While the decades since the Vietnam War may be most known for their startling technological developments, they have also spawned a chic genre of literature: the ‘America is in Decline’ tract. What started most prominently with the work of Paul Kennedy has turned into a veritable cottage industry. Tomes in this category have included Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West, Bruce Horton’s Decline and Fall, and, most recently, Fareed Zakaria’s The End of America, which Barack Obama was famously photographed holding last summer. Some of these books argue that the decline is inevitable as a result of “cultural decadence,” others argue decline is a result of “environmental devastation,” and others still attribute the supposed decline to falling birthrates. In the 1980s and early 1990s, many of the more-economically oriented books of the genre argued that the West’s decline was partially a result of the rise of Japan. Today, many are devoted to the proposition that western decline is linked to the rise of another Asian tiger: the People’s Republic of China.

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