Richard LachmannFeb 2, 2021
First Class Passengers on a Sinking Ship
Elite Politics and the Decline of Great Powers
Being a great power almost seems to invite discussion of decline: whether you are declining, what can be done to prevent or arrest it, and what the consequences of decline might ultimately be. The United States has not managed to escape from any of this analysis, but understanding how imperial and hegemonic decline has played out historically often does not inform these discussions. Is the United States an empire, or it better described as a hegemon? What’s the meaningful difference, especially in the current content of the United States’ global position?
Richard Lachmann’s First-Class Passengers on a Sinking Ship: Elite Politics and the Decline of Great Powers (Verso, 2020) explores these questions. Lachmann examines prior explanations of great power decline and finds them wanting for a variety of different reasons. Lachmann instead focuses on a series of factors that first of all enable hegemony, but also the factors that ultimately cause its collapse. Lachmann examines the cause of the Netherlands and the British Empire before examining how these factor are currently at play in the United States.
Zeb Larson is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a PhD in History. His research deals with the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. To suggest a recent title or to contact him, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.