What Is America?: A Short History of the New World Order

From the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of A Short History of Progress comes another surprising, frightening and essential book.

The USA is now the world’s lone superpower, whose deeds could make or break this century. For better and worse, America has Americanized the world. How did a marginal frontier society, in a mere two centuries, become the de facto ruler of the world? Why do America’s great achievements in democracy, prosperity and civil rights now seem threatened by forces within itself?

Brimming with insight into history and human behaviour, and written in Wright’s captivating style, What Is America? shows how this came to pass; how the United States, which regards itself as the most modern country on earth, is also deeply archaic, a stronghold not only of religious fundamentalism but of “modern” beliefs in limitless progress and a universal mission that have fallen under suspicion elsewhere in the west, a rethinking driven by two World Wars and the reckless looting of our planet.

A fresh, passionate look at the past and future of the world’s most powerful nation, What Is America? will reframe the debate about our neighbour and ourselves.

From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews from Goodreads.com

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By Shannon (Giraffe Days) (Australia) · ★★★★★ · December 03, 2008
In this brilliant, insightful, revealing study British-born novelist, historian and essayist Ronald Wright (who participated in the 2004 CBC Massey Lectures series with A Short History of Progress) explains "how America is more truly American than we know: a uniquely vigorous and rapacious organi... ...more
By Banafsheh (Sydney, 02, Australia) · ★★☆☆☆ · April 07, 2009
How did America, transform from a frontier country to the lone super power in just over two centuries? How do America’s claims to be the most modern and democratic country in the world, stand up to scrutiny whilst Middle America – The Backwoods America – remains the stronghold for the religious r... ...more
By Bob (Al Ain, The United Arab Emirates) · ★★★★★ · November 07, 2008
Very interesting. The author's thesis is that the world today is a culmination of attitudes that are a result of the conquest of the Americas 500 years ago, that the 'goldrush' mentality has shaped history since then, but is on the verge of destroying it now.
There isn't much in here that is new.... ...more
By Shanna (Bedford, NS, Canada) · ★★★★☆ · February 19, 2015
At first, I felt a certain unease about a Canadian writing such an intimate and ultimately scathing review of America’s evolution. It seemed to fall too close to “other people” (metaphorically, of course, because this isn’t the case at all ) pointing out that my family is crazy. It’s true, it’s o... ...more
By Patrik (Antarctica) · ★★★★★ · December 28, 2013
I love this book -- even more than A Brief History of Progress. It's interesting that the trends that Wright identifies here have intensified under the current US President, and I look forward to a follow-up on that topic. ...more
By Richard (Lethbridge, AB, Canada) · ★★★★☆ · April 04, 2011
In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue......... Along with this little ditty we were given a narrative for the "founding" of the America's that has little to do with reality. Ronald Wright spends his time revealing the history of the America's, the impact of the Europe... ...more
By Renee (Wellington, New Zealand) · ★★★★☆ · September 08, 2009
In 'What is America?' Ronald Wright (one of the most under-rated contemporary non-fiction authors around IMHO) traces the development of what we now call 'America'. What sets Wright apart is his linking America's violent colonial past with its imperialistic present. Ronald Wright's view can be su... ...more
By H (Ancaster, ON, Canada) · ★★★★☆ · July 26, 2011
A good but not great book. His concept of a Colombian Age for the Europeans based on the influx of New World wealth and resources is well founded. Adopting the frontier thesis uncritically he posits a Roman type American Empire until the post WWII era from whence American foreign policy shifted t... ...more
By Marius (Canada) · ★★★★☆ · September 10, 2008
An excellent brief history, from an often not examined perspective, of the principles, patterns and attitudes that drive the world's dominant superpower. From this well written and concise examination it becomes clear that if we are to understand the direction that the world is going as America i... ...more
By Brian (Valrico, FL) · ★★★★☆ · December 14, 2008
This is a very well-defended, brief history of the Columbian Age in human history. Granted Wright argues from a progressive point of view, what I like most about his book is the bibliography. He uses books from a wide-range of fiction and non-fiction authors throughout the 20th century.

In the ech... ...more