Fareed Zakaria’s book, The Post-American World, Release 2.0, has an optimistic tone for a future of progress as made possible by globalization. His theme is similar to that of Thomas Friedman, making the case that globalization is enabling countries other than the U.S. to realize their economic as well as political power. Zakaria disassembles the role of the United States as the previously unchallenged superpower for the past few decades, along with the way Western powers have ruled for the past few centuries. He suggests that America’s relative dip in recent years will be swiftly alleviated and that it, in fact, gave impetus to other countries to rise. He also says that while other countries are gaining economic power, the U.S. is not necessarily getting a smaller slice of pie. Rather, the pie is growing.
Zakaria looks at how two countries are changing and rising to join (or perhaps even supersede) the United States in the future in terms of economic and political clout: China, in the chapter “The Challenger,” and India, in the chapter,“The Ally.” One may question these biased monikers, but Zakaria’s choices make sense. These are the two most heavily populated countries in the world and the ones with which the U.S. finds itself most deeply entangled—China because of its superpower potential and India because of its status as the largest democracy. Zakaria follows the modernization and non-combative foreign relations of China, and delves into India’s region-based government makeup, which has an advantage over China in regards to its more composed attitude towards social unrest and political dissidence.
However, Zakaria tends to sound too optimistic about globalization. The use of positive examples without any caveats builds an unbalanced worldview and allows for a conflation between political, cultural, and economic power. Just because a country increases its GDP does not mean its culture can spread in the same manner. While American culture dominates in the media and diplomatically and India’s Bollywood has a long reach thanks to its scattered diaspora, Chinese media and culture are less visible and less embraced around the world. Also, Zakaria’s hypotheses about the post-American world suggest that political power goes hand in hand with economic power—although not the other way around. He is also quick to note that countries such as North Korea and Venezuela, in their vociferous campaigns against America and in favor of their own, cannot use their politics to foment their economies. He glosses over the political and economic standpoints of certain Middle Eastern nations such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, by suggesting that the lack of inclusion in the global economy marks their political dealings with a lack of power. While he does go into the rise of non-governmental organizations in the political sphere, Zakaria does not look so deeply in the corporate powers at play within these globalized markets.
In the sixth and seventh chapters, Zakaria outlines America’s history of power and addresses American concerns about losing it. He outlines America’s problems (including a sensationalist media and a debilitated democracy) and makes guidelines for how the United States should comport itself in the new, post-American world.
Zakaria’s style in the book is somewhat breezy and general for a topic in which he believes so heartily. The book’s claims are not unsupported, but it seems that more research is needed; however, Zakaria’s elucidation of a potential post-American world and his theory give new insight into how the world is changing and how America has to change.