Making the World Safe for Democracy

A Century of Wilsonianism and Its Totalitarian Challengers

By Amos Perlmutter

214 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 1 table, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5711-3
    Published: July 2009
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6384-8
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6901-2
    Published: November 2000

Buy this Book

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit
In this interpretive study, Amos Perlmutter offers a comparative analysis of the twentieth century's three most significant world orders: Wilsonianism, Soviet Communism, and Nazism. Anchored in three hegemonical states--the United States, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany--these systems, he argues, shared certain characteristics that distinguished them from other attempts to restructure the international political scene. While Communism and Nazism were committed to imperial ideologies, Wilsonianism was inspired by an exceptionalist, peaceful, democratic, and free market world order. But all three were able to mobilize industrial, technological, and military resources in pursuing their goals. In the process of examining the democratic, Communist, and Nazi systems, Perlmutter also provides a framework for understanding U.S. foreign policy over the course of the century, particularly during the Cold War. He underscores the importance of ideology in establishing an international order, arguing that in the wake of the Soviet Union's demise, no system--not even Wilsonianism--can lay claim to the title of new world order.

Originally published in 1997.

A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.

About the Author

Amos Perlmutter was professor of political science and sociology at American University. Author of fifteen books on comparative politics and international relations, he was a frequent contributor to such publications as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.
For more information about Amos Perlmutter, visit the Author Page.


“A cautionary tale highlighting the need for continued military preparedness and the political will to use it wisely.”--Military Review

“A fine primer on 20th-century world politics. Recommended for general readers, upper-division undergraduates, and graduate students.”--Choice

”Fascinating and insightful. . . . An excellent study which convincingly illustrates the need for pragmatic American engagement in world affairs.”--Virginia Quarterly Review

"Amos Perlmutter's splendid Making the World Safe for Democracy . . . could not be more timely. . . . He writes with concision and authority."--Jacob Heilbrunn, Wall Street Journal

"A provocative account of the three 'world orders' that have dominated the century. Perlmutter's erudition and common sense illuminate our times. Clearly written, crisply argued. Highly recommended."--Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, former U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations

"Perlmutter's thesis may be stated briefly: Wilsonianism, despite its blemishes and hypocrisies, is the sole (hypothetical) contender for establishing 'world order.' But that would require the American people to embrace interventionism and hegemonialism. In the absence of a serious external challenge, such an embrace will not take place. In practice, we shall seek a foreign policy 'on the cheap'--despite grandiose rhetoric. The American people cannot be mobilized to embrace a struggle against nebulous foes or complicated civil wars."--James Schlesinger, former secretary of defense