative terms.

What Zakaria is saying in this book is that countries like India and China are rising.  They are becoming wealthier and are even starting to become more internationally important.  He notes that not all of the biggest things are in the US anymore.  He mentions how the tallest building in the world at the time of his writing was in Taipei and the world’s biggest movie industry was in India.  To Zakaria, these sorts of things mean that the rest of the world is becoming more competitive with the US.  It does not mean that the US can no longer influence the rest of the world.  However, it does mean that the US can no longer simply tell other countries what to do.

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What constitutes the "rise of the rest" as used by Zakaria?

The previous post was very accurate. The Newsweek link included is also very good.  If I may add one more nugget, it would be that the "rise of the rest" is a condition that forces all of us, especially America, to fully embrace the reality of the global world.  The perception that used to drive America in that it is the unquestioned leader of the free (and possibly entire) world, is one that is been undermined by the rise of the rest of the world.  The globalized and interconnected reality means that America is going to have to share the world with other populous nations that are staking their claim in the new setting.  Nations like China, India, and Brazil will have a significant impact on how the future is decided.  Whereas America used to set the pace, now other nations will be doing the same.  The rise of the rest simply means that the stage will have other players and actors on it, more directors running the show, and more scriptwriters choreographing this little drama.  Zakaria's assertion is more positive than anything else.  Due to the fact that we live in some of the most calm and bloodless times, it is one where nations have been able to surrender to economic prosperity and growth in order to find their own place in this setting, one where the rise of the rest has helped to define a new and "flat" world.

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What constitutes the "rise of the rest" as used by Zakaria?

I assume that you are using this phrase in the way that Fareed Zakaria uses it...

To Zakaria, the idea of the "rise of the rest" is the idea that the United States should not feel that it is losing its power.  He says that Americans tend to feel that they are falling behind and that that is a bad thing.

Instead, Zakaria says, we should feel that we are still doing well but that the rest of the world is rising -- it is doing better economically.  He says that we should welcome this.  We should understand that this is good for us and good for the world.

As far as what the "rise" is, Zakaria says that it is the rest of the world getting more power in ways other than military ways.  He says

along every other dimension—industrial, financial, social, cultural—the distribution of power is shifting, moving away from American dominance.

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What would Zakaria believe to be the most important factor in the "rise of the rest?"

I think that Zakaria believes in the technological advances that have helped to make the world more "flat," to borrow a term from Friedman.  This is something that Zakaria believes has been essential in "the rise of the rest"  These nations share a couple of elements in common in that they are technologically savvy.  They have been able to take advantage of the advances in information technology through appropriating technology in a way that assists them and their development.  For example, mobile technology and the use of mobile platforms have helped to make many in the nations designated as "the rest" as global players and participants in the marketplace.  The globalization that has reached these nations has been aided by a proliferation of technology on a level that has proven relevant and meaningful to these nations.  In this, their rise has become evident and something that has translated into economic and material acquisition, ensuring that they would be able to be a significant participant in the marketplace.  This rise is something that has marked these nations, and in the process, brought on the situation that America must reckon with as part of the new paradigm in which to evaluate both itself and the rest of the world.

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