A new and original history of the forces that shaped the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
We thought we knew the story of the twentieth century. For many in the West, after the two world conflicts and the long cold war, the verdict was clear: democratic values had prevailed over dictatorship. But if the twentieth century meant the triumph of liberalism, as many intellectuals proclaimed, why have the era’s darker impulses—ethnic nationalism, racist violence, and populist authoritarianism—revived?
The Project-State and Its Rivals offers a radical alternative interpretation that takes us from the transforming challenges of the world wars to our own time. Instead of the traditional narrative of domestic politics and international relations, Charles S. Maier looks to the political and economic impulses that propelled societies through a century when territorial states and transnational forces both claimed power, engaging sometimes as rivals and sometimes as allies. Maier focuses on recurring institutional constellations: project-states including both democracies and dictatorships that sought not just to retain power but to transform their societies; new forms of imperial domination; global networks of finance; and the international associations, foundations, and NGOs that tried to shape public life through allegedly apolitical appeals to science and ethics.
In this account, which draws on the author’s studies over half a century, Maier invites a rethinking of the long twentieth century. His history of state entanglements with capital, the decline of public projects, and the fragility of governance explains the fraying of our own civic culture—but also allows hope for its recovery.
Maier offers an alternative account of the last century, looking at how a wide range of actors tried to harness industrial modernity in the pursuit of power and material interests…[He] weaves a narrative about the explosive interplay of economic privilege and political grievance.
Ambitious…It is Maier’s open worry about the fragility of our democratic order and about the considerable strength of the antidemocratic impulses in this third decade of the 21st century that makes The Project-State and Its Rivals a book that will last.
Extraordinarily erudite and brimming with insight…[Maier] leaves open the question of whether the project-state will escape the dustbin of history and be revivified and redeployed, democratically, for the common good.
An intriguing, sophisticated book about the relationships between the evolution of the modern nation-state and the concurrent forces of capitalism, popular politics, socialist responses, and bureaucratic governance. This is a deep and clever work, the culmination of an erudite historian's long grappling with humankind's mixed record of progress and failure.
Charles Maier has produced a brilliantly innovative reconceptualization of twentieth-century history in terms of the interaction between states, resources, and markets. He sets a bold agenda for future thinking about the shape of the past one hundred years.
A true history of the present. The Project-State and Its Rivals is a powerful, insightful, and penetrating analysis of the major shifts in global order and social dynamics across the past century. There are few historians today who can venture to undertake such a tour d'horizon with equal confidence and expertise as Maier.
A very refreshing take on a history I thought I knew well.
- 528 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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