The Retreat of Western Liberalism

The Retreat of Western Liberalism

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--o...

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Title:The Retreat of Western Liberalism
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The Retreat of Western Liberalism Reviews

  • Andrew

    The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce, is an interesting book examining the recent reverses in traditional Liberal Democracy experienced globally. Luce focuses on the political philosophy of this trend, and examines global ideas, situations and data, from the US and UK, to Hungary, Turkey, China, India and so on. Luce's book is fascinating in that it looks at the big ideas behind this step toward autocracy, and covers a wide arrange of topics, from Western Exceptionalism, to internati

    The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce, is an interesting book examining the recent reverses in traditional Liberal Democracy experienced globally. Luce focuses on the political philosophy of this trend, and examines global ideas, situations and data, from the US and UK, to Hungary, Turkey, China, India and so on. Luce's book is fascinating in that it looks at the big ideas behind this step toward autocracy, and covers a wide arrange of topics, from Western Exceptionalism, to international diplomacy, to social and cultural ideas, to immigration and identity politics. This is a fascinating book that takes a deeper look at the issues currently faced in the worlds Western Liberal democracies, and how the erosion of western hegemony is leading to internal crisis in many Western nations.

    Luce’s book is divided into four parts. The first is called Fusion. It examines the decreasing differences between the world’s supposed rivals. This is how autocratic China can become the champion of globalisation and free trade. It is also how the United States and Russia can temporarily align on geopolitical issues, alter each other’s election cycles, all while fighting a proxy war in Ukraine and Syria. It is how many of the world’s leading democracies, like France, Britain and Australia, can join the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank even with strong opposition from the US. The Fusion chapter also looks at the declining livelihood of the middle class in Western democracies. Most Western nations feature a declining middle class, as income is squeezed by increasingly unequal wages and benefits, part time precarious work increases due to technological innovations at the production level, and societies in the West struggle to adapt to these conditions. This has made a lot of people lose out – especially the working class. Luce sees the erosion of the Washington Consensus both from the inside and out– as white, working class populations become disenfranchised with previous growth models in Western democracies and turn increasingly toward populism as an answer, and as nations look on as autocratic states achieve stellar growth rates and Western growth stagnates. With a massive percentage of the worlds population, countries like China and India seem to be the future of global economics. The West is losing ground, and there is little that can be done. And as the West continues to rail against these changes, all the while struggling to stem the flow of growth away from the middle class and into the top percentile of income earners, it is quickly losing its grip on the Western liberal and democratic ideology.

    The second part of the book is titled Reaction. It discusses the political repercussions of this movement in Western democracies. This part of the book is controversial, but interesting. Luce looks at the failure of identity politics and the continued marginalization of the working class as the main point of reaction. Working class members of society used to vote overwhelmingly for Communist/Socialist parties, but in recent decades, these parties have become increasingly Centrist. No longer are the socialist parties looking out for the working class, but instead espousing economic orthodoxy that is anathema to the working class. On top of this, identity politics has (rightfully in my opinion) been pushing for greater equality of all sexes, races, religion etc. This has led to increasing levels of immigration into Western democracies, and the increasing alienation of traditional voting blocs – like the white middle class. Couple this increasing alienation with economic stagnation and you have the perfect tinder for a populist fire. One needs look no further than the Clinton campaign and its inclusionary rhetoric – and its hateful rhetoric toward poorer white voters from the South of the US for an example. Clinton’s campaign failed, so Luce says, because of its exclusionary rhetoric against a good 50% of the US population. Difficult to win an election when one is not trying to woo the votes of your entire electorate. Although Trump used similar rhetorical flourishes, his campaign was based on two dangerously attractive principles: a yearning for dignity that was recently eroded (from the white working class) and a hatred for the rich – the very liberal democrats who were espousing ideals of identity politics and inclusion. These two principles combine to lead to a political reaction – one that wants to set the clock back to supposedly better times, even if those times never really existed in the first place. This reaction is all about perception, dignity and the stagnation of living standards. It is a reaction from a group that is increasingly feeling the pinch of economic stagnation and has been held directly responsible for past racism. Similar reactions occur in Europe, which is struggling with massive destabilizing immigration which it is not prepared for. European nations are looking at the instability of the modern Euro, the porous border of the Schengen Zone, and gaze back with rose tinted glasses at eras of autocracy (some as recent as 30 years ago or less) and the results are inevitable.

    The third section is called Fallout. This short section examines the fallout of reactionary policies in the West. It revolves around a loss of influence for the Western ideology of liberal democracy. It looks at increasing autocracy in Western political systems as disenfranchised voters look for alternatives to what they see as a greedy liberal elite. It also looks at the increasing likelihood of war. As the US loses influence, nations like Saudi Arabia and Japan eye the creation of nuclear arsenals to combat rivals like Iran and Japan (respectively) and chaotic states and actors like ISIS and North Korea (respectively again). The US’s inflexibility in terms of Asian Pacific policy and its continued meddling in Middle Eastern affairs is also worrying. A more nationalist and populist regime like that of Donald Trump has upped the rhetoric ante dangerously. This increases the risk of a general war with nuclear armed China, which exhibits its own prickly nationalism and history of humiliation at the hands of Western nations. This diplomatic inflexibility is dangerous, and as history shows can lead to war. Luce also touches on the Thucydides Trap, the theory that a rising power and an established power will always end up at war. This becomes increasingly likely when leaders like Donald Trump (who exhibit dangerously naïve and amateur tendencies on the diplomatic front) are in office. Another consequence seems to the continued erosion of democratic principles in Western nations. The people in a democracy seem to crave constant economic growth and (especially in the US) moral superiority over other nations. The fact that these two principles are in sever decline leads to increasing support for actors who will “Make America Great Again” – so to speak. Similar notions are found in Europe. This seems to be leading to a decline in overall support for democratic government, as recent polls show many younger voters do not feel democracy is necessarily important to proper governance – a dangerous trend. Continued stagnation of Western importance and global dominance seems to be the trend as the world becomes more multipolar, and this stagnation may be the death blow to Western democracy.

    The final section of the book is called half life. Luce offers brief and high level political prescriptions for the average person. Luce believes the elite in Liberal democracies need to take notice and begin to reverse the trend of economic inequality and the tendency to exploit political populism for votes. Such moves would involve, for example, a simplification of tax codes, progressive taxation schemes, the implementation of full time employment and meaningful working policies, and so on. He argues that alienating the working class is dangerous (lessons not learned in this front it seems) and can lead to rapid political destabilisation. Luce also argues for smarter international diplomacy – centered on empathetic diplomatic engagements, learning more about other nations and their policies, and so on. Luce also argues for smarter immigration policy in Europe to reverse the destabilising effects of mass migration.

    Luce’s book is quite interesting and is one of the more intimate books in the pile of post-Trump panic publications that have come out in the last year and a bit. This book moves away from the polarizing politics and dry statistical analysis and instead examines the political philosophy of recent populist trends and declining trust in democratic institutions. Although I am not 100% on board with all Luce’s points personally, this book has some incredible discourse and is eye opening and soul searching in ways many of the recent publications are not. On top of that, this book is well sourced, features reams of clever anecdotes, quotes and analysis of many works of history, economics and social/cultural theory and politics and has some good humour as well. The book is even toned, and does not subscribe to doom and gloom, or rosy outlooks. It is a very grounded and well written book on the potential why’s and how’s of the big shift we have seen recently in global governance, and a critical analysis of Liberal democracy and its shortcomings. It is also a good check for Western/democratic exceptionalism. I enjoyed this book thoroughly (I read it in a day after all) and can recommend this book to any reader interested in the topic.

  • Athan Tolis

    Edward Luce is a tremendous journalist. Not only does he work very hard, not only has he earned access to some of the sharpest minds in business and politics, he also commands the mightiest pen at the Financial Times, bar none.

    And that’s why I bought his previous book, “Time to Start Thinking.” I did not much enjoy it, though. In fact I thought it a waste of my reading time, about which more later. But long after the average sensible reader would have dismissed “Time to Start Thinkin

    Edward Luce is a tremendous journalist. Not only does he work very hard, not only has he earned access to some of the sharpest minds in business and politics, he also commands the mightiest pen at the Financial Times, bar none.

    And that’s why I bought his previous book, “Time to Start Thinking.” I did not much enjoy it, though. In fact I thought it a waste of my reading time, about which more later. But long after the average sensible reader would have dismissed “Time to Start Thinking,” he might recall that on page 247 of this 2012 book Edward Luce pretty much predicted that Donald Trump might one day become president, and why.

    So the man has form.

    That’s terrible news, because on pages 145 – 153 of “The Retreat of Western Liberalism” the oracle of 1 Southwark Bridge, SE1 (yes, I admit it, I looked up the FT’s address online) is predicting a war between the US and China over Taiwan, to take place in year 2020, with a ceasefire to be negotiated by none other than Vladimir Putin. And, believe me, he makes it sound much more probable than a Trump presidency sounded back in 2012.

    The main thesis of the book, basically, is that perhaps the West has crossed a bridge to a place where liberal values such as openness and democracy may be in retreat, and then anything is possible. Radical uncertainty, here we come.

    It’s written very very well. And it covers a lot of ground. If you want to get your thoughts together about what went wrong, this book truly summarizes 99% of all the good explanations I’ve ever read. My favorite is on page 47, where Luce outlines all the proof you need of the fact that the Democratic party these days only pays lip service to liberal values and mainly serves the rich: “every single one of America’s 493 wealthiest counties, almost all urban, voted for Hillary Clinton.” But it’s really all here, and (as the author promises in the introduction) you can read it all in the space of three hours.

    If I had to recommend to a friend only one book to understand where we find ourselves today as a society, this would be the one. Period.

    Amazingly, however, and this truly baffles me, the very best explanation I’ve ever read about what just happened in the US, not only was proposed by Edward Luce in the FT on July 31, 2016, but is conspicuous in the book through its absence. In an amazingly incisive article he penned at the time, Luce explained that an American is first and foremost a consumer and that it is primarily as a consumer that he is rebelling against the system. I was dying to read the longer version of this thesis, and in particular I was dying to see Edward Luce weave this explanation into the general theme of the decline of liberalism, but I guess the book had to get out quickly, so it’s not there. What a crying shame!

    So you will allow me to be uncharitable for a millisecond and suggest that perhaps that favorite article of mine may have been ghostwritten by somebody like Larry Summers (for whom Luce has written tons of speeches before) and here’s why I’m saying so: because Luce can write like God, it’s easy to forget that he does not always 100% know what he’s writing about and is merely sampling from sources he thinks are good, rather than doing the deep thinking himself. So a good 60% of his previous book is a paean to industrial policy (and indeed could easily pass for a Trump speech with all its China-bashing and FDA-bashing). Also, he really cannot resist a good quote, even if he has not read the source and does not understand the context.

    My favorite example: he had to get the “Thucydides Trap” in there as an expression, it sounded too cool to leave out, but on page 156 he suggests that Sparta lost the Peloponnesian War. I’ve only really read the relevant history book in translation, I must admit, but I seem to remember they won, overwhelmingly…

    So read this book with caution. It’s truly fantastic, it’s the best summary in print of where we stand in the war between our liberal beliefs and the forces of autocracy, but read it the same way you’d read WebMD if you think you’re sick: as a place to start rather than end your diagnosis.

  • Bettie

    Description:

    Description:

    Nearly three decades later, in the aftermath of Donald Trump's 2016 election victory, I found myself in Moscow. I had been invited to attend a conference on the 'polycentric world order', which is Russian for 'post-American world'. (page 6)

  • Brad Lyerla

    Edward Luce’s THE RETREAT OF WESTERN LIBERALISM was written in the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s surprising loss in November 2016. But the preface to this fascinating little book begins with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. That was a heady time. Many believed that western-style commercial democracy had prevailed and our future as a species ever after would be enlightened and democratic. Francis Fukuyama was predicting the end of history. The supremacy of Western thought was a given and now

    Edward Luce’s THE RETREAT OF WESTERN LIBERALISM was written in the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s surprising loss in November 2016. But the preface to this fascinating little book begins with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. That was a heady time. Many believed that western-style commercial democracy had prevailed and our future as a species ever after would be enlightened and democratic. Francis Fukuyama was predicting the end of history. The supremacy of Western thought was a given and now the rift in the West had been healed.

    Of course, history had other ideas. Here we are nearly 30 years later and Moscow is hosting conferences on the “polycentric world order,” a Russian euphemism for “post-American world.” That leaves some of us (principled conservatives, classical liberals and centrists) wondering if the American experiment has run its course. Luce’s response to that question is . . . maybe; if we don’t take serious corrective action.

    Luce is an English journalist. He was Washington DC bureau chief for the conservative English newspaper, Financial Times. Now he writes a column for that publication. During the Clinton administration, he was a speechwriter for Larry Summers. His political credentials seem solidly liberal, but he has an affinity too for thinkers in the tradition of the 20th century political philosopher, Leo Strauss, who was no liberal. That makes Luce an interesting and balanced reporter on current events.

    Luce’s talent as a speechwriter is very much in evidence in THE RETREAT. The book is organized into four chapters. Each alone reads much like a speech. Luce’s prose is snappy, fact-filled and pleasant to the ear. But as we expect with oral advocacy, it is less rigorous than written exposition. Still, this is a worthwhile book, and I enjoyed learning from it.

    The first chapter is Fusion. This chapter discusses the integration of the global economy. The picture Luce paints for the great American middle class is gloomy. He predicts that the pressure on the West’s middle classes will continue to be relentless. He supports this prediction with many statistics. For example, since joining the WTO in the 90’s, China’s trade surplus with the US has jumped five-fold. By 2050, China’s economy will be twice the size of the US economy. India and the US economies will be virtually the same size.

    The Rosetta Stone for Luce is the now ubiquitous elephant chart. It illustrates that over the last three decades western middle class incomes grew by 1%, while China’s doubled and Vietnam, India and other Asian middle class incomes grew by 80%. The so-called Bush expansion is the first on record where middle class incomes were lower at the end than at the start. The digital age has not increased productivity as was expected. Unemployment in the US is bang on the same as in Europe. The opioid epidemic is symptomatic of a middle class that has lost faith.

    Luce is convinced that Trump’s election crystallizes the West’s failure to come to terms with economic reality. Trump has proposed no solution for the hereditary meritocracy that Americans believe has ossified its once mobile society. Nor does he seem to recognize the implications of job elimination and worker obsolescence. Trump’s simplistic nationalism seems naïve in the face of a powerful privileged class of stateless elites whose allegiance is to global success and personal prosperity rather than to the state of their citizenship. Luce allows that economies can benefit from protectionism. Alexander Hamilton’s protection of fledgling industries served the US well in the 19th century. But does the US truly have the self-discipline to abandon the deep globalization that its influential privileged favor and that has been national policy for decades? Luce implies that he believes the US must re-calibrate and pursue something he calls “thin globalization”. This concept is not elaborated upon sufficiently for me to be confident that I understand the details though I read with close attention.

    Chapter 2, Reaction. In this chapter, Luce expounds on the degeneration of Western politics. In 1972, out of 200 countries, there were 13 democracies in the world. By 2000, there were over 100 democracies. However, since 2000, we have lost 25 democracies (as counted by Freedom House).

    The glue of commercial democracy is economic growth. But Luce makes clear that he believes some of the world’s gravitation to authoritarianism and away from democracy is explained by politics, not economics. He faults the Patriot Act and the Faustian bargain that the US made with autocrats around the world after 9/11. He believes that, in the process, the US legitimized autocratic regimes. The dubious US experience in Iraq also undermined its credibility at home with rural whites and millennials, who are not committed to democracy unlike the generations of Americans who preceded them.

    The erosion of American credibility has affected China and Russia’s aspirations too. They are no longer evangelistic. They no longer strive to export their style of government to the third world. They simply want to rupture the West’s claim to universalism. Luce believes that with Iraq and Trump, the US has made that an easier sell.

    Interestingly, Luce sides with Mark Lilla in the identity politics debate. Luce is emphatic that Trump stokes racism and white supremacy. He announces, “Trump poses a mortal threat to all America’s most precious qualities.” But Luce also warns that writing off Trump's supporters as bigoted will only make Trump’s job easier. In fact, millions of people who voted for Trump had voted for Obama. So the label 'bigot' is not an automatic fit.

    Luce worries that Trump’s victory rekindled demophobia, the ancient Greek fear of “the mob.” How should we respond to this fear, he asks? Is Jefferson’s idea of a “natural aristocracy of the talents” discredited, he wonders? This leads him into a brief and unenlightening discussion of the democratic folk theory vs. the complex liberal idea. Luce reminds us that this debate is ancient. Plato thought the mob could not distinguish between knowledge and opinion. Aristotle tried to address this by combining the rule of the knowledgeable with the consent of the many.

    Without resolving this ancient debate, Luce closes this chapter with the conclusion that the West has forfeited its prestige and the world’s center of gravity is shifting east.

    Chapter 3, Fall Out. This chapter explores the end of western military hegemony. Luce concludes that chaos is more likely to displace America as the undisputed military power in the world than is China.

    Candidly, this is the least interesting of Luce’s chapters. It mostly features Luce’s speculation about how military supremacy will evolve as the economic balance tips eastward. This discussion exposes that Luce is much more confident discussing economics and politics than military matters.

    Chapter 4, Half Life. In his summation, Luce returns to the subject of identity politics and his argument that identity liberalism is partly at fault for the election of Trump. Identity liberalism is politics that treats society as less than the sum of its parts, explains Luce. He advocates that the West must restore the public’s trust that all members of western societies share common interests, including the elites. Perhaps, this is Luce’s version of Lilla’s argument that Democrats must re-commit to the concept of citizenship to restore their electoral fortunes in the US. Both Lilla and Luce agree that the core imperative is to find a way back to a place where a comfortable majority in the western community can feel we are in this together.

    Luce elaborates on this a bit and argues that western governments must launch a “Marshall Plan” to retrain their middle class workers. He does not make the connection, but it seems true that the happiest time for the middle class in the US was the mid-1950s, according to the Gallup Poll. That was a time when the GI Bill (the largest transfer of wealth in history), a graduated income tax featuring a top marginal rate of about 80% and trade unions at their most influential were all benefitting the middle class. If western governments could recapture a bit of that magic combination again, then perhaps the slide of the middle class could be ameliorated, at least a bit. Luce’s “Marshall Plan” proposal might be part of that.

    Not all of what Luce advocates seems realistic to me, but THE RETREAT is a must read for all concerned citizens in the West. We have not come to grips with the economic and political realities of the 21at century, as Luce so poignantly illustrates. In THE RETREAT, Luce has made a useful contribution toward a beginning to do so.

  • Bruce Katz

    Insightful, clear-headed, very readable and -- to my mind -- right in all the particulars. A slim volume with a very large and critically important message. The trend we've seen in technology (AI, automation, social media), politics (growing polarization), economics, etc., are coming together into what might easily become a perfect storm if we don't address them.

    His key point: For nearly a century, we've believed that Western liberal democracy is the form of government most people want and that

    Insightful, clear-headed, very readable and -- to my mind -- right in all the particulars. A slim volume with a very large and critically important message. The trend we've seen in technology (AI, automation, social media), politics (growing polarization), economics, etc., are coming together into what might easily become a perfect storm if we don't address them.

    His key point: For nearly a century, we've believed that Western liberal democracy is the form of government most people want and that it is quite secure in Western countries, but our confidence is based on faulty assumptions. In fact, more and more people -- young people in particular, even here in the US -- are thinking that a military government or a "benevolent" authoritarian regime might be preferable to liberal democracy.

    We need to pay attention.

  • Mikey B.

    Page 186 (my book)

    This book is depressing. Maybe because it talked a lot about the current leader of the United States and his constant affronts to democratic values. The title could just as easily have been “The Collapse of Western Civilization”.

    The author foresees a coming military confrontati/>There

    Page 186 (my book)

    This book is depressing. Maybe because it talked a lot about the current leader of the United States and his constant affronts to democratic values. The title could just as easily have been “The Collapse of Western Civilization”.

    The author foresees a coming military confrontation between China and the U.S. in which Putin comes off as the winner for settling the dispute. This conflict would likely be over the island of Taiwan which China claims as an integral part of China itself.

    As the author points out “democracy” has not always been the preferred modus for nations to aspire to. Democracy only started to enter the lexicon after the First World War. And now there are global trends moving away from democracy. There are less democratic states now than at the beginning of this millennium.

    In the first section he focuses on how current democracies are becoming less fair to its citizens. There is an entrenched elite who do not want to part with their money and power. Leaders are unresponsive to the real requirements of their electorate (a prime example is in the United States where less and less people vote). But all this is not new. So, although well expounded, with examples from the United States and England, we are provided with summations already provided by other sources.

    Page 101

    I also feel the author overrates the current influence of Russia’s Putin. Unlike the U.S., Russia does not have many friends of its borders. What will become Russia after Putin?

    The overall theme of this book is that China is eclipsing democratic states economically and it is gathering more and more military power. In many ways China is now the country to emulate, as Trump’s America descends into a populist pseudo-nation.

    I really hope things are not as bad as presented in this book. As Churchill said about democracy “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

  • Murtaza

    This book was like a very long, very engaging Facebook post that consolidates a lot of the general news and trends that most of us are already concerned with today. In sum, it is about Donald Trump, Brexit, the Thucydides trap, AI, the future of work, electoral populism and a number of other topics that you are probably thinking about if you still read the news. Luce provides a nice run-down of why these issues are important to our future, but nothing he says is likely to come as a surprise to a

    This book was like a very long, very engaging Facebook post that consolidates a lot of the general news and trends that most of us are already concerned with today. In sum, it is about Donald Trump, Brexit, the Thucydides trap, AI, the future of work, electoral populism and a number of other topics that you are probably thinking about if you still read the news. Luce provides a nice run-down of why these issues are important to our future, but nothing he says is likely to come as a surprise to an informed reader. What I was really hoping for were some solutions, but like many similar books this one was short on those. Identifying the problems is easy, coming up with constructive ideas is much more of a challenge.

    Having said that, and despite the grandiose title and sombre cover, this is actually a very unpretentious book. The author estimated it would take three hours to read and I think even that might've been generous. I didn't really get much out of it and I'm a little surprised at how breathless some of the published praise of it is. But on the other hand it was an undemanding read and provided a few bits of information as well as a few witticisms to chew on. Probably his biggest insight was that Trump will deepen the same toxic conditions that facilitated his own emergence and his funniest joke was describing his mix of demagoguery and celebrity appeal as "Ku Klux Kardashian." Recommended if you want or need an introduction to the politics of this exact moment.

  • Helen

    This was a well-written, if arch, and occasionally paternalistic/condescending anti-Trump volume. I'd still recommend reading it since the author does seem to hit upon some valuable insights - tying various disciplines together and drawing upon history for parallels to the current alarming political situation. However, it's people like Luce that created a monster like Trump in the first place. Neoliberalism didn't lead to the greatest good for the greatest number of people. It led to extreme inc

    This was a well-written, if arch, and occasionally paternalistic/condescending anti-Trump volume. I'd still recommend reading it since the author does seem to hit upon some valuable insights - tying various disciplines together and drawing upon history for parallels to the current alarming political situation. However, it's people like Luce that created a monster like Trump in the first place. Neoliberalism didn't lead to the greatest good for the greatest number of people. It led to extreme income inequality. Luce doesn't have a solution - he's in the camp of those that made the neoliberal recommendations in the first place. There could have been a swing to a more egalitarian system, instead a phony like Trump got elected - yet another manifestation of the same "ruling class" albeit decked out as a populist, which is why Trump must continually play the race/religion/cultural card, in all its permutations, as well as evoke fear of the Other. Trump must play these head games with his audience/electorate because he's as phony as they get - no different from the GOP that drafted NAFTA and pushes for globalization. Perhaps the powers-that-be have gotten the message that the spoils of neoliberalism must be spread more equitably? For the time being, a wolf - Trump - has gotten into the barn and income inequality as a result of the tax bill, will get even worse. Will new jobs materialize, will they include high pay and benefits? That would be nice, but you didn't hear Trump earlier tonight (delivering his State of the Union address) extolling more pay, and the need for higher pay. Or pushing a pro-union agenda. No, Trump would never do that. The Democratic Party rebuttal though was excellent - why couldn't the Dems have enunciated their problems with neoliberalism during the 2016 campaign? And promised to do something about it? They didn't - instead they appeared stuck in the same paradigm that led to factories migrating South or East of the Border (Mexico or Asia). Unfortunately the lack of new ideas led to people voting for a racist clown - perhaps the only thing they had left was the fake and racist "hope" that he would deport millions of immigrants and thus their jobs would then be available for the citizens - a recipe for disaster since there already are millions of unfilled jobs in the US (i.e. there's a labor shortage if anything).

    Here are some quotes from the book:

    "[Putin described] ... the dissolution of the Soviet Union as the 'greatest geopolitical tragedy of the twentieth century.'"

    "Barrington Moore, the American sociologist, famously said, 'No bourgeoisie, no democracy.'"

    "The emergence of China is the most dramatic event in economic history."

    "...liberal democracy's strongest glue is economic growth."

    "If seventy-seven thousand Midwestern votes had gone the other way Hillary Clinton would now be president."

    "...a new era in which China would aspire to be the responsible global citizen."

    "[Xi Jinping said at Davos in January 2017:] 'No one will emerge as a winner from a trade war.'"

    "From barely a statistical rounding error in 1978 with less than 1 percent of global trade, China rose to become in 2013 the world's leading trading nation with almost a quarter of its annual flows."

    "Since 1970, Asia's per-capita incomes have increased fivefold. ... The West's median income, meanwhile, has barely shifted in the last half-century."

    "For roughly seven centuries, between 1100, shortly after the Norman Conquest, and 1800, when the Industrial Revolution took off, China accounted for roughly a quarter of the global economy - and an even higher share of its estimated production."

    "The British East India Company ... suppressed Indian textile production, which had led the world. Indian silks were displaced by Lancashire cotton. Chinese porcelain was supplanted by European 'china.' Both suffered from variations on what Britain later called Imperial Preference, which forced them to export low-value raw materials to Britain, and import expensive finished products, thus keeping them in permanent deficit."

    "[In the 1990s] Bill Clinton, the then US president, said globalisation was 'the economic equivalent of a force of nature, like wind or water'."

    "By 2050 - a century after its communist revolution - China's economy is likely to be twice the size of America's and larger than all the Western economies combined. ... And by then, India's economy will be roughly the same size as America's."

    "[Apple] ... shuttered its last US production facility in 2004."

    "Today, the US median income is still below where it was at the beginning of this century."

    "The asset value of the world's leading billionaires has risen fivefold since 1988."

    "...rising incomes for the bulk of society...[is] what we now refer to as the Golden Age of Western middle-class growth between the late 1940s and the early 1970s..."

    "With the exception of most of the 1990s, productivity growth has never recaptured the rates it achieved in the post-war decades."

    "...the costs, both material and psychological,that we pay for stagnation."

    "[During] The golden decades of the postwar era... ....the share of the US economic pie divided between labor and capital was 70/30."

    "America...which had traditionally shown the highest class mobility of any Western country, now has the lowest. ... The meritocratic society has given way to a hereditary meritocracy."

    "About one in four of the richest Americans attended an elite university, compared with less than half of 1 percent of the bottom fifth."

    "...today's poor... are being silently priced out of their homes. ...falling victim to creeping gentrification."

    "The rich and the poor no longer live near each other, and the middle class is hollowing out."

    "...the murder rate has fallen by 16.7 percent in the US cities since the turn of the century, while rising by 16.9 percent in the suburbs..."

    "...every single one of America's 593 wealthiest counties, almost all of them urban, voted for Hillary Clinton. The remaining 2623 counties, most of them suburban or small-town, went for Donald Trump."

    "...our multicultural cities...epitomise our oligarchic reality."

    "As the city's essential workers, its senior police officers and school heads are priced out of town, they are replaced by wealthy cosmopolitans who divide their lives between different locations."

    "The new residents then lock in their gains by restricting land use, which keeps values high."

    "Rather than being shaped by those who live there full-time, the characters of our biggest cities are increasingly driven by the global super-rich as a place to park their money."

    "A third of Americans who graduated in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) are in jobs that do not require any such qualification."

    "...thousands of engineers ...cannot find work."

    "...there are more Americans and British working behind the wheel today than employed in manufacturing jobs."

    "Between 1870 and 1970 - the century of the West's greatest productivity growth - incomes grew far faster than ever experienced."

    "...artificial intelligence threatens to eat the whole world's lunch."

    "...the informal jobs market. ...[accounts] ....for all of jobs growth since the Great Recession."

    "All of America's new jobs have been generated by independent work, which has risen by 7.8 percent a year."

    "Such work does not provide healthcare or matching retirement contributions."

    "Almost half of Americans would be unable to pay a $400 medical emergency bill without going into debt."

    "McKinsey says almost half of existing jobs are vulnerable to robots."

    "Populists have little to say about automation, though it is a far larger threat to people's jobs than trade."

    "In place of the march toward truth, we had reality-TV politics."

    "Just as the West's support for the Afghan jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s laid the ground for the rise of Islamist terrorism, so America's Faustian post-9/11 pacts with autocratic regimes helped sow the seeds for the world's current democratic recession."

    "Much of the exemplary work America had done to promote civic exchanges and facilitate dissent behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War was undone by the cavalier way in which Bush's Coalition Provisional Authority set about democratising Iraq."

    "[Since 2008] China's development banks pumped billions of dollars into Africa, Central Asia and Latin America - often displacing Western-dominated global institutions, such as the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank."

    "Beijing now runs more than five hundred Confucius Institutes worldwide."

    "It is easier than before to make the case that America's liberal -democratic discourse is a cover for its geopolitical interests."

    "The [Chinese] Communist Party's traditional view on US democracy is that America's moneyed classes engineer the victory of the candidate who can best defend the interests of capital. The process is always a sham."

    "Failure to diagnose the reasons for Mrs. Clinton's defeat will only make Trump's re-election more likely."

    "Donald Trump consciously stokes racist sentiment..."

    "...by giving a higher priority to the politics of ethnic identity than people's common interests, the American left helped to create what it feared."

    "...blue-collar whites.... ....yearn for the security of a lost age."

    "Sooner or later the established parties were likely to pay a price for writing off whole chunks of their electorates as bigoted."

    "...racism is not the root cause of the rise of Western populism."

    "The populist right only began to do really well at the ballot box after they began to steal the left's clothes."

    "In continental Europe, the more generous the welfare system, the more bitter the reaction against immigrants."

    "Trump was deadly earnest when he said 'I love the poorly educated.'"

    "Without higher growth, the return of racial politics looks set to continue."

    "We are on a menacing trajectory brought about by ignorance of our history, indifference towards society's losers and complacency about the strength of our democracy. It has helped turn society into a contest of ethnic grievances, in which 'awakened whites' -as the alt-right now call them - are by far the largest minority."

    "The [EU's] system of anonymous committees that set the rules for its member states - from the minutest product regulations to the limits of tax and spending - is virtually impervious to democratic control."

    "Politicians promise one thing and do another."

    "What if middle America has become so cynical about the truth that it will take its script from a political version of pro wrestling?"

    "There is no need to ban books if people are not reading them. If the people are entertained, they will also be docile."

    "...it is character, rather than laws, which upholds a system."

    "Without a plural society democracy loses its foundation."

    "[America] ...has ...devalued its global credibility by prosecuting reckless wars in the false name of democracy."

    "...on the eve of the Second World War.... Keynes [said of his views of twenty years earlier], 'We were not aware that civilization was a thin and precarious crust erected by the personality and the will of a very few, and only maintained by rules and conventions skilfully put across and guilefully preserved.'"

    "It has been Washington's fixed view since the end of the Cold War that it will do whatever it takes to ensure America's enduring primacy in the Asia Pacific."

    "...in the 1990s. China kept growing yet showed no signs of endorsing multi-party democracy."

    "It is conceivable Trump is possessed by some kid of morbid spirit."

    "Bush Junior's preemptive wars badly damaged America's unipolar credentials. Trump's victory has smashed them to pieces. It is questionable whether Humpty Dumpty can be put together again."

    "Trump's animating spirit is to make a demoralized American middle class feel better about itself. His goal is to channel rage, not cultivate knowledge."

    "...Trump is shaping up to be the most sordid leader American has produced."

    "Trump is too narcissistic to change for the better. The stability of the planet - and the presumption of restraint - will have to rest in the hands of Xi Jinping and other powerful leaders."

    "The degree of public trust in [the US and Britain] ... enabled their wartime governments to commandeer resources and direct them to a common end, through voluntary means rather than by coercion."

    "Trust is the glue of a successful free society; fear is the currency of the autocrat."

    "The surge of bytes in a networked world favors cyber-chaos. ...we are entering a period where instability is growing and the center will struggle to hold."

    "Today [the nuclear] ... arsenals [of the United States and Russia] stand at roughly a tenth of where they were at their peak."

    "Under Putin, Russia is far less of a responsible nuclear custodian than it was during the post-Cuba [missile crisis] decades."

    "The line between reality and virtual reality is blurring."

    "...Donald Trump lacks any such trust. He is far more likely to be a source of wild propaganda than a check on it."

    "For populists, facts are either with them or against them."

    "[Putin's] ...goal is European disunity. It is an aim he shares with Trump."

    "The free movement of peoples is now threatened by the populist backlash against the dramatic increase of outside arrivals."

    "Trump is inverting .... The link between an America that upheld its system at home and promoted it abroad. The mor scorn he pours on democratic traditions at home, the more he endangers them abroad."

    "The crisis of Western democracy is also a crisis of international relations."

    "Western liberal democracy ... is facing its gravest challenge since the Second World War. ... At home and abroad, America's best liberal traditions are under assault from its own president."

    "Some time during the 1960s, the Western left abandoned the politics of solidarity to embrace one of personal liberation."

    "Republicans have spent the last forty years stoking white anxiety while ignoring the white working classes' economic insecurities - or making them worse."

    "Almost 60 percent of the US labor force are now paid hourly wages rather than annual incomes."

    "When peole lose trust that society is treating them fairly, they drift into a deeper culture of mistrust."

    "Depending on the society, most of the West is moving either towards populism or plutocracy. In some cases, such as the US, it is falling into a kind of hybrid pluto-populism that looks increasingly Latin American."

    "Trump was supposed to have led a revolt against the elites. In practice, he wasted little time in laying out a tax-cutting and deregulatory banquet for their delectation."

    "...protecting society's weakest from arbitrary misfortune is the ultimate test of our civilizational worth."

    "Ancient thinkers always thought the rich posed a greater threat to the republic than the poor: they cling on far more tenaciously to what they have. 'No tyrant ever conquered a city because he was poor and hungry,' said Aristotle."

    "[China] ..is an immensely sophisticated country that is far more versatile than is so often portrayed."

    "People have lost faith that their systems can deliver. More and more are looking backwards to a golden age that can never be regained."

    "The conditions that enabled [Trump's] ...rise are only likely to deteriorate during his time in office. We should also fear whatever may follow Trump. Imagine how things would look with a competent and sophisticated white nationalist in the White House."

  • Austin Dunmore

    Sadly I was expecting a lot more from this book. Edward Luce proves himself far better at looking behind than looking forward, which means the first part is excellent but the subsequent three are a disaster. He suffers from the typical liberal blind spots which result in a complete misreading of Trump's populism and the driving principles of the resurgent nationalist movements. That he sees Trump as a greater threat to American democracy than the Marxist attack on its culture and academic instit

    Sadly I was expecting a lot more from this book. Edward Luce proves himself far better at looking behind than looking forward, which means the first part is excellent but the subsequent three are a disaster. He suffers from the typical liberal blind spots which result in a complete misreading of Trump's populism and the driving principles of the resurgent nationalist movements. That he sees Trump as a greater threat to American democracy than the Marxist attack on its culture and academic institutions places him clearly on the ideological spectrum. He mostly dismisses the conservative voter base as ignorant and dumb, proving he has no idea who they are, and is himself ignorant of the vapidity of the moral claims of the left.

    If he had read Douglas Murray he could have saved himself the embarrassment of his wrongfooted assessments of Merkel, Europe and the immigration problem. Merkel's covert dealings with Putin have positioned her and Germany as adversaries of the West rather than its leaders.

    Luce is at his best when describing economic forces and recounting the formative influences of the West. In the event that I ever come back to this book, my advice to my future self will be to read part 1. And stop there.

  • eilasoles

    This book is littered with confused, overly reductive arguments, and peppered with lots and lots of illiberalism. And it's not really saying anything very new or original. I think we've all realized by this point that Western liberalism is on the wane. I was in India when Modi came to power, and in the US when Donald Trump did. We also know that the inequality has proliferated in the past few decades, creating grotesque forms of disparity between and within countries. Middle- and working-classes

    This book is littered with confused, overly reductive arguments, and peppered with lots and lots of illiberalism. And it's not really saying anything very new or original. I think we've all realized by this point that Western liberalism is on the wane. I was in India when Modi came to power, and in the US when Donald Trump did. We also know that the inequality has proliferated in the past few decades, creating grotesque forms of disparity between and within countries. Middle- and working-classes in the West have seen immense declines in their living standards and job security and quality. And we all know that this inequality and precarity is largely the result of automation and globalization. A distinct kind of economic policy - that some like to call neoliberalism - is also responsible (Luce doesn't talk about that very much).

    Luce seems to see recent events as representing a backlash of these economically disenfranchised middle classes in the West. It's not racism or nationalism or sexism, it's just these poor people who've been duped into voting for people like Trump or Le Pen. This argument makes no sense. Racism or beliefs in national superiority aren't simply confined to the social or cultural realm - they have very real implications for which group has what share of the economic pie. White working classes in the US aren't channelling their anger in the wrong direction - in so far as their aim is to empower (economically and otherwise) themselves at the expense of the minorities they so despise, voting for Donald Trump was, in a sense, the right decision.

    And Luce himself comes very close to justifying their reactionary logic - for instance, he says that Western countries will have to make decisions restricting immigration, however "tough" it may sound, if they have any hope of preserving their democratic political institutions. What's the argument justifying this position? Surely we've moved past this already. It's far from obvious to me why immigration needs to be curtailed and why beliefs that immigrants hurt the national economy/society/cultural fabric are anything but racist.

    I'm going to go read Naomi Klein's

    and hope that I have better luck!

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