How Many Shocks Can the World Take?


Stephen M. Walt considers a number of global shocks that have all happened in close temporal proximity to one another and are “overwhelming our collective ability to respond”: the breakup of the Soviet empire, China’s rise, 9/11 and the global war on terror, the 2008 financial meltdown, the Arab Spring, the global refugee crisis, the spread of populism, COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, and climate change. It “would be a challenge to address even one or two [shocks] successfully. Dealing with such a rapid succession is proving to be nearly impossible” because leaders lack the necessary bandwidth and resources, because the shocks are interconnected, and because the public too easily loses confidence in leaders struggling to address multiple issues.


Stephen M. Walt

Publication Date

25 October 2022


Foreign Policy



Resource Type

Academic Journal Article

Systems Addressed

Geopolitics and International Security
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