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Maxwell's Demon and the Golden Apple

Global Discord in the New Millennium

Randall L. Schweller

Publication Year: 2014

Just what exactly will follow the American century? This is the question Randall L. Schweller explores in his provocative assessment of international politics in the twenty-first century. Schweller considers the future of world politics, correlating our reliance on technology and our multitasking, distracted, disorganized lives with a fragmenting world order. He combines the Greek myth of the Golden Apple of Discord, which explains the start of the Trojan War, with a look at the second law of thermodynamics, or entropy. "In the coming age,” Schweller writes, “disorder will reign supreme as the world succumbs to entropy, an irreversible process of disorganization that governs the direction of all physical changes taking place in the universe.” Interweaving his theory of global disorder with issues on the world stage—coupled with a disquisition on board games and the cell phone app Angry Birds—Schweller’s thesis yields astonishing insights. Maxwell’s Demon and the Golden Apple will appeal to leaders of multinational corporations and government programs as well as instructors of undergraduate courses in international relations.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This is a book about how and why international politics is transforming from a system anchored for hundreds of years in enduring principles, which made it relatively constant and predictable, into something far more erratic, unsettled, and devoid of behavioral regularities. In the fall of 2009, I was asked by Justine...

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pp. xiii-xvi

My deepest thanks go to Daniel Drezner and Andrew Moravcsik for their immeasurably helpful advice and criticism on the initial proposal and later drafts of the manuscript. I am also indebted to Justine Rosenthal for her insightful suggestions and queries that were incorporated in the National Interest article, which...

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Introduction. Navigating the Chaos of Contemporary World Politics: Network versus No-work

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pp. 1-27

The world is undergoing transformation. We are entering the age of entropy, a chaotic period where most anything can happen and little can be predicted; where yesterday’s rule takers become tomorrow’s rule makers, but no one follows rules anymore; where competing global visions collide with each other...

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1. Understanding the Language of Energy: Why Entropy Does Not Herald Doomsday

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pp. 28-34

The story of entropy begins in Victorian Britain in the early 1850s, in the city of Glasgow, where academic and religious debates seethed against the backdrop of striking poverty, spectacular economic growth, and dramatic political upheaval. It is here that the University of Glasgow professor of natural philosophy...

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2. Entropy as Metaphor: Pattern Recognition, Time’s Arrow, and the Big Chill

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pp. 35-43

The use of entropy as a metaphor has much to offer, but it is not without problems. Entropy only applies to isolated (or closed) systems, and there are no observable isolated systems. The earth itself is part of the solar system, which receives energy from— and radiates it back out to the rest of— the universe. Only...

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3. The Multidimensions of Disorder: Thermodynamics and World Politics

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pp. 44-60

Presumably, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is valid always and everywhere. One might suppose, therefore, that it must have existed at the time of early civilizations; of the Roman Empire and the Han dynasty in China; and preceding the First World War, when the British Empire reigned over the globe...

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4. The Role of Emerging Powers in the Age of Entropy; or, What Happens When the Sheriff Leaves Town and Anonymous Moves In

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pp. 61-80

In the contemporary debate over the future of international politics, both Pessimists and Optimists expect unipolarity to give way to a multipolar system. Likewise, the age of entropy alternative expects concentrated power to diff use over time. Disagreement among the competing models is over the likely future...

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5. How Power Diffusion Works to a State’s Advantage: This Is Not Your Great-Grandfather’s Multipolar World

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pp. 81-93

In the coming years, world politics will be characterized by several global (or macro) level features that clearly distinguish the age of entropy from past epochs. First, we will see the emergence of an international system in which states do not have the capacities to shape and direct the system, much less to create...

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6. Rising Entropy at the Macro Level: The World Is Not Flat in Purgatory

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pp. 94-121

If the preceding description of the age of entropy were complete, there would be little reason for anxiety about the future. A world of perpetual peace— in which billions of citizens join the Great Power club and prestige can be enjoyed by all— sounds like a good place to live. The discussion to this point, however...

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7. Rising Entropy at the Micro Level: Information Overload and the Advent of Truthiness

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pp. 122-134

In the midst of information’s increased quantity and speed of transmission, modern people may feel, as psychologist and philosopher William James did in 1899, that an “irremediable flatness is coming over the world.” This is not to suggest that the world is becoming fl at in Thomas Friedman’s sense of greater...

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8. Maxwell’s Demon and Angry Birds: Big Data to the Rescue?

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pp. 135-160

If and when we reach a state of maximum entropy, much of international politics as we know it will have ended. It will be a world full of fierce international competition and corporate warfare but little traditional military balancing; information overload, boredom, apathy, low levels of attention and trust, and...


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pp. 161-190


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pp. 191-196

E-ISBN-13: 9781421412788
E-ISBN-10: 1421412780
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421412771
Print-ISBN-10: 1421412772

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 1 line drawing
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 875894743
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Maxwell's Demon and the Golden Apple

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Subject Headings

  • World politics -- 21st century -- Forecasting.
  • International relations -- Forecasting.
  • International organization -- Forecasting.
  • Twenty-first century -- Forecasts.
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