Age of Discovery; A Must Read to Understand Today’s World

By Peter Rosenstein - February 20, 2017 12:00 am

It was in October 2016 I was fortunate to meet Chris Kutarna, co-author of an incredible new book Age of Discovery. Chris wandered into the coffee shop in the District of Columbia where my morning coffee group meets every day. An eclectic group of D.C. denizens including a former Solicitor General in the Clinton Administration, two former congressmen, professors, environmentalists, foreign service officers, non-profit executives, congressional staffers, columnists, local politicos and a sprinkling of students either in law-school or political science and international government majors. We informally debate the news each morning and were all excited to hear Chris’s insights on the political situation around the world. This was about a month before the Presidential election and while we welcomed Chris we vehemently disagreed with his prediction Hillary Clinton would lose the election.

In his Time column he wrote “Though the epic presidential battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton may feel unique, these same personalities have clashed before. More than 500 years ago, the prophet Savonarola enthralled Renaissance Europe while Machiavelli, chief policy wonk of the age, scorned the showman’s demagoguery. Trump and Clinton are replaying those parts—and will leave similar marks on history.” While I don’t agree with his view suggesting “Trump is a prophet” I do agree with the final sentence of his column; “This election cycle has been full of surprises, but how history will remember its chief protagonists is already becoming clear. Trump’s legacy will be how he whipped up the tensions of his time. Clinton’s will be how she spent her life trying to make America stronger.” After November 8, 2016 my respect for Chris’s thoughts and insights increased dramatically. I now urge everyone I meet to read the book.

The Age of Discovery is an important book because it takes us on a tour of history through the lens of political scientists in an effort to explain what is happening in the world today. While not a scholar I can fully appreciate how the authors decided to frame their thoughts as the world facing a ‘new renaissance’ and how we must look at history to determine the risks we face today and determine how we will move forward in this difficult time.

Chris terms himself a political scientist. But what adds to the credibility of the book is both he and his co-author have real world experience. At times when reading the book one thinks of them as philosophers and historians. It is only one of those fields with a definitive realty and that is history. Even with history one can only be pretty certain of what has happened but not be sure of exactly what led to its happening or what direct impact it had on the future.

I am a political scientist who has used my knowledge in the field of public administration which to me includes both government and the non-profit sector. Age of Discovery is one of the few books written by political scientists which I found both enlightening and a compelling read. It manages to keep your interest page after page and leads you to turn everything you were so sure you understood over again in your mind and view it from a new angle. What you were sure you had the answer to doesn’t always seem so definitive after reading the book. While it may not change your mind it surely makes you think and that is more than enough to make this an important read.

Chris Kutarna is “a two-time Governor General’s Medallist, a Sauvé Fellow and Commonwealth Scholar, and a Fellow of the Oxford Martin School with a doctorate in Chinese politics from the University of Oxford. A former consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, then entrepreneur, Chris lived in China for several years, speaks Mandarin, and remains a regular op-ed contributor to one of China’s top-ranked news magazines. (He lived in Australia and New Zealand for several years, and still cannot surf.) Born on the Canadian Prairies, Chris is, rather incongruously, an avid and accomplished rower and rowing coach. He divides his time between Oxford, Beijing and Regina.” Chris is active on twitter @ChrisKutarna.

His co-author Ian Goldin is “Director of the Oxford Martin School and Professor of Globalisation and Development at the University of Oxford. He was Vice President of the World Bank and prior to that the Bank’s Director of Development Policy. From 1996 to 2001 he was Chief Executive and Managing Director of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, and also served as an advisor to President Nelson Mandela. He has been knighted by the French government and is an acclaimed author of 20 books.”

Together they have authored a book that every government official at all levels in the United States should read; especially those persons who have any intention of running for office in this ‘new renaissance’.


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