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Shaper Nations

Shaper Nations

Strategies for a Changing World

Edited by William I. Hitchcock, Melvyn P. Leffler, and Jeffrey W. Legro

ISBN 9780674660212

Publication date: 04/05/2016

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Shaper Nations provides illuminating perspectives on the national strategies of eight emerging and established countries that are shaping global politics at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The volume’s authors offer a unique viewpoint: they live and work primarily in the country about which they write, bringing an insider’s feel for national debates and politics.

The conventional wisdom on national strategy suggests that these states have clear central authority, coherently connect means to ends, and focus on their geopolitical environment. These essays suggest a different conclusion. In seven key countries—Brazil, China, Germany, India, Israel, Russia, and Turkey—strategy is dominated by nonstate threats, domestic politics, the distorting effect of history and national identity, economic development concerns, and the sheer difficulty, in the face of many powerful internal and external constraints, of pursuing an effective national strategy.

The shapers represent a new trend in the international arena with important consequences. Among them is a more uncertain world in which countries concentrate on their own development rather than on shared problems that might divert precious resources, and attend more to regional than to global order. In responding to these shaper states, the United States must understand the sources of their national strategies in determining its own role on the global stage.


  • The idea that some states, while not Great Powers, play a very large role in shaping the development of their regions is a good one, and the essays by a diverse set of authors provide insightful and well-grounded discussions of the particular cases. Furthermore, they speak to one another and are pulled together by strong introductory and concluding chapters. Readers will learn a lot about an important set of countries, how the U.S. may respond, and what this means for the future of world politics.

    —Robert Jervis, author of Why Intelligence Fails


  • William I. Hitchcock is Professor of History at the University of Virginia.
  • Melvyn P. Leffler is Edward Stettinius Professor of History at the University of Virginia.
  • Jeffrey W. Legro is Ambassador Henry J. Taylor and Mrs. Marion R. Taylor Professor of Politics and Vice Provost for Global Affairs at the University of Virginia.

Book Details

  • 224 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press