Pavel K Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
If a one-word evaluation of this concise book is required, nothing would serve better than 'outstanding'. Fortunately, this format allows for a few more superlatives. The author has embarked on a hugely complex endeavour in the disciplines of macro-history and IR and has accomplished the task with confidence and deceptive ease. Criticism of Eurocentric traditions in examining global interactions is plentiful and often parochial, but Zarakol aims much higher. She offers a Eurasian perspective, in which the Chinggisid world order established by Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century was followed by the Timurid and Ming world orders in the next two centuries and by the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal world orders up to the seventeenth century. All these empires maintained the two key features of the Chinggisid model: the extreme centralization of power and the ambition of universal sovereignty. This consistency makes it possible to define their interactions with other political actors, and indeed with each other, as 'world order', defined as a deliberately created and reflexively maintained set of rules (p. 22). Examining these historical developments from a perspective that boldly ignores the European impacts, the author proves the need to revise 'our theorisation and understanding of world politics today' (p. 34). It is indeed striking to discover how the aggressive drive in Russia's policy is shaped by the essentially Chinggisid desire of Putin's regime to gain legitimacy through conquest. Zarakol's academic arguments are solid and duly referenced, but with phrases like 'Let me explain' (p. 20), she makes a reader, if not a co-author, certainly a co-conspirator in this redrawing of habitual mental maps.