I posted this review of Jim Bennett’s new book, The Anglosphere Challenge, on Amazon.
Janus-Faced Book Studies the Past to Illuminate the Future
James Bennett popularized the term “Anglosphere”, which refers to those communities which speak English and share in the cultural practices and institutions inherited from England, e.g. common law, parliamentary democracy, highly developed civil society, private rather than communal notions of property, entrepreneurial rather than state-led economic development, relative openness to innovation and to immigration. These characteristics have been developing in the English-speaking world for at least a millennium. Bennett draws on the work of Alan MacFarlane and David Hackett Fischer to demonstrate the uniqueness of the civilization which developed in England and which it passed on to its daughter polities, primarily the United States. This Anglosphere civilization has been the path-breaker for modernity, initiating modern democratic institutions and the industrial and subsequent economic revolutions. Note that Bennett does not offer this analysis in any spirit of triumphalism. This is not the old “Whig theory” of history, since Bennett correctly sees that these developments were the result of fortunate historical contingency. Bluntly, those of us who live in the Anglosphere are not better than anybody else, just luckier. Bennett predicts that the Anglosphere will continue to be the cutting edge civilization in terms of economic and political development. In particular, the existence of the Web has already created a unitary Anglophone economic and cultural space, which will develop further as the highest value-added products become increasingly information-intensive, placing a premium on linguistic and cultural commonalities. Bennett offers predictions concerning the institutional form that this new economic reality will call forth, which he labels a “network commonwealth”. Bennett believes that this future political form, and a dense and robust underlying civil society, present the best hope for coping with the hazards presented by emerging technology, and obtaining the benefits of that technology. Moreover, Bennett offers numerous, concrete policy proposals to further the development of this emerging Anglosphere network commonwealth, in the areas of trade, immigration, defense procurement and military cooperation. Bennett’s book is the result of years of reflection on these historical and contemporary issues. This short paragraph does not even scratch the surface of a book that has many novel insights and profound ideas, and which opens up numerous lines for further inquiry. Five stars is really not a sufficient rating. This is one of the three or four most important books I have read in recent years to understand the world we are living in, why it is the way it is, where we are going, and how we can create a future worth living in.