Recent Books

Dynamics Among Nations: The Evolution of Legitimacy and Development in Modern States (MIT PRESS 2014)
Liberal internationalism has been the West’s foreign policy agenda since the Cold War, and the West has long occupied the top rung of a hierarchical system. In this book, Hilton Root argues that the system of international relations, like other complex ecosystems, exists in a constantly shifting landscape in which hierarchical structures are giving way to systems of networked interdependence, changing every facet of global interaction. Accordingly, policymakers will need a new way to understand the process of change. Root suggests that the science of complex systems offers an analytical framework to explain the unforeseen development failures, governance trends, and alliance shifts in today’s global political economy.

Root examines both the networked systems that make up modern states and the larger, interdependent landscapes they share. Using systems analysis—in which institutional change and economic development are understood as self-organizing complexities—he offers an alternative view of institutional persistence. From this perspective, Root considers the divergence of East and West; the emergence of the European state, its contrast with the rise of China, and the network properties of their respective innovation systems; the trajectory of democracy in developing regions; and the systemic impact of China on the liberal world order. Complexity science, he argues, will not explain historical change processes with algorithmic precision, but it may offer explanations that match the messy richness of those processes.

Alliance Curse:
Hilton Root illustrates how misguided foreign aid policy can backfire, stunting rather than advancing political and economic development, and poisoning relations instead of capturing hearts and minds of foreign nationals.

Capital and Collusion:
HIlton Root explores the political incentives that either foster growth or steal nations’ growth prospects. He further examines the frontier between risk and uncertainty, analyzing the forces driving development in both developed and undeveloped regions and argues that institutions reduce everyday economic risks to levels low enough to make people receptive to opportunities for profit, stimulating developments in technology and science.

Root Wire

  • Hilton Root discusses diversities in global development

  • Is democracy in China’s future?

    US democracy arose in a federalist context; as part of a social contract it secured the consent of the states to join the union. Two other enduring democracies share this precondition: the Europe Union, whose leadership, determined by an electoral system, ensures rotation among equals; and the Indian republic formed in 1947, which faced similar […]Read More »
  • Will Globalization End American Exceptionalism: Ecological Perspective

    Throughout most of its history, the United States enjoyed the rare position of being a global player by choice. Until a generation or so ago, the U.S. could wish the world away. Then when it finally welcomed “connectivity,” engagement was on its terms. The young republic enjoyed three conditions unique in the history of state […]Read More »
  • On the structure of global networks and China

    Blog 2: (This is part 2 of a series addressing the main themes of my new book, Dynamics Among Nations, published by MIT Press). On the structure of global networks and China (This essay considers Paul Ormerod’s discussion of network effects and social choices in Positive Linking Paul shared his ideas with my […]Read More »
  • The Limits of Convergence

    The extremely impressive fiscal performance of the liberal regimes of North Western Europe, during the early modern period (1600-1800) did not inspire a continent-wide dynamic of convergence towards liberal forms of governance.Read More »