The Coming Anarchy

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The Coming Anarchy: How scarcity, crime, overpopulation, tribalism, and disease are rapidly destroying the social fabric of our planet is an influential article written by journalist Robert D. Kaplan, which was first published in the February 1994 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. It is considered to be one of the fundamental theses on the state of current world affairs in the post Cold War era, and is ranked on the same level of doctrinal importance as Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations and Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man theses.[citation needed] U.S. President Bill Clinton reportedly recommended the article to White House staff.[1] It has also been criticized as a Malthusian reading of the world, for blaming the situation on its victims and for overlooking alleged political and economical causes such as neoliberal policy.[2]

The article[edit]

Whilst Fukuyama believed that the end of the Cold War would bring about a new era of peace in world affairs, Kaplan argued that the Cold War was the closest the world would ever get to Utopia. The new struggles were no longer neatly ideological, but cultural and historical. Kaplan saw the disorder and civil strife he observed in West Africa as representative of broader global trends. As environmental stress worsened, bringing with it widespread disease and resource conflict, social disharmony would increase as identities are redefined along cultural or tribal lines rather than the lines of often artificial political borders. Politics would become localized as states’ powers fade, with sub-national conflicts about self-defense, not ideology, becoming commonplace. The post-modern world would be, for Kaplan, one of numerous cross-cutting identities, systems and allegiances, far from the ordered state-based system that Kaplan saw in the West at the time.

20 Years Later[edit]

20 years after the original publication of the original article, Robert D. Kaplan published a follow up article, entitled Why So Much Anarchy? , reflecting on the original's article relevance on current events, especially in Arab countries.[3] In this new article, Kaplan recognizes that some of his prophecies, such as a revival of racial violence in America, did not come to be. However, he also stands by some of his more provocative arguments, such as the belief that "Islam is a religion ideally suited for the urbanizing poor who were willing to fight [sic]". He thus mentions the growing popularity of Turkish President Erdogan's conservative Justice and Development Party, largely seen as aligning itself with islamic tendencies, as fulfilling his prediction of the rise of political Islam in Turkey. He also advances further arguments to determine which regimes are bound to fail, notably the presence of a strong, robust bureaucracy, which in turn necessitates a well entrenched middle class. Thus, the arguably successful democratic transition of most former Soviet republics into stable democracies can be explained by a strong bureaucratic apparatus backed by an important middle class. The lack of "bourgeoise traditions", on the other hand, can be interpreted as one of the main reasons of the failure of states such as Sierra Leone. Overall, Kaplan sticks to his original narrative, forecasting an inevitable anarchy on vast portions of the world.

The book[edit]

The article was republished as the first chapter of the book The Coming Anarchy in 2000. The book also included the controversial article Was Democracy Just A Moment? and several others by Kaplan.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Lester, Toby (August 1996). "Beyond "The Coming Anarchy"". The Atlantic Online. The Atlantic Monthly Company. Retrieved 1 February 2016. 
  2. ^ Harvey, David (2005). A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford University Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-19-928326-2. 
  3. ^ "Why So Much Anarchy?". Stratfor. Retrieved 2016-02-02.