InTwilight of the Titans, Paul K. MacDonald and Joseph M. Parent examine great power transitions since 1870 to determine how declining powers choose to behave, identifying the strong incentives to moderate their behavior when the hierarchy of great powers is shifting. Challenging the conventional wisdom that such transitions push declining great powers to extreme measures, this book argues that intimidation, provocation, and preventive war are not the only alternatives to the loss of relative power and prestige. Using numerous case studies, MacDonald and Parent show how declining states tend to behave, the policy options they have, how rising states respond to those in decline, and what conditions reward particular strategic choices.
Paul K. MacDonald is associate professor of political science at Wellesley College. He is author of Networks of Domination.
Joseph M. Parent is professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame. He is author of Uniting States and coauthor of American Conspiracy Theories.
A meaningful contribution to the debate about whether the decline of a great power is to be feared as a cause of war in the international system. Parent and McDonald took a big, important question and tried to find an answer by aggregating what we know about both great powers and their mid-level counterparts. It is not simply an interesting academic question; they make a very strong case that fighting preventive wars is self-defeating for declining powers.
A terrific contribution to the debate over the so-called Thucydides trap.... So much good data, smart analysis, and beautiful writing.
~War on the Rocks
Unique, convincing and important.
The operative concepts in this volume are power, security, and interests and nary a word about identity and all that non-rationalist stuff of politics... Twilight of the Titans is tightly written and organized, with a brief index and copious notes.
Paul MacDonald and Joseph Parent bring to book-length form a very sensible and persuasive argument that they have been making for some time. Great power decline is not necessarily dangerous or even destabilizing. Countries can pursue strategies of retrenchment, either of "self-help" by cutting back spending or rejuvenating their economy, or of external adjustment in paring back commitments or cementing new friendships. Such strategies, MacDonald and Parent argue, need not be destabilizing. The countries experiencing decline can regain strength and confidence.
~Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia, H-Net
[French language review]
MacDonald and Parent have crafted a thought-provoking contribution to the canon on great power behavior. [T]he authors' incrementalist and transitory understanding of retrenchment represents an important insight for policymakers.