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optimistic theses as Fukuyama’s are typical of ages of plenty; I contend that this essentially Whig interpretation of history had its origins with Macaulay in the age of expansion in mid-Victorian England, and that Fukuyama was similarly lulled into optimism by the relentless ‘progress’ of the West in the post-war period. Now, in an age of global economic contraction and an international terrorist threat, the situation looks less predictable, and the future less bright.

The book also looks at how history has seen a constant shift in international relations, with different great powers at different periods, and the apparent impossibility of maintaining great power for anything resembling permanency: Greece, Rome, its successor the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, Britain, America have all had their moments of glory: China, India and possibly Brazil appear to be waiting their turn. Now, it is economics rather than force of arms that dictates these shifts of power; but, as throughout history, economic strength has allowed the possibility of great armed forces, and the martial strength that helps protect the economic power of the state. But even states with great armies can, in a world more and more ruled by global market forces, go quickly into decline. A decade ago America seemed invulnerable. Now, its loss of confidence after the attacks of 11 September 2001, its misjudgements in foreign wars and foreign policy, and its decision to go on a borrowing spree have made it appear xi

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