American Fissures

Tocqueville wrote that the "greatness of America lies… in her ability to repair her faults." With a renewed national discussion on the faultlines of race, class, identity, and culture, we look inward. How do we assess the state of life in America?

The Shadow of the Great Wars

World Wars I and II came to transform every aspect of life in nearly every corner of the planet. Now, 100 years since the start of WWI and 75 years since the end of WWII, as public memory of the great wars begins to fade, we look at their lasting impact and ponder the future of their memory.

1989 and the Birth of the Modern World

Revolutions — be they political, social, technological, or cultural — swept the world in 1989. From the fall of the Berlin Wall to the protests at Tiananmen Square; from the deaths of Ayatollah Khomeini and Emperor Hirohito to the birth of the world wide web and launch of GPS. Twenty-five years later, we look back at the impact of 1989, and the modern era it created.


As the U.S. prepares to withdraw from the longest war in its history, a look at the lives changed, promises made, and ideas shaped by war in Afghanistan.

Four Decades of Classic Essays

As we move to a new format, some of the classic essays we have published.

Mexican Momentum

After years of gridlock, is Mexico heading in the right direction?

Where Have All The Jobs Gone?

A chronically bleak job market is breeding unease in a country where economic gloom is rare.

The American Quest for Redemption

In a nation born with a sense that it had a redemptive mission in the world, the urge to take what is bad and turn it into something good often turns obsessively inward. The results can be surprising.

Is Democracy Worth It?

In the sobering aftermath of the Arab Spring, old questions about the pursuit of political freedom have come into fresh focus. Are the risks too great? Is the time too soon?

Will India Win?

India now rivals China as a model for the world’s developing nations. But its recent stumbles have raised doubts about whether it will demonstrate the superiority of the democratic path to development.

American Vistas

Twelve years into a new century, a kind of grimness pervades the United States. Is it just the post-crisis hangover of a stagnant job market, or have the era's upheavals and uncertainties, at home and abroad, changed something fundamental?

The Age of Connection

Technology is making it as easy to keep in touch with someone on the other side of the world as it is with a next-door neighbor. Social networks bring news and tidbits from far and wide, sometimes with startling results. But is technology really increasing understanding between people? Between nations?

Lessons of the Great Depression

The Great Depression has long been regarded as a one-off economic event, so catastrophic that, with the preventive measures now in place, it could never be repeated. Today, as we grapple with a years-long global economic downturn whose ultimate contours remain unknown, the Depression is increasingly relevant to the present.

America's Schools: 4 Big Questions

Much ink has been spilled in the last several decades over the issue of what to do about America's struggling schools. The nation has made only halting progress in public education, but a handful of key questions have come into focus.

A Changing Middle East

Since this spring’s eruption of demands for change in the Arab world, uncertainty reigns everywhere. In some countries, long-ruling autocrats still fight viciously for power, while in others, leaders scramble to reach a new accommodation with their suddenly rebellious people. Egyptians and Tunisians, meanwhile, struggle to make good on the promise of democracy. Where did this wave of change come from? And where is it going?

The City Bounces Back: Four Portraits

For decades, the news from cities was all bad. But today, cities are on the rebound. They are seen as idea labs, exciting places to live, and a shopping alternative to suburban malls, with challenges that linger but do not overwhelm the future.

Crime and Punishment

Seven million Americans are in prison or on probation or parole. Crime is down, but state prison budgets have ballooned. A new war on crime must focus on reducing repeat offenses by ex-inmates and steering more young people away from crime.

What If China Fails?

It seems almost inconceivable that Asia’s rising giant could stumble badly, but to many China specialists that appears to be an ever present prospect. Should we cheer if indeed China falters?

Inside Israel

Conflict often puts Israel at the world’s center stage, but the country’s inner life tends to go unexamined. In addition to the hostility of its neighbors, it is grappling with political gridlock and a changing population, even as it enjoys a vibrant democracy and overachieving economy.

The Entrepreneurial Edge

For 30 years, the United States has ridden a spectacular wave of technology-based entrepreneurship. Now, with economic lethargy at home and rising challenges abroad, can the wave be sustained?

The Arab Tomorrow

Decades of drift have brought the Arab world to the edge of disaster. Entrenched regimes stifle reform, while oil, Islam, and social discontent mix in explosive combinations. Change is coming. The question is, who will lead it?

The Future of the Book

As newspapers shutter, publishing houses consolidate, and print declines, what is the future of the book? Digital publishing makes ideas accessible to more readers (and writers) than ever before, but at what cost?

Thrift: The Double-Edged Virtue

Any solution to the global economic crisis will re- quire a thriftier America and, paradoxically, a less thrifty Asia. A dose of economic sobriety may be just what the United States needs, but a difficult global rebalancing lies ahead as spendthrift Americans and the prodigious savers of Asia adjust to new realities.

Decline or Renewal?

The epochal collapse on Wall Street has sent a tornado of destruction ripping through America’s economy—and its self- confidence. Is American-style capitalism finished? Will the world ever accept U.S. leadership again? What must America do to recover?

Robots at War

A new way of war is on the horizon. Already, robots and drones are replacing human pilots and foot soldiers in some roles, and in the future they will take over many more. The benefits of removing human soldiers from harm’s way are obvious. But there’s a price to pay when a society can wage war by remote control.

The Glory and the Folly

Campaign 2008 has stirred old discontents about politics. What’s wrong with American democracy? Is the problem ill-informed voters who are buffaloed by attack ads and political ephemera, or is it that elections don’t give adequate voice to the popular will? Or does a long view reveal that the American system works pretty well after all?

Saving the World (Some Restrictions Apply)

Never has the humanitarian impulse been stronger. From Darfur to Myanmar, every crisis elicits global compassion and offers of assistance. But while today’s many eager helping hands are accomplishing a great deal, they must move with care, for even the most high- minded aid can sometimes do a lot of harm.

Backbone: Infrastructure for America's Future

Jammed highways, chronic brownouts, and other cracks in the national infrastructure have some people dreaming of an old-fashioned public-works bonanza. But building tomorrow’s infrastructure will pose larger political and technological challenges than ever before—with potential payoffs to match.

The Coming Revolution in Africa

Let’s celebrate for a moment the great victory that’s being won over poverty in the developing world, where the share of the population living on less than $1 a day tumbled from 40% to 18% between 1981 and 2004. That remarkable achievement also serves to remind us how far there is to go from $1 a day, how many have been left behind, and how little billions of dollars in foreign aid from the United States and others have had to do with the progress that has occurred.

Overdrive! Competition in American Life

More than ever, American life is a competitive sport. We jockey intensely for jobs, dates, admission to the college of our dreams, and even little resumé builders for our five-year-olds. Our authors examine the rewards and the costs of always playing to win.