What If European History Repeats Itself?

Article excerpt

The Prosperity of Vice: A Worried View of Economics by Daniel Cohen. MIT Press. 216 pages. $27.95.

The globe's steepest risk this century is the emerging higher standards of living and material consumption throughout the developing world, argues French economist Daniel Cohen in The Prosperity of Vice. China, India, and other once-impoverished nations are assuming the lifestyles of Western countries, and the globe cannot possibly sustain it.

Cohen finds these socioeconomic trends all the more disconcerting in light of history. As Europe and North America's nation-states evolved, numerous social upheavals, wars, and occasional genocides took place--World War II and the 1990s disintegration of Yugoslavia being two extremely destructive examples.

The developing world is now copying Europe's historical emergence, but in the course of decades rather than centuries. The same social inequalities and ethnic or religious animosities that have plagued Europe also exist in the developing world, and could in turn give rise to more domestic, societal, and international violence. …