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Is the United States in decline – again?

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After a decade long period during which it was optimistically assumed that under conditions of unipolarity the United States was likely to reign supreme in world affairs for many decades to come, the mood, and with it the debate about the future of the US, has changed dramatically. Hubris has been overtaken by a new mood of intellectual pessimism; the idea of a new American century by the notion of a failing Empire. Though few may wish to call it such, there is no doubting the fact that a new‘decline debate’is now under way in the United States, one that will no doubt be as intense, if not more so, than the one occasioned by the publication in 1987 of Paul Kennedy's hugely influential The rise and fall of the Great Powers. In this article, the sources of the decline debate in the US are traced, as are how and why the debate disappeared following the collapse of the USSR, and why it has now returned to haunt the American landscape.

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