The Retreat of Western Liberalism

The Retreat of Western Liberalism

Book - 2017
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In his widely acclaimed book Time to Start Thinking, Financial Times chief US columnist and commentator Edward Luce charted the course of America's relative decline, proving to be a prescient voice on our current social and political turmoil. In The Retreat of Western Liberalism, Luce makes a larger statement about the weakening of western hegemony and the crisis of liberal democracy--of which Donald Trump and his European counterparts are not the cause, but a terrifying symptom. Luce argues that we are on a menacing trajectory brought about by ignorance of what it took to build the West, arrogance towards society's economic losers, and complacency about our system's durability--attitudes that have been emerging since the fall of the Berlin Wall. We cannot move forward without a clear diagnosis of what has gone wrong. Unless the West can rekindle an economy that produces gains for the majority of its people, its political liberties may be doomed. The West's faith in history teaches us to take democracy for granted. Reality tells us something troublingly different. Combining on-the-ground reporting with intelligent synthesis of the literature and economic analysis, Luce offers a detailed projection of the consequences of the Trump administration, the rise of European populism, and a forward-thinking analysis of what those who believe in enlightenment values must do to defend them from the multiple onslaughts they face in the coming years. -- Publisher description
Publisher: New York :, Atlantic Monthly Press,, 2017
Edition: First Grove Atlantic hardcover edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780802127396
Characteristics: 234 pages ; 22 cm


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Feb 19, 2018

In 1989, the world experienced one of the greatest revolutions in human history. After decades of oppression and mass murder, the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union crumbled with barely a shot being fired. Marxism, which had inspired human suffering on a scale entirely without parallel, was seemingly consigned to "the ash-heap of history" overnight, and globally even those dictatorships that remained justified themselves in the language of capitalism and democracy. The ideological wars which had raged since the French Revolution had finally ended, and liberalism had won.

Nearly thirty years later, the picture is decidedly different. China, the rising superpower, remains a one-party state despite economic reforms. A resurgent Russia is once again a dictatorship in all but name. Throughout the world, the belief that progress and prosperity are dependent upon an acceptance of Western values has been abandoned. In the West, the "New World Order" consensus has been cracked, if not broken, by the unexpected electoral victories of Brexit and Donald Trump. Right wing nationalist populists have grown in power and prominence, while the left increasingly places its faith in a technocratic "managed democracy".

Of course, it is important not to place too much faith in trends: in the '70s, the West was in terminal crisis; in the '80s, communism and capitalism were converging, and neither could conceivably win a "victory" over the other; in the '90s, again, liberal capitalism was everywhere triumphant. Only a fool believes that a pendulum will never reverse course. At the same time, it is easy to miss the significance of a historical moment. Unfortunately, Edward Luce's analysis of our current moment is handicapped by an acute case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Although he knows intellectually that Trump is a symptom rather than a cause, the substantial bulk of the book focuses on the current president, reaching absurd heights in a prolonged, pointless fantasy in which Luce has Trump incite a war with China. While he is highly critical of global elites for being insulated from the concerns of ordinary people, Luce nonetheless somehow seems to imagine them to be the guardians of liberal values. As a result, he hints darkly about the possible necessity of limiting democracy and restricting free speech, all in the interest of saving classical liberalism from demagogic populism.

In the end, Luce combines the weaknesses of an economist with those of a journalist. Although he understands the significance of a loss of civility and social trust, he diagnoses these as primarily the result of economic stagnation - from this perspective, the Information Revolution is an economic shift comparable to the Industrial Revolution, and therefore just as disruptive to settled ways of life, but nothing time and prosperity (and new social programs) cannot cure. Meanwhile, his journalistic ahistoricism erases decades of attacks on Western values and the institutions that embody them. For these reasons, he is unable to understand the cause of the collapse of the West's civilizational confidence, and therefore also unable to suggest real solutions.

Aug 18, 2017

There are fewer democracies in the world today than some years ago. Why? What societal forces are possibly leading western democratic liberalism in the wrong direction and threatening its very existence? He is as critical of the liberal elite as other segments of society as ignoring reality and the justifiable fears of the working class. These are some of the issues this brief but brilliant book seeks to address. The most important work I have read in recent years. BTW, contrary to another comment, the author does not predict war with China. He states, "The US-China war scenario I sketch out is not a prediction...(but) a plausible extrapolation of ...Trump...foreign policy." Pg 145.

May 18, 2017

This author's work is kind of goofy, not much Real information conveyed. The author was // . . . a speech writer for the treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, \\ which was the administration which gave EVERYTHING TO THE BANKSTERS: the REIT Modernization Act, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, and a whole bunch of other stuff [and that SEC change in 1993 to no longer require Wall Street investment firms listing the majority investors] so this somewhat renders the author's points, as it were, rather tenuous. The Financial Times isn't exactly real journalism, IMHO. [As far as his prediction of war with China, one must harken back to the Chinese penetration of the FBI; the Chinese military hackers hacking into the Pentagon and defense industry contractors and steall ALL the plans to the major American weapons systems, and next hacking into the OPM and stealing the personnel records of over 25 million employees {not to mention draining some of their bank accounts} AFTER Corporate America had offshored countless jobs and technology to China! Again, the author doesn't serve to enlighten or inform the reader, so much as obfuscate the issues!


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