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Original Essays | September 4, 2014

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The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From renowned historian Niall Ferguson, a searching and provocative examination of the widespread institutional rot that threatens our collective future

What causes rich countries to lose their way? Symptoms of decline are all around us today: slowing growth, crushing debts, increasing inequality, aging populations, antisocial behavior. But what exactly has gone wrong? The answer, Niall Ferguson argues in The Great Degeneration, is that our institutions—the intricate frameworks within which a society can flourish or fail—are degenerating.

Representative government, the free market, the rule of law, and civil society—these are the four pillars of West European and North American societies. It was these institutions, rather than any geographical or climatic advantages, that set the West on the path to global dominance beginning around 1500. In our time, however, these institutions have deteriorated in disturbing ways. Our democracies have broken the contract between the generations by heaping IOUs on our children and grandchildren. Our markets are hindered by overcomplex regulations that debilitate the political and economic processes they were created to support; the rule of law has become the rule of lawyers. And civil society has degenerated into uncivil society, where we lazily expect all of our problems to be solved by the state.

It is institutional degeneration, in other words, that lies behind economic stagnation and the geopolitical decline that comes with it. With characteristic verve and historical insight, Ferguson analyzes not only the causes of this stagnation but also its profound consequences.

The Great Degeneration is an incisive indictment of an era of negligence and complacency. While the Arab world struggles to adopt democracy and China struggles to move from economic liberalization to the rule of law, our society is squandering the institutional inheritance of centuries. To arrest the breakdown of our civilization, Ferguson warns, will take heroic leadership and radical reform.

Review:

"The 20th century was the bloodiest in history. By now, the destruction is generally acknowledged, but the causes of the century's murderous conflicts are still matters of debate. So is the haunting question of whether a similar fate can be avoided in the 21st century.

In 'The War of the World,' British historian Niall Ferguson offers a novel analysis of the causes of 20th-century violence.... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"A sweeping and handsomely controlled narrative....Even those who have read widely in 20th-century history will find fresh, surprising details." Boston Globe

Review:

"[T]hought-provoking, highly engaging, and nearly impossible-to-put-down book." Library Journal

Review:

"A lucid, blood-soaked study that will give no comfort to those pining for peace in our time." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

Astonishing in its scope and erudition, this is the magnum opus that Niall Ferguson's numerous acclaimed works have been leading up to. In it, he grapples with perhaps the most challenging questions of modern history: Why was the twentieth century history's bloodiest by far? Why did unprecedented material progress go hand in hand with total war and genocide? His quest for new answers takes him from the walls of Nanjing to the bloody beaches of Normandy, from the economics of ethnic cleansing to the politics of imperial decline and fall. The result, as brilliantly written as it is vital, is a great historian's masterwork.

Synopsis:

Ferguson reinterprets the modern era and the central paradox of why unprecedented progress coincided with unprecedented violence, and why the seeming triumph of the West bore the seeds of its undoing.

About the Author

Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University, and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. The bestselling author of Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschild, The Pity of War, The Cash Nexus, Empire, and Colossus, he also writes regularly for newspapers and magazines all over the world.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781594201004
Author:
Ferguson, Niall
Publisher:
Penguin Books
Subject:
Military - General
Subject:
Modern - 20th Century
Subject:
War
Subject:
World politics
Subject:
World - General
Subject:
Economic History
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
20071030
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Three 8-page b/w photo inserts on insert
Pages:
880
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Western Civilization » 20th Century
History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present

The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.50 In Stock
Product details 880 pages Penguin Press - English 9781594201004 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A sweeping and handsomely controlled narrative....Even those who have read widely in 20th-century history will find fresh, surprising details."
"Review" by , "[T]hought-provoking, highly engaging, and nearly impossible-to-put-down book."
"Review" by , "A lucid, blood-soaked study that will give no comfort to those pining for peace in our time."
"Synopsis" by ,
Astonishing in its scope and erudition, this is the magnum opus that Niall Ferguson's numerous acclaimed works have been leading up to. In it, he grapples with perhaps the most challenging questions of modern history: Why was the twentieth century history's bloodiest by far? Why did unprecedented material progress go hand in hand with total war and genocide? His quest for new answers takes him from the walls of Nanjing to the bloody beaches of Normandy, from the economics of ethnic cleansing to the politics of imperial decline and fall. The result, as brilliantly written as it is vital, is a great historian's masterwork.

"Synopsis" by , Ferguson reinterprets the modern era and the central paradox of why unprecedented progress coincided with unprecedented violence, and why the seeming triumph of the West bore the seeds of its undoing.

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