“Clear-eyed and hard-headed. . . . Chua writes with a wry, breezy wit, giving her analysis a lively accessibility.” —The Los Angeles Times“Extraordinary. . . . An incredibly ambitious book, but Chua is up to the task.” —Times Literary Supplement“Convincing [and] timely. . . . Chua's lively writing makes her case studies interesting in themselves.” —The Washington Post“Takes up the challenge of 'Big History' [with] an almost Toynbeean sweep. . . . [Day of Empire] has a chance of becoming a classic.” —Paul Kennedy, Foreign Affairs
One might argue that Chua relies too heavily on "strategic tolerance" to explain the rise and fall of hyperpowers. Military and administrative excellence are key to the complex processes of creation and destruction, as is the growth over time of corruption. So, too, are the ambitions of those conquerednot all of which are generated by the behavior of their rulers. But the thesis of Day of Empire, like the thrust of her previous book, is provocative. 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.
The Washington Post
Chua, the John Duff Jr. professor of law at Yale Law School, 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.
The New York Times
Chua (World on Fire), a Yale law professor and daughter of immigrants, examines a number of "world-dominant" powers-a none too rigorously defined group that lumps together the Persian, Roman, Mongol and British empires with the contemporary United States-and argues that tolerance and multiculturalism are indispensable features of global economic and military success. Such "hyperpowers" rise, Chua argues, because their tolerance of minority cultures and religions, their receptivity to foreign ideas and their willingness to absorb and empower talented provincials and immigrants lets them harness the world's "human capital." Conversely, hyperpowers decline when their assimilative capacities falter and they lapse into intolerance and exclusion. The sexy concept of a world-dominant hyperpower, in addition to being somewhat erratic-the smallish Dutch Republic makes the cut, while the far-flung (but inconveniently intolerant) Spanish empire doesn't-is doubtful when examining an America that can hardly dominate Baghdad and not much more convincing when applied to earlier hegemons. Chua does offer an illuminating survey of the benefits of tolerance and pluralism, often as a tacit brief for maintaining America's generous immigration policies. (Nov.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Yale law professor Chua (World on Fire) argues that hyperpowers-those states that possess what Chua calls world-dominant power economically, militarily, and culturally-achieve dominance pursuing policies that do not alienate their subject peoples. Put positively, such hyperpowers practice tolerance. As far as it goes, this is hardly an original observation, and while Chua attempts to offer solid examples from history of how tolerance helps build empires and how intolerance leads to their downfall, she is ultimately unsuccessful. She assures us that she will do her best to resist cherry-picking her facts and then spends the rest of the book doing exactly that. Still, the reader cannot help but admire her honesty: for instance, her reference to British tolerance for Indian religious and cultural diversity is also an example of exploiting ethnic differences in an effort to divide and rule, and Chua does not hesitate to note this. Other instances of evidence offered and then mitigated abound, and Chua's constant qualification of her examples undermines her premise. In the end, the picture Chua presents of the symbiosis between empires and their constituent peoples does not support her argument. A marginal purchase for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/1/07.]
This analysis of world-dominant powers from ancient Persia to the modern United States yields an intriguing set of common traits and progressions. Chua's bestselling World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (2002) led the pack in sizing up the backlash against global free-marketers. Now she examines hegemony and the handful of entities worthy of the title "hyperpower," which extends to the earliest civilizations: Persia, at its peak under Darius, the Macedonia of Alexander the Great and, of course, imperial Rome. There are also some surprises: Ghenghis Khan's 13th-century Mongolian domain, for instance, eventually extended from Vienna to the Sea of Japan, far exceeding any before or since in contiguous territory. And the Mongols did it without original technology or literacy, absorbing both from cultures that came under their dominion. Likewise, the Dutch Republic of the late 17th century, a midget among Europe's giants, became so dominant in world commerce that it eventually exported a king, William of Orange, to England. The commonality among these empires, says Chua, was tolerance. They were diverse societies, harboring-and exploiting-a wide range of ethnicities and unrestricted religions. The enduring model is Rome, which handed its adversaries a bloody defeat and proffered full citizenship the next day. The author notes that even China in its day of empire, the eighth-century Tang Dynasty, was a far more open society than it would be 1,000 years later. Tolerance alone won't create a hyperpower, though, says the author; the United States needed the collapse of the Soviet Union to achieve its status. Chua concludes that hyperpowersultimately tend to come "unglued" as a result of resistance to their own diversity. She cautions that the global rise of anti-Americanism today, which stems from attempts to export democracy in the service of self-interest, could be a negative sign. The author gives short shrift to forces introduced by petro-politics or the nuclear threat, but still an illuminating exploration of what makes a superpower. Agent: Glen Hartley/Writers' Representatives LLC