This ambitious, concise book makes the critical argument that the world is exhibiting many of the signs of terminal illness that have preceded the collapse of nation-states, empires, and civilizations. Along the way, Cohn examines an impressive and eclectic range of heterogenous social phenomena—state collapse in Somalia, the rise of drug cartels in Colombia, and the decline of corporate taxation in the United States—and historical episodes (in Roman Palestine, Byzantium, and the French Revolution). The book will inevitably draw comparisons with other recent classics about the decay of “democracy” or the decline of great powers.1

The book’s structure is as unconventional as it is engaging. Cohn prefers chapter sizes of three to five pages; each of his fifty-seven short chapters offers a historical anecdote, analytical observation/assertion, or related research finding. In the final third of the book, the previous elements are combined into a twelve-point circular diagram that reveals...

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