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tyranny exists. But force and repression are not now the only methods of pursuing power. Three of the world’s most formidable polities – America, China and Russia – adopt economic means, with armed force to support them. America’s recent excursions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russia’s assault on Georgia in 2008 and China’s use of force against some of its own minor­ities have all exemplified this. Actions by these powers in the first decade of the 21st century show that history is not simply about progress: disputes will still be settled by force, just as in ­Thucydides’ time. Those disputes may arise for reasons that are tenuous or disingenuous, just as when the Spartans and the Athenians fought each other.

In the mid-1990s Samuel P. Huntington’s response to Fukuyama was that clashes between civilisations would replace those between ideologies.2 As we have recently seen, those clashes may be armed. Democracies strive to avoid war because of the perceived immorality of bloodshed in the democratic model and to protect their standards of living. However, so long as there are nation states with distinct national identities, and so long as religion plays a role in the world, the four reasons for the pursuit of power by polities that I will detail in this essay – land, God, wealth and ideology or minds – will continue to cause turbulence, and will throw up ideas that challenge the settled order.

Carlyle’s assertion that ‘the History of the World


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