Apa­thy and chaos

Are the peo­ple tak­ing re­venge? A new book charts the demise of a lib­eral rul­ing class be­cause of abuses suf­fered by dis­af­fected vot­ers. Kapil Komireddi re­ports

The National - News - The Review - - Review The Non-fiction -

Western lib­er­al­ism is in peril. Europe is dis­in­te­grat­ing. Amer­ica is in re­treat. Lib­eral democ­racy is shrink­ing. Rus­sia is on a ram­page. China is po­si­tion­ing it­self as the de facto leader of the world. How did we get here?

In The Re­treat of Western Lib­er­al­ism, Ed­ward Luce ad­vances an­swers as po­tent as hand grenades – and he hurls them with­out a sliver of sym­pa­thy at the nabobs who make the an­nual he­gira to Davos. They have se­ceded from real­ity, he ar­gues, and their in­sights are anachro­nis­tic pif­fle. These are not the judge­ments of a polemi­cist. They are the opin­ions of an en­vi­ably eru­dite ob­server who is in­ti­mately fa­mil­iar with the world he is as­sail­ing. Luce is an ex­ceed­ingly dis­tin­guished jour­nal­ist who has spent more than two decades writ­ing for the Fi­nan­cial Times. When he took a sab­bat­i­cal from his day job in the mid 1990s, it was to serve as a speech­writer in the US Trea­sury Depart­ment. The fol­low­ing decade, he pub­lished In Spite of the Gods, one of the most en­ter­tain­ingly ed­i­fy­ing books to date on the pe­cu­liar rise of In­dia. He has spent the last decade writ­ing from the United States and Time to Start Think­ing, his su­perb work of re­portage and anal­y­sis pub­lished in the first year of Barack Obama’s sec­ond term, warned pre­sciently that the “win­dow on Amer­ica’s hege­mony is clos­ing”. Luce was still hope­ful in 2012. This dis­tress­ing new es­say is noth­ing short of a deeply felt thren­ody for a rapidly per­ish­ing world or­der.

Luce views the pres­i­dency of Donald Trump as the ter­mi­nal phase of an in­cur­able sick­ness: elite apa­thy. Ev­ery page of The Re­treat of Western Lib­er­al­ism bris­tles with quiet rage at the tech­nocrats, plu­to­crats and politi­cians who en­abled, through their in­dif­fer­ence to the con­cerns and anx­i­eties of or­di­nary

The Re­treat of Western Lib­er­al­ism Ed­ward Luce Lit­tle, Brown, Dh80

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