Reading the epilogue of Henry Kissinger’s most recent book World Order, published in August, one realizes why Kissinger the historian is dominated and steered by Kissinger the man of politics. As he writes, “the crisis in the concept of the world order (is) the ultimate international problem of our days.” This thesis, according to its author, has driven him to investigate thoroughly the various forms, institutions, and understandings of world order that have unfolded historically – e.g. the European, the Islamic, the Chinese, the American – alongside the ways in which these have interacted with and clashed with one another, their transformations, and their effects and legacies, in many cases lasting into the present.
Formally, Kissinger is tracing a historical development, but at its core, his presentation is built around questions of the present put to the past, as if he were combing the historical record for loose ends that could be used to tie future knots and mend future fissures. The politician commands the historian to write, as if the television, with the day’s current events, is left to run in the background. These events are indeed seen in a new light upon reading Kissinger’s exposition. And here perhaps is his book’s special value for Europe, where many still dare not ask the questions already being aired on other continents regarding the new world order or world orders.
Henry Kissinger "World Order", Penguin Press 2014 (ISBN 978-241-00426-5)