The Myth of America’s Decline: Politics, Economics, and a Half Century of False Prophecies. Josef Joffe. New York: Liverright Publishing Corporation, 2014. Pp-326.


That America is on the decline and about to be upstaged by new contenders from its position as the number one world power has been an incessant refrain in current literature, not surprisingly among its friends and opponents, but the ‘Declinists’ in America itself. This, as Josef Joffe lays out in his The Myth of America’s Decline, is a fairy tale that has been sold mostly by those contending for the office. Editor and publisher of Die Zeit, a German newspaper, and Fellow, Hoover Institution and the Institute for International Studies, Joffe lays out convincing arguments countering the “doomsters” who have been predicting the end of the American empire and the shrinking of American power and prestige over the five decades since 1950.

Coming at the heels of the emerging multipolar world, The Myth of America’s Decline is another addition to a raft of books dwelling on the subject of America and the rest – the Soviet Union, Japan, Europe and China – that runs us through a history of the “declinist” thesis that America is about to lose its dominant position, but, as the author maintains, has yet survived as the “default power” the “one and only to which other nations turn when they cannot take care of international business on their own” (p. xvi).  Since the 1950s, as Joffe elaborates, the “myth,” mainly homemade, that American is a “has-been” nation has unfolded as repertory theatre, season after season. The long and short of Joffe’s argument in six of the seven chapters of the book is that the doomsters in America have been wrong in their panic approach to the rise of contenders that were about to challenge America.

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