cover image The Light That Failed: Why the West Is Losing the Fight for Democracy

The Light That Failed: Why the West Is Losing the Fight for Democracy

Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes. Pegasus, $26.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-64313-369-0

Political scientists Krastev (After Europe) and Holmes (The Quest for the Trinity) deliver a salient and incisive analysis of the decline of Western liberalism centered on the evolution of Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Describing the region’s political elites as genuine “converts” to liberalism who became trapped in a conflict between democratic ideals and entrenched cultural norms, Krastev and Holmes trace the current global rise in “populist xenophobia and reactionary nativism” to a backlash against the “politics of imitation” that emerged in post–Cold War Europe. The authors note the irony of newly democratic countries including Poland and Hungary being compelled by “unelected bureaucrats from Brussels” to enact policies required for E.U. membership, and study the contrasting examples of Russia, where elites simulated democratic norms while aiming to “kill the West’s victory narrative,” and China, where leaders appropriated Western technologies while resisting Western values. Krastev and Holmes also chart how Donald Trump’s instinctual sense that “America is the greatest victim of Americanization” began to resonate with the public in the wake of 9/11. Their lucid and cogent presentation mitigates the sense of discouragement many readers are apt to feel when reckoning with how liberalism “lost its way.” Those searching for what comes next should consider this an essential resource. (Jan.)