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Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership
Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership

Ethical Aspects of Societal Decline


What may be declining?  The nature and quantification of power

  •  John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (W. W. Norton & Company, 2001), 3
  • Joseph Nye, “Soft Power,” Foreign Policy 80 (1990)
  • Gregory F. Treverton and Seth G. Jones, Measuring National Power (RAND, 2005)

 Declining power – evidence and effects?

  • Niall Ferguson, Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire (2004)
  • Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back (2011)
  • Joseph Nye, “The Decline of America’s Soft Power: Why Washington Should Worry,” Foreign Affairs (2004)
  • Patrick Buchanan, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? (2012)
  • Edward Luce, Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent (2012)
  • Charles Murray, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (2012)
  • Henrick Smith, Who Stole the American Dream? (2013)
  • Walter Laquer, The Last Days of Europe (St. Martin’s Press, 2007)
  • Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life from 1500 to the Present (2000)
  • Robert Kagan, “Not Fade Away: Against the Myth of American Decline,” The New Republic (2 Feb 2012)
  • _______, The World America Made (2012)
  • Adam Gopnik, “Decline, Fall, Rinse, Repeat,” The New Yorker (12 September 2012)
  • Michael Cox, “Is the United States in decline—again?, International Affairs 83 (2007)
  • Josef Joffe, “The Default Power: The False Prophecy of America’s Decline,” Foreign Affairs 21 (2009)
  • _______, The Myth of America's Decline: Politics, Economics, and a Half Century of False Prophecies (2014)
  • Michael Beckley, “China’s Century? Why America’s Edge Will Endure,” International Security 36 (2011/12)

Declines – theories and solutions

  • Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1999)
  • _______, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2011)
  • Mancur Olson, The Rise and Decline of Nations: Economic Growth, Stagflation, and Social Rigidities (1982)
  • Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1989)
  • Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History (1934-61)
  • Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, tr. Franzi Rosenthal (Yale, 2015)
  • Robert Irwin, Ibn Khaldun: An Intellectual Biography (Princeton, 2018)
  • Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West (1917)
  • James Burnham, Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism (1964)
  • Ian Morris, Why the West Rules—For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal about the Future (2010)
  • Niall Ferguson, Civilization: The West and the Rest (2011)
  • Peter Turchin, War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires (2007)
  • Cullen Murphy, Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America (2008)
  • Timothy Parsons, The Rule of Empires: Those Who Built Them, Those Who Endured Them, and Why They Always Fall (2010)
  • Nathan Rosenberg and L.E. Birdzell Jr., How the West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation of the Industrial World (1987)
  • Plato, Republic
  • Aristotle, Politics
  • Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
  • Paul K. MacDonald and Joseph M. Parent, “Graceful Decline? The Surprising Success of Great Power Retrenchment,” International Security 35 (2011)
  • Kyle Haynes and William R. Thompson, Decline of Retrenchment—Peril of Promise,” International Security 36 (2012)
  • Thomas Madden, Empires of Trust: How Rome Built—and America Is Building—a New World (2009)
  • Thomas Pangle and Peter Ahrensdorf, Justice among Nations: On the Moral Basis of Power and Peace (1999)
  • Lawrence Harrison, Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress (2000)
  • _______, The Central Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save It from Itself (2006)
  • Josef Pieper, Leisure as the Basis of Culture (1948)
  • Christopher Lasch, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (1994)

 Cases – Athens and Rome

  • Donald Kagan, The Fall of The Athenian Empire (1987)
  • Augustine, City of God
  • Livy, The Rise of Rome: Books 1-5 (25 BC)
  • Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776)
  • Montesquieu, Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline (1734)
  • Tacitus, The Histories (109)
  • _______, The Annals (116)

 Case – United Kingdom

  • Niall Ferguson, Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power (2002)
  • Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire (1994)

 Militaries and declines – ethical challenges…solutions?

  • Andrew Bacevich, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2009)
  • Charles Dunlap, “The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012,” Parameters (1993)