BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Professor Paul Kennedy, author of “Preparing for the Twenty-first Century”, you dedicate this book "to the Hamden under-15 boys soccer team from their coach." What was behind that?
PAUL KENNEDY, AUTHOR, "PREPARING FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY" First of all, it's probably the only sort of international work of scholarship which got dedicated to a boys soccer team. Secondly, in writing this book, which is a very complex one, I felt a need for therapy and I have to say that getting away from my writing and getting away from teaching at Yale and going and working with these young men, I've been coaching them since they were 10 years old now , is just a wonderful relief. You come back relaxed, and you get on with thinking through your books. I also, I guess, because this was about the 21st century and about large problems bearing down on our global society, this is the generation which may have to be dealing with them, those who are 14 and 15 and 16 years right now.
LAMB: Any of them your own kids?
KENNEDY: One of them, yes, of course. Most soccer coaches have their sons somewhere in the team. That's how you get dragged in.
LAMB: I don't know whether you do this. but it struck me when I read that it might be interesting to try to get you to tell us, based on your research, if you were 15 years old and you had to pick a place in the world to live where you're going to be in the year 2025 that you write about, where would you go? What would you tell them?
KENNEDY: Well, let's first of all admit that in looking to the future we are likely to get things wrong. There's a whole set of scholarships going all the way back to 18th, 17th century people prognosticating the future, and they couldn't see something which would turn their forecasts around. However, if I follow the argument of my own book that you would want to be in a society which is very adaptive, has high levels of skills and education among its population, is flexible because forces for change are going to change jobs and assumptions, I guess I probably would plumb for somewhere like Switzerland. You see, nice and protected, no where near migratory floods, high levels of skills, adaptive technology, large-scale resources. So, let's go for Switzerland.
LAMB: Are there about 6 million people in Switzerland?
LAMB: Can you get in?
KENNEDY: Then, of course, there is a problem. Can you get in? Probably, if you had sufficient capital resources to allow the Swiss to accept you as an honorary citizen. This is a big problem. There will be people -- there are right now -- millions of people trying to get from a disadvantaged part of the globe to somewhere else. Are those who are in the advantaged richer societies wanting to let them in? I've just come back from Europe where the mood there of pessimism, of unease, of sort of right-wing almost protofascist rise against immigrants, apprehension about the future, suggests it would be difficult to get in.
LAMB: Where would you go where you'd have the best living conditions?
KENNEDY: Again, you see, I have to argue here that all of these forecasts are going to be probably subject to change and that some societies which, I believe, are preparing themselves for the 21st century in a systemic way, may do very well in the internal preparation, but the global forces for change from global warming to perhaps a rise of new superpowers like China, might mean you've done well internally, as, say, Japan is trying to do, but you're still going to be affected from outside. So you'd not have to place too much money on there being a safe hole for you to go and end up in 25 years time.
LAMB: How about this country?
KENNEDY: This country has a tremendous mixture of strengths and weaknesses. In the second part of this book where I switch away from analyzing the global trends to saying what do they mean for Japan, for China and India, for Europe, when I come to saying what does it mean for the United States, as I do with the other chapters, I say what are the country's strengths and what are the weaknesses? I think much will depend on individual companies and firms. They can adjust and adapt very flexibly. Whether our overall American society is well prepared for the 21st century is much more questionable. I reach a conclusion it's probably going to muddle through not full disastrously as poor African societies will, but unless we think of really significant structures and skills and education, the nature of our work force, we might be less advantaged than some European countries.
LAMB: Where were you raised?
KENNEDY: I was born at the very end of the Second World War in the northeast of England, a working-class family. Father, shipyard, shipbuilding tradition. Mother's family Durham coal miners. Intense Irish Catholic background. Local Irish grammar school, local university -- first in the generation ever to go to university. Intended to go off and be a race horsing correspondent. When I finished my degree, I had that job and I ended up going to Oxford to do my Ph.D. and became an egghead instead.
LAMB: In those early days, what started to focus your attention? Who might also have focused your attention?
KENNEDY: I'm sure you've asked this of many people, and how many would reply to you it was a school teacher? It was somebody who, you know, I was just beginning to think about concepts, about ideas. We will answer usually we're about 15 or 16, and this particular teacher begins to stimulate you. And this was the case with me. This was a Catholic priest who had been educated at Cambridge. He was my history teacher, Father Dennis Anderson. I dedicated one of my books to him many years ago. He's still alive. He got me thinking about history and global trends and different periods and how individuals act on this stage but great forces act across the same stage, and I didn't turn back.
LAMB: Was there a time when you realized in your school work that you had some talent for education and you could learn and you could do well on tests and things like that?
KENNEDY: Not all that well. I was a late developer. You know, I was in a class. There was no elite class. It was the Catholic high school for the whole of Northumberland and Durham, and therefore we were, I guess, the top 2 percent, but within that top 2 percent in the classes of 30 to 35 boys, I guess I was coming in at number 28 or 31 for a while. It was only after I was 16 or 17 that I began to be stimulated by ideas. You know, I was in a class with middle class children, children of doctors and lawyers, and they traveled, they were stimulated. Living in a rowhouse next to the shipyard meant that the stimulus was not coming until you started interacting with your teachers.
LAMB: How did you get to Oxford?
KENNEDY: Well I went first to my local university, University of Newcastle- Upon-Tyne. That's the traditional route for Scottish and north country, especially ex-working-class boys, and there I found another great teacher at the University of Newcastle. Female, interested in European history and world history. Taught me in a number of classes. As I said, I was also in this dual track of being interested in horse racing. I worked in my summers and my weekends for a bookmaker in the north of England to get my pocket money, and so after a while I knew everything about horse racing in England. Did some articles for the Sporting Chronicle at the age of 20, 21, and had this job as a racing correspondent. Except I then did my final examinations at the University of Newcastle, and to the surprise of my professors, I guess, I got a very good first-class degree, the first which had been offered by the History Department in about 11 years. So the professors turned around and said, "You cannot go off and be a racing correspondent. You should go on and do a Ph.D." The next month, in a bewildered state, I entered Oxford University.
LAMB: By the way, is there a lot of betting in Great Britain on horse racing?
KENNEDY: This is much more north country that is working class and also, of course, Irish immigrant. You know, when I grew up in my parish on Tyne side in the north of England and my father would take me to get me out of my mother's hair to, say, the Saturday afternoon races at Newcastle, Upon-Tyne, I would see the canon and the monsignor and the parish priest and all of the curates because these were all Irish priests who were coming over to the northeast of England to work in the industrial parishes, but that interest in horse racing, interest in horse flesh was almost endemic.
LAMB: What is "Tyne" by the way, when you say "Newcastle-Upon-Tyne"?
KENNEDY: The River Tyne, which flows out into the North Sea. This is this industrial shipbuilding, coal-exporting region in which I grew up.
LAMB: How far would that be from London?
KENNEDY: That's about 260 miles straight north from London. We're just south of the Scottish border.
LAMB: How long ago did you first leave that country to look at the rest of the world?
KENNEDY: It was when I finished my first degree. Going down to Oxford, I think, was the furthest south I had been. I arrived there as, of course, many Americans and foreigners arrive at Oxford, in this culturally bewildered state because it was the south of England. The Oxford accents, the different class and cultural distinctions were as dramatic for me as if I had come from Finland or Australia.
LAMB: How about international travel?
KENNEDY: Then it developed because my degree at Oxford, my D. Phil. which is what we call the Ph.D. there . . .
LAMB: Doctor of Philosophy?
KENNEDY: Yes. Was one which involved research in a whole number of national archives in Germany, in Austria, in this country. I first came to the U.S. in 1967 to work in Washington in the National Archives and in Boston and elsewhere.
LAMB: What did you do at the National Archive?
KENNEDY: I was working on a dissertation on imperial scrambles for the islands in the Pacific in the 19th century. I had actually gone down to Oxford to work on imperialism in Africa and discovered that that had become such a hot topic in the '60s that almost every bit of Africa had been carved up by a Ph.D. student to do for themselves, so I turned and did imperialism in the Pacific.
LAMB: When did you come to Yale?
KENNEDY: I got my Doctorate in Philosophy in 1970, then went to a new university, the University of East Anglia, which is near Cambridge in the eastern part of England. Went up the process of promotion, and in 1983, after a very happy time there, I accepted an offer to move to Yale to take a new chair in international and diplomatic history.
LAMB: Do you teach students?
KENNEDY: Yes, indeed.
LAMB: How often?
KENNEDY: Well, the rule among the History Department, which is the hardest-working because we teach the most, is that you have to do at least 50 percent undergraduate teaching, you can do more but you cannot do less, and then 50 percent graduate teaching and advising, and I have a post-doctoral program to run as well.
LAMB: In 1983 along came -- I've got the paperback version here of this book, which is called “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.” Is it still selling, by the way?
KENNEDY: Still selling and curiously something I've learned from my publisher, an echo effect when a new book comes out because the new book says this is by the author of “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.” It produces a blip in the sales of the previous book.
LAMB: Do you know how many hardback versions of that book sold?
KENNEDY: You mean in this country or globally?
KENNEDY: Oh, in this country I think the hardback went over a quarter of a million. It's hard to tell because of book club sales, which are not counted in your royalty statements and sales statements. Internationally, I don't know, the Japanese sold 600,000 in the first year. The Chinese have three rival editions of it. They don't subscribe to international copyright, so anybody can translate it and sell it. Perhaps 2 million.
LAMB: Why? Why did it sell?
KENNEDY: It's partly to do with coincidence. It came out at the very beginning of the presidential election year of 1988. It was when people were debating the eight years of Reaganism.
Although it's a 500-year historical survey about the rise and fall of the great powers, it makes the argument that great powers run the risk of declining if they spend overmuch on their military and neglect their domestic base. And in 1987, 1988, it seemed to me both the Soviet Union and to a certain extent the United States were running precisely that risk. It was picked up by the press at the beginning of the year. It was announced as a sleeper best seller by David Broder and Morton Kondracke and the other gurus who tell you what you have to read, and it got swept up into the electoral campaign. Various contenders waving it around. It didn't do them much good, but they tried to make use of it. It, therefore, got criticized by the Republicans, and the more it got criticized the more it sold.
So, in this country, it clearly had something to do with the coincidence, not the intention, the coincidence of coming out in the election year. Internationally, I think among intelligent, middle-class readership in Germany and Japan and elsewhere, there's a very great hunger for works of general history, of comparative history, so that they responded in their own way, and there was also a European fascination about is the United States going to solve its problems? Is it in relative decline? Is Japan rising to take it up? That's why it sold 600,000 copies in Japan.
LAMB: Let me ask you about that. There are 250 million people here in this country, 125 million in Japan roughly. You say it sold 600,000 hardback in Japan and only 250,000 hardback here. "Only." That's a lot. I mean, if you figure the numbers out, it's tremendously more sales in Japan.
KENNEDY: I don't have the figures ready, but I know that there are some societies, Japan, Italy, the Netherlands, where the number of books purchased each year by the average citizen is significantly higher than in this country. It would be wonderful to do a program on that. But I know that the figure of the number of books that the average Italian buys or the average Japanese is quite a lot higher. So you have to factor in perhaps different cultural considerations and maybe less reliance upon television, more reliance upon the printed word and a deeper commitment by a book-buying public.
LAMB: I'm going to get to your current book, but I still want to go back to this one and ask you how you started on this one. Where did you get the germ of the idea?
KENNEDY: I did a book about 15 years ago with a title somewhat similar to that. It's called “The Rise And Fall Of British Naval Mastery “because I had done a lot of naval history. What it is a 400-year sweep of how Great Britain rises from the first Elizabeth in the Tudor times to become the world's preeminent naval power, and then in the 20th century loses that naval mastery or that naval preeminence.
What I did was to connect the naval rise and fall with its relative economic rise and fall that the underpinnings of, say, the Pax Britannica were the Industrial Revolution, that the rise of Britain in the 17th century was due to the rise of trade and finance just as the fall of Britain was connected to its being relatively overtaken by other more productive powers. Now I left that aside. It came out in 1976 and did quite well as an academic book.
Left it aside, but in the back of my mind I've always had the question, if it's true that Great Britain's rise and fall over time was affected by its relative economic efficiency, does that explain the rise and fall of Spain? Does that explain the rise and fall of France, of imperial Germany? Does that explain what's happening in the world today with the United States and the Soviet Union on the one hand and Japan rising very swiftly economically on the other? And so in 1980 I sat down and began the six or seven years of writing and research which led to this coming out at the very beginning of 1988.
LAMB: Go back again, though, to why this book became a big success. By the way, how did it change your life?
KENNEDY: It made me much more tired. It made me -- oh, simple things, like a profound hatred of the telephone because you could no longer have the phone ring at your breakfast time and assume it was a friend or a colleague or another soccer coach calling you up. It could be somebody from Dutch television. It could be a Japanese newspaper. It could be a crank. It could be somebody who disliked what he heard about you because you had said America was in relative decline. Your mail explodes to the factor of 10, 20, 30. I could no longer use the secretarial facilities of the History Department at Yale. It's difficult to go many places without people stopping you and getting in a conversation with you -- sometimes nice, sometimes less nice. You become a public figure in the way that most academics don't, and we're not well trained to be public figures. It made me immeasurably richer because the sales were just far beyond expectations, and they continue to pour in from all of the foreign editions. I think there are 23 different foreign translations or something like that.
LAMB: But if you go back again to the genesis of all this, did you know going into it that you had a hot number?
KENNEDY: No I didn't. I think one or two who read it felt that this was a possibility, and the Atlantic Monthly serialized two parts of the final chapter in the August, October and November issues of 1987. That was generating a lot of interest then. So they had some sense of it. But I have to keep pinching myself with the memory that the first print run was 7,000 copies, and I thought that was large because I was only use to academic book print runs. Of course, when it came out it, just because of the political commentary, because of the recommendations by Broder and Kondracke and others, it just exploded. I can remember one time in February of 1988 where we were 65,000 or 85,000 copies short of the demand.
LAMB: You mentioned David Broder, Morton Kondracke and the Atlantic Monthly and all that. Can you go back as you review why this became a hit, at what moment did it just change dramatically for you? When did you all of a sudden say to yourself, something is going on here?
KENNEDY: It was, I guess, the middle weeks of January when Broder had written his column, Kondracke his. They also used something which would be interesting to bibliophiles. They somehow got the same phrase or the same sentence, "If Alan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind was the sleeper bestseller of 1987, we predict that Kennedy's Rise and Fall of the Great Powers will be the sleeper bestseller of 1988." Now, that appeared in about three places at once and Kondracke repeated it on some Sunday morning television show and the next week a large full-page, front page and then successive two pages big review in the New York Times book review. I think that combination together was enough to fuel the interest. Then the phones started ringing. Could I go on CBS Morning Edition, could I go on MacNeil-Lehrer, could I do this, could I do that?
Then as certain Republicans began to feel that this might be used against them, Jeane Kirkpatrick for example or Mr. Weinberger -- they began to criticize the book. Of course, the more they criticized, the more delighted my publisher at Random House, Jason Epstein, was because he knows that nothing sells books faster than controversy. Now, I hadn't expected this, and this really knocked me off my feet. It took me some while to recover. By the middle of February 1988 my wife on a few times found me sleepwalking in the middle of the night. I've never sleepwalked in my life. She found me crawling over the furniture muttering to myself because the pressures were just so intense.
LAMB: Would you do it again?
KENNEDY: Nope. Since then it's been very difficult to readjust. You try to normalize yourself. You now find ways of protecting yourself, and I have to say that the resources which flow in from the royalties allow you to put certain barriers to try to give you free time to get yourself a small cottage a little away which doesn't have a telephone or fax so I can't be got at so I can do my quiet writing and grading essays, etc. But, it is a transformation I had not expected and which took a lot out of me in a sort of physical sense.
LAMB: Do your other professor colleagues treat you differently?
KENNEDY: No. I have just a wonderful array of colleagues at Yale. I'm sure it's one of the best, if not the best, history department in the country. We have a number of people, David Davis, Vann Woodward, Jonathan Spence, a great China expert, who, you know, have Pulitzer prizes and know at least some of this, and they just were delighted at what was happening and it's still a wonderful warm place to be.
LAMB: Do your students treat you any differently?
KENNEDY: I don't think so. The students are just fabulous. I better not say this openly, but, you know, I would teach at Yale if they didn't pay me. The students are just a stunning stimulus, the undergraduates, and then I have just the best cohort of graduate students I've ever had in my life.
LAMB: Then we go through that process and that lasted, what, all through '88?
KENNEDY: All through '88 going into '89. When the foreign editions were coming out, then you'd have a sort of small replay of what was happening once again as you, you know, had to go to different countries to be interviewed, to talk, to respond, to debate.
LAMB: We've got “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” by Paul Kennedy and then we have this book, and that's the reason why we have you here today. It's a hard-back, it's new, and you reference that right here on the cover. This is “Preparing for the Twenty-first Century.” You say you wouldn't do the other one over again. Why did you do this one?
KENNEDY: I got provoked. I tried to explain this in the foreword. I don't know how many people on your program would say, the idea for this book came from this or came from that. I think sometimes they come down in our subconscious and years later you decide you've got a theme. But in this case, right in the middle of the controversy and debates over Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, I was asked to talk to a large meeting of chiefly economists at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
In that evening while it was debated, one economist got up -- brave man I don't know who he is, but he got up and he said, "I don't understand why such a fuss is being made of this book. It's actually very traditional. It's about great powers, it's about diplomacy, it's about wars, a sort of traditional history. Why didn't Professor Kennedy use his energies to look at things which are much more important for broad long-term world history?
Transnational forces for change like shifts in the demographic balances, the environmental damage we are doing to our planet, new technologies which make certain ways of producing things or growing things redundant, globalization?" That person was then turned on by his fellow academics who wanted to debate “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” and tried to push his point to one side.
But for some reason I went away from that meeting and his remark had lodged itself in the back of my brain, and months later when things were beginning to die down a bit, I was starting to notice some of the topics he had referred to -- the robotization of the factory and the implications for the long term of automation; the globalization of 24-hour-a-day trading in dollars, in currencies, in General Motors stock; the possibilities of global warming. I began to start collecting data on that, to start filing it away, and after a while beginning to see some of the interconnections here and getting intrigued enough that I went back to Jason Epstein and said, "Look, I know I'm a historian, but I've got these bees going around in my bonnet now. I want to write this out."
LAMB: Paul Kennedy, give us a kind of brief outline of the ingredients that went into this book?
KENNEDY: It's quite a complex work. The first part of “Preparing for the Twenty-first Century” is identifying and describing what I call the forces for global change, which are affecting rich and poor societies alike, bearing down on our planet. I'll go into them in just a minute, but after I describe and analyze those forces, I then move on to say, what might they mean for different parts of the world? So, I then have a look at Japan's readiness or preparedness for the 21st century or China and India or the Third World or Europe or the U.S.
Then there's a final reflective chapter which says, is there anything that we can do about this? Are there things that we should be considering in order to prepare ourselves internally and in a more global sense to deal with these major trends? The major trends -- you might have a different list, but I suggested that it was the global population explosion taking placed primarily in the poorer countries in the world with all sorts of repercussions coming out of that, the globalization of world finance and communications and the rise of the truly multinational corporation. That's taking place on one side of the globe, while the population explosion is taking place on the other.
And then there are two new cutting-edge technologies which I believe are going to give us longer term challenges. One is the coming of totally robotized assembly and manufacturing plants, chiefly in Japan, which means that perhaps the 200-year span of expecting that human beings work in a factory alongside machines may be coming to an end. A second are these extraordinary breakthroughs in genetic engineering as applied to foodstuffs and to agriculture -- the biotech revolution which is enhancing food output on the one hand, but it's also leading to the production of artificial equivalents -- artificial sugar, artificial vanilla -- to replace foodstuffs which are traditionally grown in the field and, therefore, given another 20 or 30 years, may put a question mark over agriculture as we know it.
The fifth one is the impact all of our economic activities, whether in richer countries or poorer countries, are having upon the global environment, not just the local environment, but upon the global environment with the process of the greenhouse effect and global warming. I conclude by reflecting that each of these broad forces for change, which seem transnational by nature and which move across boundaries, may be calling into question the nation state as we traditionally know it.
The nation state, an invention of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, is good when you're dealing with challenges from other nation states. But if you're dealing with atmospheric drift or 24-hour-a-day trading of your currency while you are fast asleep and your currency is being traded in Singapore and Tokyo or technologies make redundant what you have taken for granted as a form of manufacture, is your nation state going to be able to cope with that?
LAMB: Earlier you said if you were going to advise those 15-year-old soccer players where to go live and have the best life, it might be Switzerland. Which of all of the countries you covered were the most interesting to research and write about?
KENNEDY: I would think India and China, especially in putting the two together because it gives you some sense of both contrast and comparison and that's something that certain historians really enjoy doing. You get two case studies and you see where they are different and where they are similar. It's important because India and China taken together constitute about 38 percent of our total world population. So, if they manage to do well in preparing for the 21st century, that has very significant different repercussions from an India and China which don't do well, which, say, collapse into anarchy, malnutrition, over-population or have unstable regimes at their head which perhaps throw their weight around. Unlike the Zaires or the Somalias of the world, India and China are nascent great powers, although they have developing world difficulties in heading off the population explosion. If they can meet that challenge, they will go into the 21st century in a very different condition.
LAMB: As you write about China, which is not a democracy and India is, will it make a difference heading into the 21st century that you're a democracy or not?
KENNEDY: I'm not sure of that because in another chapter I look at the remarkable differences which have taken place between on the one hand the smaller states of East Asia, and on the other hand, say, the states of West Africa. In the 1950s both of them had relatively the same standards of living, and yet now, of course, Korea and Taiwan are very, very different from the condition of West Africa. But, while there are many reasons to explain the success of Korea and Taiwan, democracy is not one of them. They were actually strong states with fairly autocratic regimes.
So you can have sustained economic growth leading to social success, and later on you get the reward of democracy. That's how these governments portray it, but democracy was not necessarily the recipe which got them going. In the same way, India has democracy but because of all of the tribal and ethnic and regional differences, it's a weak state and India cannot get to grips with its population explosion and finds it difficult to handle its internal rifts between, say, Muslims and Hindu. China is not a democracy, but it is a relative strong state and has been able to deal with some of its internal challenges more effectively and to see better long-term growth in the coastal provinces than anywhere in India.
LAMB: In your introduction you talk about the people that helped you go to the different areas that you've just discussed, like biotechnology and things like that. How did you do that? How did you gather the information on global warming and robotics and biotechnology and stuff like that?
KENNEDY: I suppose I've had a record of trying to imbibe large amounts of information and to distill them and to present them out. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers was, I think, my 11th book, and the difference here was that it was less historical materials but contemporary scientific, statistical world health data, environmental data. I attempted to swallow and imbibe as much of that as possible but after a while realized that I needed, for the first time in writing a book, a group of research assistants who could actually go and bring in the raw materials.
Now, one of the wonders of modern library science is that you can go into a major research library like Yale and go to the computer and hit a couple of key words, like "the future" and "robotics," and you hit those two and that will do an extraordinary literature search through, say, 20,000 journals and, therefore, Lord knows how many tens of thousands of articles, and wherever the future of robotics appears in an Australian journal, in a Japanese journal, and this, that and the other, it will then produce a print-out. So, you have, if you like, a wondrous way of extracting the lists of the various analyses which are being done on a problem you're interested in.
LAMB: How did you pick Tony Cahill and Gary Miller and Sameta Agar and also David Stowe and I'm probably leaving somebody out? How did you find people to help you on this?
KENNEDY: I used them in the summertime when they would be available for research purposes and mixing it with their own work. Recommendations of my colleagues. Tony Cahill had just done one of our wonderful undergraduate degrees called Studies in the Environment at Yale and had just finished as a senior, and, therefore, it was clear that he was the person who would be best equipped to help me in the literature search and the understanding of this tremendously complicated subject of global warming, and the environmental processes. Sameta Agar is an extremely good graduate student who comes from Kashmir, and, therefore, in dealing with what's happening in India, what's happening in the Muslim world, Sameta had much more sensitive ways of approaching that than a traditional historian like myself. So use these resources as intelligently as you can. At the end, admit that the book is yours and they are not to blame and shouldn't be shot at for, you know, all of the criticism which will flow in for having done anything as bold as this.
LAMB: You're going to think I'm nitpicking, but I just want to ask you this because I just came across it. You sign off on this book from Hamden, Connecticut, in May 1992. When I was looking back here through the notes and all, I came across an article that you referenced that was from July 1992. I'm not trying to trick you. When you sit down to write the introduction and tell everybody what's in it, when did you really finish the book?
KENNEDY: You don't finish it even when you've sent off a completed revised manuscript, and this was the third version of the manuscript. Even when that went off in May 1992 to my formidable editor, Jason Epstein, it goes through a process of copyediting by a very, very skilled copy editor, who will be double-checking the smallest detail. Do you have capital "H" for history on page 29, but small "H" for history on page 200? And then there are a lot of queries which come back. In the meantime, you'll notice there's a new article come out on this or that pertinent subject. It will go back after copyediting and you've answered those queries into page proofs.
When the page proofs come, that is absolutely the last time you can make amendments, and that is more like August to September 1992. So at that final stage, you might just be able to insert something. For example, the debate in Europe over the future of European unity had gone drastically sour in the course of a couple of months. Being able, at the last moment, to get in the Danish referendum against Maastricht. The very, very narrow and grudging French referendum vote, you recall it, 51 for and 49 against, was something you could do just briefly then in August and that was the last chance. Anything which happens after that, no good. You're deep frozen in what you've said then.
LAMB: How did you organize the writing of it? In other words, you had all of your researchers. Did you all sit around and talk about it?
KENNEDY: We would come in and talk about it. We'd have collective meetings because, I mean, I had the overall idea here, but I was asking some of them if they could help me by getting me to understand better the way the robotics industry was moving and global robotics were going. It was clear that robotics is an important thing in itself, but we wanted to interconnect it with, say, the global labor market and the global labor market interconnecting with global population, so we had to sort of roundtable this to some extent so we would see the interconnections. Global population explosion done by David Stowe in getting the basic data was clearly having its impact, as we all know, upon the global environment -- the pressures of billions of peasants upon the forests and the woodlands of Africa and Central America and India. So you cannot really separate these strands, and it was unwise for us to think of doing it.
LAMB: If we found you in the middle of writing, where would we find you? What would be around you? How do you physically put this all together? What time of day do you write?
KENNEDY: Ideally I like to start in the morning and in a vacation time I can do that. If you're teaching at Yale and administering, and I run something called the International Security Program and I have a post-doctoral program as well as many graduate students, I might not be able to get much done until coming home at the end of the day or if I have a free week day morning near the weekend.
I would start about a third of the way through the process. I don't know how other authors do it, but I find I'm reading into this topic, I'm beginning to get the ideas, and they're beginning to tumble around in my head like clothes in a tumbler dryer. Now I don't want to go reading and reading and reading until I got it perfectly. At a certain stage I want to get some of the ideas out of the tumbler dryer and put them down on paper, begin to draft and begin to add to that, to understand how some of the later literatures amend some of the earlier literature.
Very early on in this process of drafting I'm happy to start showing people. There are some authors who are very, very private and very intense and they will write it and research it and then hardly anybody will see it before they send it off to an editor to comment on. I much prefer to have it circulated to friends, to experts, to colleagues, to one or two people who have read for me over the past few years, just from a viewpoint of the general reader, somebody who is a long-standing book editor for the London Economist, a former professor of mine. They would all come back sometimes with detailed comments, regional experts, Jonathan Spence commenting upon my China chapter, just to make sure I'm not getting things too terribly wrong. So I get the feedback and then I would be getting more information and amending and altering. This is a long process, and you're snipping and chipping and turning it around.
LAMB: Do you type?
KENNEDY: I actually still go back to longhand and legal pad. In many respects I might want to get away from something like obviously going on the computer, going on the PC. Just want to be very quiet with a set of materials and a little cottage and just concentrate on what is there.
LAMB: You mention in your introduction that Jason Epstein, the Random House editor of yours, is the literary equivalent of Marine Corps boot camp. What did you mean by that?
KENNEDY: Jason was my editor for “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” as well, and I was rather amazed when I was sending him drafts of the chapters of that book that he would haul me into Manhattan and take me through for hours and hours in a line-by-line editing. You know, saying, "What do you mean by that. Who is he? This is repetitive?" I used to roll away as if I had been in a prolonged Oxford tutorial where your tutor had torn you to pieces.
So I think I was prepared for it a second time around, and, boy, he did it a second time around. But he also did something else which I think few editors do. When the first drafts of those early chapters on robotics or global warming or population explosion, were, although I said we tried to put them together and interconnect them, they were, I can see in retrospect rather discrete. They were separate. It was Jason who said, "Look, you've got to not only rewrite this in terms of syntax and improving the style, but you have to make much more of the interconnectedness of all of these chapters." And so he would push me to go back to the drawing board, to thinking it through, to redrafting. I spent an entire year on the redraft, and then he sent it back for the second time saying, "
The Part 1 chapters now look much better connected, but your Part 2 chapters where you ask what is the implication for Japan, what's the implication for Europe, I still don't think you've got it right. You're not connecting the Japan chapter with the parts that you deal with in Part 1. So go back and reconnect it."
LAMB: Did you write the chapters here as we see them consecutively?
LAMB: So, if the China-India chapter came in this book where we see it, you wrote it then and then the next chapter on Russia?
KENNEDY: Yes I did. I deliberately kept the Europe chapter and the U.S. chapter to the end of those regional studies. Japan was relatively easy to get into because of the way in which the Japanese are, to at least a certain degree, thinking about the 21st century and planning to position themselves for the 21st century. Other societies in Europe, the complication is that you're looking at this process of 24 states perhaps slowly trying to come together politically, which is a task enough indeed, at the same time as they have to deal with the broad forces for change covered in Part 1.
LAMB: Did you change your mind on anything major?
KENNEDY: Yes, and it relates to the final chapter. The final chapter is a separate part and it has the same title as the book as a whole, “Preparing for the Twenty-first Century.” What happened was I felt I had written myself out. By the time I had rewritten and redone my analysis of all of the forces for change, which is quite overwhelming to read at first encounter, and after I had done the second part where I asked myself what are the implications for those forces of change upon different societies, poor developing countries, sophisticated European countries, I took a quite long break. I couldn't really think of how I was going to conclude this. I'm now beginning to see, to recognize that symptom of myself two years ago in some of the early responses to this book, which has been out a couple of weeks now, because there are a number of immediate, almost knee-jerk responses when you read this. One is, don't worry, an inventor of capitalism will get you out of it. We've had these doomsters in the past, we've had these awful scenarios. Malthus was proven wrong. Just wait and things will turn up. That's one sort of response if you like the Wall Street Journal response.
We don't need to worry; capitalism and inventiveness will solve it. The second response is, oh, my goodness, this vortex of problems which Kennedy describes are so overwhelming and oppressive that really what I want to do is to crawl into a hole with a case of claret and just let the end of the world come. So there's a response which is saying despair. The third response, probably coming from the more extreme environmentalists, is to say we recognize these big problems of global warming and environmental damage and population doubling. We've been telling you about them for ages. But what you have to do is to abandon industrialization. You've got to get rid of the motor car. You've got to go on your bike. You go back to the age of candlelight. In other words, they're asking for an almost utopian response to the population and demographic pressure.
Now, when I finished I wasn't sure, you know, what to say, so I held off for a number of months. Then I realized that actually none of those responses was really terribly clever. That inventive capitalism will solve it doesn't seem the answer for 85 percent of the globe who are not in this inventive capitalist system. Digging a hole in the ground is not terribly good for my 15-year-old boys soccer team if you want to help them in the early 21st century. And an extreme environmentalist response of saying get rid of industrialization doesn't have much chance, especially in a society like this where even President Clinton couldn't get an extra 10 cents tax on petroleum.
So you come to what is much more the European attitude, the attitude of the Scandinavians and the Dutch and others, which is, there are a number of measures in improving north-south relations, in increasing development aid, in looking for sustainable technologies, in mass producing solar ovens for women in East Africa and India so they can cook without depleting their surrounding forests, in trying to produce cheap and accessible contraceptives to married women in developing countries who wish to have access to them -- not forcing it on them, but who wish to have access to them -- in reeducating our own populations to think globally, in understanding that we are in this human spaceship together. None of these are guaranteed to solve the problems. Some of them may look wishy-washy, which I think was what Newsweek described this final chapter as being. And yet if you look at the alternatives, the three other responses, you have to say they don't seem adequate. A modest set of reforms going forward trying to convince our political leaderships and our publics that we have to do this is the only sensible moral way in which we can attend to preparing for the 21st century.
LAMB: After your success of “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” and after your experience that we talked about earlier about being a public figure, what's been the reaction in the media to this book?
KENNEDY: It's early days yet. As I say, there's been a . . .
LAMB: I'm just talking about interest in general. Do they all want to talk to you, interview you?
KENNEDY: Oh, yes. A large amount of interest, and, of course, it is simultaneously global because, as we mentioned before, it is coming out in eight different countries' editions, foreign language editions, at the same time, so the fax machine and the telephone and the requests for interviews get multiplied because of the globalization of communications. One of the subjects that I write about in Chapter 3 sees its reflection in the way this particular book can come out in the same week in eight different languages.
LAMB: You said the first book they printed 7,000 copies. What about this one?
KENNEDY: This terrifies me because you know you're not going to do the same thing twice. I believe it's close to 100,000 copies. Now, for an academic author where one is relieved when you hear you sold 2,000 copies of your specialist study on imperialism in the Pacific, those figures are a very, very different order of things. Tom Clancy might be very used to them, but academics are not.
LAMB: What do you think of this process of talking about it? Do you like it?
KENNEDY: Yes. It's extraordinarily important because, you see, a number of my colleagues do this, but I would say on the whole most historians and most social scientists have tended over time to become more narrow, more specialists, to use a specialist's language to concentrate on new methodologies and to write for an increasingly limited audience of fellow academics and fellow graduate students who they're training. We can see the same process in physical sciences and medical sciences, and we know that's got to do with handling the explosion of knowledge. But I also think that there's a great public hunger among generally educated members of the public to understand and to have discourse with and to listen to and to read works which pull back from the specialist studies and try to offer some synthesis, some ideas, some hypotheses.
They may be an intellectual adventure like this one. Having written it and even before I wrote it, I'm aware I'm going to be criticized from all directions because so many different people have different visions of the future. But I think a number of scholars ought, in each discipline, to try to produce the syntheses, try to summarize the ideas, try to advance larger arguments -- not because we're going to be terribly successful at that, not because we're absolutely right. Who's going to be right in their prognosis of the twenty-first century? But because it meets that public need to know what scholars are doing in areas of history, world affairs, sociology, and because it stimulates people to think and to debate as we are doing precisely in a program like this.
LAMB: Are you still a citizen of Great Britain?
KENNEDY: Yes, I am.
LAMB: Are you going to keep it that way?
KENNEDY: I fool myself that it gives me a certain mid-Atlantic position of detachment. I am European -- you can hear from my accent -- and I'm going there frequently, but I have left the United Kingdom and can look at it with a certain amount of detachment. As a historian, I try to value the idea of stepping out a little while from one's culture, one's ideology, and to say, what are the important things going on here? What are the pros and cons? Let's not be so inured in our own history and culture that we don't understand how to see it from other people's histories and cultures.
LAMB: By the way, are you still in touch with that priest that taught you back there in . . .
KENNEDY: Father Dennis Anderson, yes I am.
LAMB: What does he think of your success?
KENNEDY: He's absolutely thrilled. I went back to my grammar school in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the northeast of England a few years ago, and I just received the Woolson Prize in London for the best non-fiction book of the year. I didn't want the money. It was a nice allot but I didn't want it and I took it to the school and we founded a Dennis Anderson prize for the best history student at the grammar school. He was just utterly thrilled by that, and I was just delighted.
LAMB: Is he surprised that you've been this successful?
KENNEDY: Well, afterwards I'm sure you meet large numbers of teachers who say, "Well, I knew young Smithers was really promising, or I knew young Sally would make it on the stage some day."
LAMB: Here's the book. It's written by Professor Paul Kennedy of Yale University and the title is “Preparing for the Twenty-first Century.” Thank you very much.
KENNEDY: Thank you so much. I enjoyed it.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1993. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.