Headshot of Alexander Cooley


On September 1, 2022, Alexander Cooley, Claire Tow Professor of Political Science, published a book review for "All Societies Die: How to Keep Hope Alive" by Samuel Cohn in The Journal of Interdisciplinary History. The work, which is part of a larger body of scholarship on the decay of “democracy” or the decline of great powers, argues that the world is exhibiting many of the signs of terminal illness that have preceded the collapse of nation-states, empires, and civilizations.

In his review, Professor Cooley notes that Cohn covers an “impressive and eclectic range of heterogeneous 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 identifies four primary triggers that initiate the cycle of institutional degradation, fiscal erosion, corruption, delegitimization, violence, and collapse: environmental degradation, landlessness, long-wave economic decline, and a downturn in female status. Each of its fifty-seven short chapters offers a historical anecdote, analytical observation/assertion, or related research finding, which culminate into a twelve-point circular diagram that is the main focus of the final third of the book.