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Day of Empire

How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance—and Why They Fall


Amy Chua (View Bio)
Hardcover: Doubleday, 2007.

Day of Empire

A Foreign Affairs Bestseller

In a little over two centuries, America has grown from a regional power, to a great power, to a superpower, to what is today called a hyperpower. But can America retain its position as the world's dominant power, or has it already begun to decline?     Historians have debated the rise and fall of empires for centuries. To date, however, no one has studied the far rarer phenomenon of hyperpowers—those remarkably few societies that have amassed such extraordinary military and economic might that they essentially dominated the world.     Now, in this sweeping history of globally dominant empires, New York Times best-selling author Amy Chua explains how hyperpowers rise and why they fall.     In a series of brilliantly focused chapters, Chua examines history's hyperpowers—Persia, Rome, Tang China, the Mongols, the Dutch, the British, and the United States—and reveals the reasons behind their success, as well as the roots of their ultimate demise.     Chua's unprecedented study reveals a fascinating historical pattern. For all their differences, she argues, every one of these world-dominant powers was, at least by the standards of its time, extraordinarily pluralistic and tolerant. Each one succeeded by harnessing the skills and energies of individuals from very different backgrounds, and by attracting and exploiting highly talented groups that were excluded in other societies. Thus Rome allowed Africans, Spaniards, and Gauls alike to rise to the highest echelons of power, while the "barbarian" Mongols conquered their vast domains only because they practiced and ethnic and religious tolerance unheard of in their time. In contrast, Nazi Germany and imperial Japan, while wielding great power, failed to attain global dominance as a direct result of their racial and religious intolerance.     But Chua also uncovers a great historical irony: In virtually every instance, multicultural tolerance eventually sowed the seeds of decline, and diversity became a liability, triggering conflict, hatred, and violence.     The United States is the quintessential example of a power that rose to global dominance through tolerance and diversity. The secret to America's success has always been its unsurpassed ability to attract enterprising immigrants. Today, however, concerns about outsourcing and uncontrolled illegal immigration are producing a backlash against our tradition of cultural openness. Has America finally reached a "tipping point"? Have we gone too far in the direction of diversity and tolerance to maintain cohesion and unity? Will we be overtaken by rising powers like China, the EU or even India?     Chua shows why American power may have already exceeded its limits—and why it may be in our interest to retreat from our go-it-alone approach and promote a new multilateralism in both domestic and foreign affairs.

"Amy Chua smartly condenses the complex histories of the Persian, Mughal, Dutch, and other empires into an irresistible argument: that empires expand through toleration and contract through close-mindedness. As with any shrewd and elaborate argument, the getting there is half the fun." — Robert D. Kaplan

"From ancient Achaemenid Persia to the modern United States, by way of Rome, Tang China and the Spanish, Dutch and British Empires, Amy Chua tells the story of the world's hyperpowers—that elite of empires which, in their heyday, were truly without equal. Not everyone will be persuaded by her ingenious thesis that religious and racial tolerance was a prerequisite for global dominance, but also the slow solvent of that cultural 'glue' which holds a great nation together. But few readers will fail to be impressed by the height of this book's ambition and by the breadth of scholarship on which it is based." — Niall Ferguson

"Three recent books...have taken up the challenge of Big History....All are significant contributions and one, [Amy] Chua's, has a chance of becoming a classic....The biggest of these Big Histories is Chua's Day of Empire. Indeed, it has an almost Toynbeean sweep....The other great strength of Chua's book is that it has a distinctive thesis, a clear argument...produced...with verve and aplomb." — Paul Kennedy, Foreign Affairs  (Read the full review)

"Chua unfolds an agreeably plausible case with clarity and insistent simplification, like a lawyer pacing before the jury box, hitting the same points (tolerance, diversity, inclusion) for emphasis as she clicks off centuries and civilizations. Always in the back of her mind is the drama of America." — Lance Morrow, The New York Times Book Review  (Read the full review)

"Chua writes with a wry, breezy wit, giving her analysis a lively accessibility, and she builds her argument around a series of enjoyable and often provocative case studies of 'world-dominant powers.'... The eventual decline of American hyperpower is inevitable. The question is whether we can avoid the descent into vicious xenophobia and defensive intolerance that has accompanied the fall of hyperpowers in the past. It is not a question Chua can answer, but she deserves praise for eloquently raising it." — Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, Los Angeles Times  (Read the full review)

"Day of Empire is a lively read, full of intriguing factoids and persuasive rhetoric, and the potential applicability of its case histories to America's current quandary, at least, is clear enough. Chua works hard not to oversimplify her encapsulated imperial histories, making clear, for instance, that the 'tolerance' and 'diversity' of the Achaemenid Persian Empire were instrumental methods of subjugating and absorbing conquered peoples, a long way from any modern conceptions of human rights or international law." — Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com  (Read the full review)

"The Magnificent Seven all obtained the acquiescence, even the support, of diverse peoples stretched over vast territories through what Chua calls 'strategic tolerance.' They accepted the customs and religious practices of the defeated; they recruited the best and the brightest of their new subjects for government and military service, sharing the riches and other benefits of empire. This co-opting of human resources is what, to Chua, separates true hyperpowers from other imperial entities.... Chua's lively writing makes her case studies interesting in themselves. And her convincing presentation of their relevance to the contemporary scene adds meaning to this timely warning. " — James Hoge, The Washington Post  (Read the full review)

"Amy Chua's brilliant Day of Empire confirms why [our 'empire' is different from the Soviet or Roman varieties]: Successful 'hyperpowers' tend to be more tolerant and inclusive than their competitors. Despite its flaws, Britain was the first truly liberal empire. America has picked up where the British left off. Whatever sway the U.S. holds over far-flung reaches of the globe is derived from the fact that we have been, and hopefully shall continue to be, the leader of the free world, offering help and guidance, peace and prosperity, where and when we can, as best we can, and asking little in return. If that makes us an empire, so be it. But I think leader of the free world" is the only label we'll ever need or—one hopes—ever want. " — Jonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times  (Read the full review)

"The condensed histories in Day of Empire are informative and charming, and Chua’s thesis is ingenious and thought-provoking." — Glenn C. Altschuler, Baltimore Sun

"Extraordinary. . . . An incredibly ambitious book, but Chua is up to the task." — Warren I. Cohen, Times Literary Supplement

"Scintillating history, breathtaking in scope and chock-full of insight. Amy Chua argues persuasively that the real key to acquiring and maintaining great power lies in the ability to attract and assimilate, rather than to coerce or intimidate." — Andrew J. Bacevich

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