stephen wertheim

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A World Safe for Capital: How Neoliberalism Shaped the International System


Review of Quinn Slobodian, Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism


Foreign Affairs, May/June 2019, 175-182   publisher version


Neoliberals embraced governance — chiefly at the global level. By going above national borders, they neutralized politics within those borders, so that democratic governments could not obstruct the security and mobility of property. Gradually, despite encountering resistance at every turn, they helped build a world order guided by the principle of “capital first.”



The War Against War


Review of Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro, The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World


The Nation, December 3/10, 2018, 27-32   publisher version


The internationalists of the last century are, it turns out, quite relevant to our current crisis: they helped us get here, and they offer us no way out.



Judicial Disputes


Review of Benjamin Coates, Legalist Empire: International Law and American Foreign Relations in the Early Twentieth Century


H-Diplo, Vol. 19, No. 36 (May 21, 2018)   publisher version


American power dramatically expanded not despite but because of the fact that lawyers and law exerted more influence in the making of foreign policy than ever before or since. In turn, the achievement of world power legitimated the new profession of international law, which secured its credentials, at least for a time, as an ally of American exceptionalism.



Mad Men: How Guns Became an Object of Desire


Review of Pamela Haag, The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture


Times Literary Supplement, July 8, 2016, 9   publisher version


In 1870 Thomas Addis urinated on a rifle before the Ottoman Sultan and saved one of the largest gun businesses in the world. 



The Superman Principle: Why America Chose Hegemony


Review of John A. Thompson, A Sense of Power: The Roots of America’s Global Role


The National Interest, May 2, 2016   publisher version


In order for the United States to choose world leadership, basic values had to change. Americans had to accept military force as essential to world order, and the willingness to use it as the definition of enlightened ‘internationalism’ rather than European-style imperialism.





Review of Jared Diamond, The World Until Yesterday


The Nation, April 22, 2013, 35-37   publisher version


Are propositions this tepid all that the abundance of human experience has to teach us? Somehow Diamond’s experiences in New Guinea and his scouring of anthropological literature landed him exactly where substantial numbers of Americans were already heading, right down to the slow-food movement. “Traditional societies tell their own stories and yield their own conclusions,” Diamond says, but his book blatantly filters those stories for conclusions compatible with the values and structures of his own society.



Shelf Life


Review of Edward Luttwak, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy


The Nation, December 10, 2012, 29   publisher version


What is to be taken seriously about The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy is the credibility its kind of reasoning may command in the United States. If US policymakers buy Luttwak’s line and China’s military keeps growing, it would be a small step to conclude that the country is hopelessly autistic and must be contained.



Rational Choice with a Human Face


Review of Roger Petersen, Western Intervention in the Balkans


H-Net Reviews in the Humanities and Social Sciences (May 2012)   publisher version


Far from opposing rational choice theory, Petersen is out to save it from its own excesses. He translates Western intervention in the Balkans into a series of “games” in which local “political entrepreneurs” choose to cooperate or defect. He wants to add emotions without sacrificing all-important “rigor and parsimony.” He must say enough about the Balkans to seem to convey the causes and impacts of popular emotions, but not so much as to undermine the apparent transportability and predictive value of his theory. Rational choice with a human face: does he — could anyone — succeed?



Periodizing the Present


Review of Michael Adas, ed., Essays on Twentieth-Century History


New Global Studies, Vol. 5, No. 1 (April 2011)   publisher version


If we must continue to refer to a “twentieth century” in world history, let us understand that we do not really mean it, that what we intend is to mark the beginnings of a period that interests us precisely because we think we are living through it now and therefore has a future and an ending we cannot foresee.



The Final Frontiers?


Review of Charles Maier, Among Empires: American Ascendency and Its Predecessors


Harvard International Review (May 2006)   publisher version


Empires and nation-states may be conceived as two ideal types that bound a range of combinations in between. If so, no wonder Maier is compelled to punt on whether the United States is an empire. The matter is less yes-or-no than to-what-extent.