"Here's what the end of globalization looks like," a headline in Business Insider thundered at the end of 2016 before laying out a doom-and-gloom scenario in the wake of the Trans-Pacific Partnership's demise. The swing away from liberalization and globalization and toward protectionism and nationalism is probably the biggest political earthquake of recent times in wealthy Western countries, and explaining it is probably the biggest intellectual challenge. Until we understand its causes, after all, we cannot address them.
Here comes the rain again. The skies darken and the winds howl; storms of a kind that should show up only once every half-millennium now arrive every 10 years. The world is warming up. The hotter the oceans get, the faster they evaporate, and the hotter the air gets, the more moisture it holds, with one devastating result: When the clouds let go of their watery load, it now pounds the earth for days at a time, washing away hillsides and flooding valleys and plains.
No one would expect sunshine and smiles from an organization called the National Intelligence Council. One of its main tasks is to prepare a document called "Global Trends" once every four years for the new or re-elected U.S. president, laying out likely scenarios for how the world will develop over the coming decade or two. The most recent version, published in January, is every bit as intense as you might anticipate.
With every passing election, it seems clearer and clearer that the Western world's rich democracies are going through a fundamental political realignment. Out goes the old left/right political divide that we grew up with; in comes a new open/closed division. The fit is far from perfect, but generally speaking, the new order pits centrists against extremists of all stripes, the highly educated against those with less education, and those who consider themselves citizens of the world against those who identify with smaller worlds.
Every society has told stories about ancient times, but contemporary ancient history was the product of two main developments. The first was the invention of writing, which made scholarly study of the past possible, and the second was the explosion of knowledge about the world from the eighteenth century onward. Europeans responded to this explosion by inventing two main versions of antiquity: the first, an evolutionary model, was global and went back to the origins of humanity; and the second, a classical model, treated Greece and Rome as turning points in world history.
As Christmas celebrations for 2015 wind down, Stanford historian and archaeologist Ian Morris discusses the global reach of different aspects of the Christmas holiday, and compares theories of the relative influence of "soft power" cultural exports and "hard power" military and economic intervention on world societies.
"The Distribution of Power: Hierarchy and its Discontents" is chapter 18 of the book The Cambridge World History (Volume 3), edited by Norman Yoffee and published by the Cambridge University Press.
From the fourth millennium BCE to the early second millennium CE the world became a world of cities. This volume of The Cambridge World History explores this critical transformation, from the appearance of the earliest cities in Mesopotamia and Egypt to the rise of cities in Asia and the Mediterranean world, Africa, and the Americas.
Most people in the world today think democracy and gender equality are good, and that violence and wealth inequality are bad. But most people who lived during the 10,000 years before the nineteenth century thought just the opposite. Drawing on archaeology, anthropology, biology, and history, Ian Morris, author of the best-selling Why the West Rules--for Now, explains why. The result is a compelling new argument about the evolution of human values, one that has far-reaching implications for how we understand the past--and for what might happen next.