384 Pages
135 x 216 mm
Pub date
Feb 2022
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Getting to grips with the overlapping geopolitical, economic, and political crises faced by Western democratic societies in the 2020s. Disorder: Hard Times in the 21st Century explains the historical origins of the political shocks of the past decade, showing how the Covid-19 crisis blew apart fault lines in western democracies, the US-China relationship, NATO, and the European Union that had been accumulating for decades. The book tells three historical stories. The geopolitical story begins with the inherent difficulties the United States faced as an ascendant non-Eurasian power in the early twentieth century, especially in the Middle East, and culminates in the American turn away from China in a world in which the United States is simultaneously a declining military power and a resurgent energy and financial power. The economic story begins in the 1970s and explains how the rise of the Eurodollar system and the decade's energy crises remade the monetary world and the European Union, and how the Federal Reserve and China's response to the 2007-8 crash in preventing an economic collapse let lose a succession of economic and energy problems that cannot now be resolved. The final story situates the present instability in the need for democracies to maintain 'losers' consent' and to be repaired when they become unbalanced. It also shows why such repair is so difficult under present geopolitical and economic conditions.


Introduction: Disruption
I: Geopolitics
1 Eurasian limits
2 The impossible oil guarantee
3 Eurasia remade
II: Economy
4 Our currencies, your problem
5 Made in China, need dollars
6 We are not in Kansas any more
III: Democratic politics
7 Democratic time
8 The democratic tax state
9 Whither reform
Conclusions: The more things change

About the author: 

Helen Thompson is Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge University and also Deputy Head of the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences. She is the author of Oil and the western economic crisis (2017); China and the mortgaging of America (2010); and Might, right, prosperity and consent: representative democracy and the international economy(2008). Since 2015, Helen has been a regular contributor to the podcast Talking Politics and has written articles for the London Review of Books, The New York Times, and The Financial Times.

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