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--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.

The Retreat of Western Liberalism Details

TitleThe Retreat of Western Liberalism
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseJun 6th, 2017
PublisherAtlantic Monthly Press
ISBN0802127398
ISBN-139780802127396
Number of pages226 pages
Rating
GenrePolitics, Nonfiction, History, Economics, Sociology

The Retreat of Western Liberalism Review

  • Bettie☯
    June 21, 2017
    In ‘The Retreat of Western Liberalism,’ How Democracy Is Defeating ItselfBooks of The TimesBy MICHIKO KAKUTANI JUNE 19, 2017
  • Athan Tolis
    June 9, 2017
    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 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.
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  • Brian
    May 8, 2017
    Luce is at his best when examining the tension in democracy between the 'tyranny of the majority' and a 'natural aristocracy of the talents': 'The story of liberal democracy is thus a continual tension between the neat democratic folk theory and the more complex liberal idea. Nowadays they have turned into opposing forces. Here, then, is the crux of the West’s crisis: our societies are split between the will of the people and the rule of the experts –the tyranny of the majority versus the club o Luce is at his best when examining the tension in democracy between the 'tyranny of the majority' and a 'natural aristocracy of the talents': 'The story of liberal democracy is thus a continual tension between the neat democratic folk theory and the more complex liberal idea. Nowadays they have turned into opposing forces. Here, then, is the crux of the West’s crisis: our societies are split between the will of the people and the rule of the experts –the tyranny of the majority versus the club of self-serving insiders; Britain versus Brussels; West Virginia versus Washington. It follows that the election of Trump, and Britain’s exit from Europe, is a reassertion of the popular will.'To alleviate the current crisis in Western democracy, he suggests 'eternal vigilance', in Franklin's words, and listening to and respecting the 'ordinary people' and the working class. Democracy is built on trust and respect. But, although Luce doesn't say so explicitly, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that it is too late to turn back the tide of populism. If so, America may well be on its way to illiberal democracy, autocracy, plutocracy or some combination of those.
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  • Radiantflux
    June 7, 2017
    32nd book for 2017.In this short book, Luce, who once played truant at Oxford so he could party in Berlin at the fall of the Wall, gives a insightful and depressing account of how Western liberal democracies are an endangered species that may not survive the coming decades. There are no simple answers here, but Luce knows which threads to pull for maximum effect. The rise of Trump and what it means for America (and the World) are examined in detail. Technological advances in automation, and subs 32nd book for 2017.In this short book, Luce, who once played truant at Oxford so he could party in Berlin at the fall of the Wall, gives a insightful and depressing account of how Western liberal democracies are an endangered species that may not survive the coming decades. There are no simple answers here, but Luce knows which threads to pull for maximum effect. The rise of Trump and what it means for America (and the World) are examined in detail. Technological advances in automation, and subsequent unemployment, may lead to a permanent underclass that undercuts any chances for pluralistic democracies.I found his hypothetical account (which I read shortly before going to sleep) of how Trump could go to war with China in 2020, and Putin subsequently receive a much deserved Nobel Peace Prize, both chilling and informative.
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  • Kåre
    June 26, 2017
    Luce undersøger især vestligt liberalt demokratis tilstand. Luce konkluderer ca. at verden oplever store fremgange i form af færre sultne, og langt flere på vej op økonomisk i forstand. Men mange mennesker i vesten er på vej ned økonomiskLuce har imponerende bredde i sin tilgang. Geografisk har han tilsyneladende lige stor viden om interesse for forhold i Kina, Amerika, England mm. Han trækker især på statistik, men har også læst bredt. Historisk er der nedslag forskellige steder. Han har også e Luce undersøger især vestligt liberalt demokratis tilstand. Luce konkluderer ca. at verden oplever store fremgange i form af færre sultne, og langt flere på vej op økonomisk i forstand. Men mange mennesker i vesten er på vej ned økonomiskLuce har imponerende bredde i sin tilgang. Geografisk har han tilsyneladende lige stor viden om interesse for forhold i Kina, Amerika, England mm. Han trækker især på statistik, men har også læst bredt. Historisk er der nedslag forskellige steder. Han har også en kort fremtidsvision med, men den duer ikke for mig.Man kan trække linjer fra Magna Carta 1215 til nutidens vestligt liberale demokrati. Det er dog en slags fiktion. Reelt begyndte ledere først at fremstille vestlige lande som demokratiske omkring 1. og 2. verdenskrig. Lederne havde brug for begreb for det, mennesker skulle gå i krig for og det, de skulle bekæmpe. Demokrati har siden fået en slags quasi-religiøs status. Vi har det, og skal udbringe det til resten af verden. Verden vil uundgåeligt ende med at være demokratisk. Går narrativet. Luce mener, at vestlig tankegang er linieær, hvor andre kulturer er mere cirkulære. De mener, at der kan ske ændringer, men den moralske situation er uforanderlig. Kina er den store motor for nutidens vækst, men Asien, Indien og selv Afrika er også godt med. I 1978 stod Kina for 1% af verdenshandlen. I 2013 havde Kina den største andel af verdenshandlen, ca 1/4. I 2050 antager man, at Kina vil have dobbelt så meget handel, som USA og mere end alle vestlige lande tilsammen. Siden 1970erne har asiatisk levestandard femdoblet og Afrikas er fordoblet. Elefantgrafen gennemgås. Den viser, at middelklassen og underklassen i de 12% af verden, som vi som vestlige tilhører, er klemt, hvorimod overklassen tjener enorme summer. Det betyder, at der reelt er mindre goder til mange. Inflation fungerer ikke længere som mål for penges værdi. I USA og UK og også andre steder, er prisen på sikkerhed og andre nødvendige goder steget. Andelen af mennesker med usikre job er steget. Arbejdsløsheden er steget generelt i bl.a. USA. Analyse af den nuværende teknologiske revolution: Jo, den er god nok til underholdning, men den giver ligesom ikke så meget arbejde eller velfærd. Risikovillighed er mindre. Mulighederne for at udføre noget nyt, flytte et andet sted hen, osv. er mindre for nutidige vestlige. s.50. Det blue-colar arbejde, som er vokset mest, er sikkerhed, herunder fængsel. Vestens morale førestilling er blevet sat overstyr. Der er givetvis økonomiske årsager hertil. Krisen i 2008 var således kun vestlig, ikke resten af verdens. Men også forkerte beslutninger. Her fremdrages især Bush jr.s angreb efter 9/11. Men også Obama kritiseres, bl.a. for uklar og ikke-konsekvent håndtering af Syrien. Først støttede han oprøret. Men da han så, at det ikke umiddelbart medførte vestligt demokrati, trak han sig tilbage. Syrerne står med resultatet heraf. Dette har undermineret tiltroen til libealt demokrati. Samtidig har andre styreformer leveret stor økonomisk fremgang til deres befolkninger. Herefter følger hovedsagligt analyser af politik i de vestlige lande. Brexit og Trump er hovedcases. Luce viser, at krisen er dyb og ikke vil gå over lige om lidt. Han viser også, at der er reel forvirring omkring vejen frem. Fx er det åbenlyst ikke sandt, at økonomi ikke kan trives under protektioniske forhold. Alligevel er det historien fra EU, Hillary. Fin analyse af Hillary. Hun kunne kun vinde ved et uheld. Hun er super teknokrat med dybt komplicerede forslag, som ingen levende kan forstå. Flere rammende eksempler på sådanne forslag. Luce placerer EU lidt i samme boks, idet de også har meget komplicerede forslag, som få forstår. Samtidig har EU udhulet nationalstaternes beslutningskraft. Det ville jo kunne gå, hvis de så leverede mere vækst til befolkningen. Men når de ikke leverer det, bliver det hele meget speget. Fin lille pointe om, at man ikke skal slå Trumps vælgere i hartkortn med Trump. Anden lille oplagt pointe om, at man skal passe på med at ride på den høje hest. Fx er det nu blevet bagstræberisk at være imod homo-ægteskaber, og modstandere nedgøres. Men Obama var først for i anden periode, og Hilleray var først for i 2013. Men nu er alle andre altså idioter. Sprog: Imponerende sprog. Det er meget korte sætninger. Næsten altid blot en hovedsætning og måske lidt ved siden af. Alligevel er det forståeligt. Jeg ville gerne lære ham kunsten af.
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  • Stephen
    June 14, 2017
    This is the second of two volumes by Edward Luce. It continues the theme outlined in 'Time To Start Thinking', which is not just the decline of America, but expands to include the decline of the whole notion of Western Liberalism. There is definitely a theme developing.The book is an easy read, consisting of an introduction to frame the issue, and then four arguments on the theme. The first argument - the demise of the 'Washington Consensus' and the rise of the 'Beijing Consensus' - is the one t This is the second of two volumes by Edward Luce. It continues the theme outlined in 'Time To Start Thinking', which is not just the decline of America, but expands to include the decline of the whole notion of Western Liberalism. There is definitely a theme developing.The book is an easy read, consisting of an introduction to frame the issue, and then four arguments on the theme. The first argument - the demise of the 'Washington Consensus' and the rise of the 'Beijing Consensus' - is the one that I warmed to first. It continues the argument of the previous book in holding that the political classes in America and Europe have failed their constituents, allowing for the rise of the easy populism of the Brexit and Trump varieties. In the view of the author, the are both likely to damage the prosperity that underwrites the liberal order, making things worse rather than better.This is the argument of the continued decline of the Western order. Counter-balanced against this is the rise of the rest of the world - mainly of Asian nations, with the primus inter pares being China. How should the West - principally America - accommodate the rise of China? This is the question addressed by the second argument, and it provides an uncomfortable experience for Westerners. The main conclusion is that a confrontation between America and China is inevitable. Sadly, the direction of policy is heading in that direction.This theme is developed further in the third argument, which is all about how to avoid springing the 'Thucydides Trap'. "How does the established power react to the rise of a potential challenger?" (p,156). The Athenians went to war, and lost. Mr Luce states that a similar result will be obtained if America violently confronts China. The answer, according to the author, is the reinvigorate Western Liberal Democracy. To reverse the direction in which it is heading.The author presents his ideas on this in the fourth argument. The main argument is for the West to renew it's main strength - Liberalism. The belief is that free markets deliver prosperity, which is what underpins a liberal democratic order. It provides a counter against the protectionism and mercantilism that currently has hold of us. It counters the nationalism and xenophobia from which we currently suffer. In order to achieve this, we need to combat the chumocracy and cronyism in which we live. By developing a more open society, we will enhance our prosperity and renew our democracy. The book ends with a rallying cry that could serve as a call to action.One question that the reader might have is whether or not action is needed? The main premise of the argument is the decline of America and Europe and the rise of China and Asia. What happens if that doesn't occur? It may be the case that China becomes old before it becomes rich. It may be the case that China falls in on itself under the pressure of it's own internal contradictions. It may be that there is a confrontation between China and America, and China loses. There are many working parts that might cause this vision not to happen.I am pessimistic about the case for Western renewal. There has been a long trend away from this and I see no real case for the trend reversing on itself. 'More of the same' seems the likely order of the day. Eventually, the trend will reverse. It has before. Whether this will be sooner or later is a rather moot point. As a futurist, that is where my gaze lies. In terms of my universe, I rather see this book in terms of being a worst case scenario. I agree with the author that we want to avoid the scenario. I am not quite sure that I am with him on how this might happen.
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  • Thomas Pope
    June 30, 2017
    Edward Luce's writing in this book currently has me incredibly conflicted. His analyses of certain aspects of the United States’ shift toward “illiberal democracy,” and failure of the exportation of “liberal democracy” are incredibly on-point. At the same time, he is sloppy in his analyses of United States populism, especially in regard to “identity politics.” A phrase that has quickly become the arrogant political analysts most versatile weapon; it seems that over-examination of Left of moderat Edward Luce's writing in this book currently has me incredibly conflicted. His analyses of certain aspects of the United States’ shift toward “illiberal democracy,” and failure of the exportation of “liberal democracy” are incredibly on-point. At the same time, he is sloppy in his analyses of United States populism, especially in regard to “identity politics.” A phrase that has quickly become the arrogant political analysts most versatile weapon; it seems that over-examination of Left of moderate peoples’ cries for more cultural sensitivity and opposition to social issues symptomatic of racist institutions has been deemed “an issue.” The catalyst for nationalist (read: White-nativist) sentiments being expressed openly is now being deemed “political correctness.” I detest this lazy brushstroking of much deeper issues. Even worse is his frequent dropping in of ludicrous claims. From the claim of the KKK being the first political-identity group (ignoring the deep basis for Federalism and anti-federalists, which in part carried over xenophobia), to his slight of focuses on marginalised groups (by implying fascism holding onto group rights is comparable to championing the rights of marginalised groups.) This is the first “pure” political literature I’ve read since I was in school, and I read this book because of good recommendations. I’m going to finish it up, but I can honestly say this book embodies much of what I strongly dislike about popular sentiment in political science.
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  • Heather VanWaldick
    June 20, 2017
    This is an excellent read. Well-written and concise, it presents the decline of Western liberalism as something that has been developing for years, rather than the sudden snap that the media likes to describe. Trump, says the author, is a symptom of this decline, not the cause. The book focuses on the West, but it also talks a lot about Asia, and how it's rise is both a cause and a result of the West's political, social, and economic stumbles. The author doesn't try to present a solution to the This is an excellent read. Well-written and concise, it presents the decline of Western liberalism as something that has been developing for years, rather than the sudden snap that the media likes to describe. Trump, says the author, is a symptom of this decline, not the cause. The book focuses on the West, but it also talks a lot about Asia, and how it's rise is both a cause and a result of the West's political, social, and economic stumbles. The author doesn't try to present a solution to the problem, simply because there is no firm "solution". He stresses that the most important thing for the West to do now is acknowledge the crisis, and not bury our heads in the sand. We can restore faith in our institutions, and improve our economic and political prospects, when we recognize the mistakes that we've made, and learn from them. I hope we can do it. Otherwise, a descent into autocratic dystopia seems inevitable.
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  • Joshua
    June 22, 2017
    I thought Mr. Luce's previous book, "Time to Start Thinking" was disturbing. Then I began this one and it made the previous volume seem positively Pollyannaish. His dissection of the American and general Western political climate is spot on, and his extrapolation of the possible outcome of Mr. Trump's "leadership"is frighteningly plausible. And then he points out that, "...as Winter follows Autumn...", he fears what and whom follows Trump even more. And I'll be damned if I can come up with any s I thought Mr. Luce's previous book, "Time to Start Thinking" was disturbing. Then I began this one and it made the previous volume seem positively Pollyannaish. His dissection of the American and general Western political climate is spot on, and his extrapolation of the possible outcome of Mr. Trump's "leadership"is frighteningly plausible. And then he points out that, "...as Winter follows Autumn...", he fears what and whom follows Trump even more. And I'll be damned if I can come up with any sort of argument to refute his reasoning. It's a good reminder that good people of conscience must remain vigilant and prepared to take peaceful action to both resist the creep of autocracy, but also to rebuild the social compact that binds a nation together. It is our responsibility to be brave, to be strong, and to foster the trust that is the foundation of a free society.
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  • jens ulltveit-moe
    June 27, 2017
    Trump is a symptom of structural faults threatening the western liberal and Economic elitesA timely wakeup call to the western elites. Populisme in the shape of Trump will win the day If the liberal elite does not realize that the preTrump world will not come back. Populism is deeprooted in the large groups with stationary incomes in the western economies. Aggressive redistribution in favour the lower skilled is a rational way of securing a safe future for the current elite.
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  • Bryar Trent
    June 24, 2017
    Altogether a good read. If you don't agree with his politics, I suggest pushing through. He serves a harsh tongue to both sides of the aisle. Where the book really shines is its compilation and distillation of many recent works on foreign policy and economics into something more palatable for the average reader. I would recommend it for anyone who wants a quick overview of current events.
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  • Steve Robbins
    June 20, 2017
    Regardless of one's ideological point of view Luce offers an insightful meditation on liberal democracy past, present and, perhaps, future. Luce sketches each scene with the lucidity of a capable journalist, the contextual background of a prosaic historian and the sober conscience of a concerned human being.
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  • Chad
    June 12, 2017
    This is an excellent read regardless of what side of the fence you are on. I wish more people would read commentary like this instead of CNN, Fox News, Huff Post, etc...It's a shame that (in my opinion) this book just may well be an accurate prediction of our near future.
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